Helena Ridge East Peak Too
When Zosia Zgolak and I skied up Helena Ridge East Peak in Alberta's Banff National Park in 2020, we were disappointed by the lack of views at the top due to cloudy weather, and we expressed a desire to return to the area on a clearer day.  On that same trip, we also took a wrong turn during the approach and skied partway up a snow-covered boulder field before realizing our mistake and correcting our course.  Subsequent research showed that the boulder field would be a good approach for another lower bump just east of Helena Ridge East Peak, and I whimsically dub this bump Helena Ridge East Peak Too.  With the promise of clear weather on 23 January 2021, Zosia and I returned to the area to ski up East Peak Too.

The trailhead near Castle Junction was already quite busy when Zosia and I started skiing up the well-packed Rockbound Lake trail.  Despite frigid morning temperatures, we warmed up fairly quickly on the trail which steadily gains more than five hundred metres of elevation over the first five kilometres.  About half a kilometre past the second major switchback along the trail, we turned off onto an obvious ski/snowshoe track which ultimately leads to the top of Helena Ridge East Peak.  From the turnoff, we descended briefly to cross a creek before resuming our ascent.  Although it is feasible to begin climbing eastward from the creek crossing if aiming for East Peak Too, we opted to take advantage of the broken track to gain elevation more easily.  After climbing about two hundred and fifty metres above the creek, we abandoned the ski/snowshoe track and broke our own trail on a descending traverse to the east.  My GPS track from our previous trip proved to be helpful in locating the aforementioned boulder field and avoiding some cliffs guarding the south flank of Helena Ridge East Peak.  Tirelessly breaking trail for the rest of the ascent, Zosia expertly led us up the boulder field to open slopes below the col separating Helena Ridge East Peak from East Peak Too.  We dropped down a short dip here before working our way up the gentle southwest slopes of East Peak Too.  The actual high point is at the far end of a long plateau, and we were able to ski almost all the way there before having to boot-pack the last thirty horizontal metres.  The views from the top of East Peak Too did not disappoint on this day, and while it would have been nice to linger there, the lateness of the day and an uncomfortably cool breeze prompted us to commence our descent once we tagged the high point.

Aside from a few short sections where some wind crusts had developed, snow conditions were generally better than expected on this day.  Having said that, I struggled quite a bit with my skiing while descending East Peak Too, and I had a few frustrating wipeouts mostly due to fatigue.  Zosia fared better than me, and I had a tough time keeping up with her as we muddled our way down to the bottom of the boulder field.  Entering the forest below, we veered to skier's right while descending between trees and eventually intersected the ski/snowshoe track not far from the creek crossing.  Upon regaining the Rockbound Lake trail, we enjoyed a delightfully satisfying descent back to the trailhead although I still managed one more embarrassing wipeout only a short distance before the parking lot.

Zosia begins skiing from the trailhead with the temperature hovering at -27 Celsius.

Still weird that we have a peak here named after an American president!

One of the first clear views along the route to Helena Ridge East Peak features Eisenhower Peak.

No broken trails this year--I guess we're on our own... After a descending traverse through forest, Sonny arrives at a snow-covered boulder field which is the start of the approach to Helena Ridge East Peak Too.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

My token few minutes of breaking trail before Zosia takes over! Sonny breaks trail through the boulder field.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Something to bear in mind if descending from the top of the East Peak.

Zosia skis past some cliffs guarding the southern flank of Helena Ridge East Peak.

Might be a good place to come back to in the fall.

Larch trees are scattered throughout the boulder field.

Still a long way to go...

Helena Ridge East Peak Too (right) finally comes into sight, but the actual high point is not visible here.

Mellow ski terrain just the way Zosia likes it!

Zosia gains the gentle southwest slopes of Helena Ridge East Peak Too.

See the moon?

The actual high point is naturally at the far end of this long plateau.

No cairn--first ascent??

Zosia and Sonny stand on the high point of Helena Ridge East Peak Too (2479 metres).

Some good extreme skiing on this side of the East Peak!

The view to the west is dominated by the rest of Helena Ridge including the East Peak in the foreground.


Only for diehard peakbaggers!

To the northeast are mostly unnamed peaks of the Sawback Range, but the prominent one at far left is unofficially known as Noetic Peak.

I believe Mystic Peak is a technical climb.

Unofficially-named Mystic Peak (left) and officially-named Mount Ishbel (right) garner the most attention to the southeast.


Always nice to see the 'Boine on a clear day!

The top of Mount Assiniboine (centre) barely pokes above the intervening mountains in this view to the south.

Nice form, Zosia! Zosia skis down the southwest slopes of Helena Ridge East Peak Too.
This should have been much more fun to ski down than it turned out for me. Zosia works her way back down the snow-covered boulder field.! Zosia flies down Rockbound Lake trail on her way back to the trailhead.
Nice alternative to Helena Ridge East Peak. Total Distance:  18.1 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  8 hours 12 minutes
Net Elevation Gain:  1045 metres

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