Rockbound Lake

On 11 February 2023, Chester Fitchett, Zosia Zgolak and I skied to Rockbound Lake in Alberta's Banff National Park.  The ski tour is described in Chic Scott's Ski Trails in the Canadian Rockies.  Zosia and I had already previously skied most of the approach trail for our ascents of Helena Ridge East Peak and Helena Ridge East Peak Too, but Rockbound Lake gave us a good excuse to return for another ski tour in the area.

From the trailhead, Chester, Zosia and I quickly settled into a long but uncomplicated uphill grind up the Rockbound Lake trail.  The snow on the hard-packed trail was old but not icy, and other than the odd rock or two, coverage was generally excellent.  After passing the turnoff to Helena Ridge East Peak, we were fortunate to still have a packed trail to follow and subsequently reached snow-covered Tower Lake without much trouble.  Beyond Tower Lake, we climbed up a short but steep headwall guarding Rockbound Lake.  Ascending this section on skis was very challenging even with climbing skins, and it might have been easier to carry our skis here and walk up.  Regardless, we surmounted the headwall on our skis with some difficulty, and then we finally had to break trail--albeit only for a short distance--through untracked snow to reach snow-covered Rockbound Lake.  A slight but uncomfortable breeze blowing across the lake prompted us to take cover in some nearby trees before we stopped for a short lunch break.

For our return trip, Chester, Zosia and I kept our skins on to descend the challenging headwall.  While Chester seemingly dropped down in the blink of an eye, Zosia and I descended much more slowly with short zigzags until we were off the steepest sections.  Knowing that there would be a few uphill sections on the way out, we kept our skins on probably longer than we should have while skiing out from Tower Lake.  Once the skins came off though, the remainder of the descent, not surprisingly, went a lot faster.  On this day, the hard-packed trail felt slick, and I could feel the burn in my legs as I pressed to maintain control of my ski edges throughout the long downhill.  As such, I did not find the ski back to the trailhead as enjoyable as my previous trips here, but at least we all made it down without a spill.
Flick on the cruise control... Chester and Zosia ski up the hard-packed trail to Rockbound Lake.
It was especially hard on the way back without skins.

Sonny carefully crosses a slippery footbridge along the trail.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Good place to catch a breath before the final push. The route to Rockbound Lake goes up the headwall at the far side of Tower Lake.
It's getting steeper...

Chester and Zosia begin to climb the headwall.

It probably would have been easier just to walk this part both up and down! Chester and Zosia skin up, with some difficulty, the final steep section before the top of the headwall.

It's been almost 19 years since I was last here.

Helena Ridge towers above Rockbound Lake.


The snow we're standing on is very deep! Chester, Zosia and Sonny pose for a group photo in front of Rockbound Lake.
Prepare for some gnarly "skiing" down the headwall! Eisenhower Peak is visible at far left as Chester and Zosia leave Rockbound Lake.
I was mostly snow plowing down the whole trail. Sonny is happy to ski out the Rockbound Lake trail in sunshine.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Not much in the way of making turns, but it's a good winter work-out nonetheless. Total Distance:  18.2 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  6 hours 10 minutes
Net Elevation Gain:  762 metres

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