Steven Song's Peak-bagging Journey

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Twin Cairns

In the second day of my Christmas adventure, I decided to do a real snowshoe objective, that is, Twin Cairns. It is one of the must-do objectives of skiers and snowshoe-ers. I had no idea how fast I can walk with the snowshoes especially when post-holing on the unsupportive snow, so I decided to take a gondola ride to Sunshine Village, to save the 6.5km boring hike with 500m elevation gain. This also saved me lots of time, in other words, without taking the gondola, I probably wouldn’t summit Wawa Ridge nor Mt. Standish. Sunshine Village, one of the three ski areas in Banff National Park, is one of the most frequently visited ski paradises in Canada, and probably, in the world. Indeed, I saw hundreds of skiers on that day, but few of them ventured into backcountry. To get to Twin Cairns, I had to snowshoe up directly beneath Wawa Chair Lift, and then cross the backcountry border. After venturing into backcountry, the snow hadn’t been touched by others, and things became bad. As in December, the early season of skiing and snowshoeing, the snow was very unsupportive. I had to give my snowshoes an extension of 5’, but even with the “tails”, I stil had to post-hole almost all the way to the wind blown upper ridge. Instead of following the guide book’s route, I chose to directly aim the northwest skyline ridge, then directly ascend the true summit. There was avalanche danger on one section. The book's route is safer but longer. After gaining the final ridge, the wind became considerably stronger. Then it’s a mix of snowshoing and scrambling. I climbed up to a small outlier first, which involves a moderate step. But the climb to true summit is more serious, since I had to cross a steep snow slope, followed by a narrow ridge with drop-off on one side and steep snow slope on the other side. Approaching from south ridge (the normal route) will not give these problems. On the summit, you get a full panorama view towards each direction. Mt. Assniboine is do doubt the majectic one, so is Mt. Ball and The Monarch. To the south, Mt. Bourgeau dominates the view. The day continues with the ascent of Wawa Ridge. See next album.

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Mt. Ball
1
Mt. Ball
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Sunshine Village in morning
2
Sunshine Village in morning
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3
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Eagle Mountain
4
Eagle Mountain
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5
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Sunrise
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Sunrise
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Mt. Bourgeau
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Mt. Bourgeau
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Bourgeau from Sunshine
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Bourgeau from Sunshine
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Backcountry boundary
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Backcountry boundary
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Twin Cairns ahead
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Twin Cairns ahead
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An interesting cloud formation
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An interesting cloud formation
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Eagle & Howard Douglas at center
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Eagle & Howard Douglas at center
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Low-angle sun in December
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Low-angle sun in December
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An outlier
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An outlier
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Ball Range
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Ball Range
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16
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17
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The true summit
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The true summit
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Ball Range
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Ball Range
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The Monarch
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The Monarch
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Split Peak on left
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Split Peak on left
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Mt. Ball & Ball Range
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Mt. Ball & Ball Range
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Mt. Brett
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Mt. Brett
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Mt. Assiniboine
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Mt. Assiniboine
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Fatigue Mountain on right
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Fatigue Mountain on right
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Eagle Mountain
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Eagle Mountain
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Cascade Mountain
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Cascade Mountain
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Sunshine ski area
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Sunshine ski area
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Mt. Bourgeau
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Mt. Bourgeau
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downclimb here
30
downclimb here
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It was windy
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It was windy
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32
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Some low clouds over Sunshine Meadows
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Some low clouds over Sunshine Meadow…
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Eagle & Howard Douglas
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Eagle & Howard Douglas
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35
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The Monarch
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The Monarch
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Ball Range
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Ball Range
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Looking N towards Massive Range
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Looking N towards Massive Range
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Me on the summit
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Me on the summit
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My snowshoeing tracks
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My snowshoeing tracks
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41
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42
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43
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Photos taken by Steven