The blisters I got from the Wapta ski trip was very serious, and I couldn't even walk properly for 1 week after the trip.. After a 10-day break, I finally could walk without pain. The weather and avalanche condition was very nice for a long time period, and I figured it's the time to get out again. Since I haven't got my boots fitted, this time I would be on snowshoes (which turned out to be a good call)!
My partner would be Ben, who is also from University of Alberta. We did "Heart to Grant MacEwan to Twin Towers", and Unity Peak last month, and we are both competent scrambler/snowshoeer, so I figured out we should set our objectives to more ambitious ones (as for early January). Ben also wanted Sparrowhawk, which I had already done, so we decided to drive separately to give more flexibility. Mosquito Mountain was our objective for the first day, January 2, which is also my 20th birthday. I got Grotto Mountain on my 19th birthday. Seems like bagging a summit is the perfect birthday gift.
The temperature was about zero degree when I left Edmonton, but got down to -23 at Mosquito Creek Trailhead. I was worrying about the icy Icefild Parkway, thankfully I managed to get there with no incidence. Under this temperature, it would be a survival thing in my -12 sleeping bag, so I decided to sleep at Mosquito Creek Hostel (which obviously broke my tradition). Well, I got a much more comfortable sleep.
So we started the trudge at 7:50am, under -20 temperature. Ben attempted Mosquito Mountain last year so he knew the approach. The trail was also hard packed, and was very easy to follow. This approach is similar to Healy Pass approach. It has lots of up-and-downs. Due to the coldness we marched on a fairly fast pace, and we made to M5 campsite in 1 hour.
There are two routes up the treed slope from campsite. You can either start bushwhack right from the campsite, or continue on the trail for another 1-2km. If I knew Ramp Peak would be my objective 2 days later, I would choose the first one, but on this day, we chose the 2nd one because of the packed trail. Eventually we decided to leave the trail and start the trail-breaking. Since we did the direct route up Unity Peak in December, we both knew what would be like going up this thing. Fortunately Mosquito's slope is less steep than Unity, but still, we post-holed to knee deep. There were a couple of very steep slopes below treeline. Even with 30' snowshoes, I still post-holed to waist deep on uphill side (while switchbacking)... We took turn breaking trail, and it took us more than 1.5 hours to reach treeline (not a bad pace).
The condition got better on the alpine, so was the temperature. There was no wind and I even sweat on only t-shirt. The temperature was well above freezing! We traversed diagonally towards climber's left while going uphill, aiming for the left hand skyline ridge. There were a couple of steep slopes involved. The slope is very foreshortened. It took us a long time to traverse to the left hand side ridge. We then followed the ridge up, until it narrows to a shear drop-off, the crux. Under the snowy condition, the down-climb looked very involved than just moderate scramble.. I would go for it if that's a must. Given the stable snow condition, we decided to by-pass it on skier's right. The by-pass was very tricky for 5 meters. Based on my photos, the slope angle should be about 40 degree. I carefully (and nervously) broke trail across this slope.
The rest of the way was a pure slog. We took off snowshoes not much further up. My strategy will be looking at Ramp and Quarzite. You have to get up 100m higher than those peaks. The view was very nice under blue sky.
We didn't stay long on the summit. Plunging step down the slope was a blast, we both crossed the crux slope without incidence, then it was a relaxing run down to the campsite. We slowed down a big on the final slog back to car. Round trip time: 7.75 hours.