This is an 1800'+/- ascent day for one run.
Most people make multiple runs. From the Mount Black Prince parking area, follow the ski tracks or what is normally the summer trail that bleeds off of the parking area due west. After a short distance you will cross Smith Dorrien Creek via a small bridge. Follow a wide trail to the left and as it gets steeper, about .5kms, veer off to the right on to a ski trail. There is a bench here in the summer, but it is normally buried beyond visibility in the winter.
You will be on a single track that actually loses several 100 meters elevation and you will want to reapply your skins for this section on the way back. You cross Warspite Creek and work your way up again to the left. Any ski tracks should lead to a narrow and shallow gully (drainage to your right) that ascends at a good movable rate without having to use switchbacks for about .5kms. This gully will eventually take you into the lower section of an easterly ridge that offers top notch glade skiing. (GR 252194) Follow or create switchbacks that lead to the top of this ridge. Stay out of the avalanche slopes leading up to the walled steep cliffs on your left. Towards the top, the ridge narrows and when you hit exposed rock on the ridge, that is the top of this ski ascent. There are bowls to the south and north. I venture to guess that neither is considered safe skiing for the majority if not all of ski season.
Avalanche Danger/Exit Strategy
I triggered a class 3 avalanche (photos), 500 meters across and down to the October rain crust on March 1, 2006 on the north side of this ridge.
This is one of the closest and most serious events I have ever avoided in the mountains. We chose Black Prince because avalanche conditions were high and we thought the ridge to be the safest skiing around. We were no doubt right, but should not have ventured into or near the north bowl as we did.
After the avalanche slid, which took a matter of time as it propagated across varying steep terrain, we stood precariously on the only snow left on the north side of the ridge. We had a small fracture line directly above us that had remotely triggered the slide by coming into the bowl from the east. Everything to the west and above was gone except for a small remaining crown. The snow we existed on was of triangular shape and we were at the wrong end.
For an exit, we were limited to three choices: Attempt to return in our tracks which included the trigger several meters back This involved putting our skins on which would not be viable. We wanted to have the option of skiing out of a subsequent slide and did not want to be caught with our skies off or our skins on. The second option we discussed was traversing lower to tree line in an attempt to cross back to the ridge on more anchored snow. This was not popular as we did not want to be caught any lower by the massive remaining bulge of snow we were standing on. Therefore, our final conclusion was to ski back to the ridge with as direct line as we could despite the fact this was not the most ideal loaded or angled snow left to ski on.
On our way up for our first run down the ridge, we passed two guides who had been skiing on their day off. All four of us made one descent down the ridge together. On the second ascent, we caught up with them again and told them we would venture out to the north bowl for a look. They proceeded to head up the ridge as we did for the first run. Therefore, they were on top of the ridge and witnessed the avalanche from the top. They came back down the ridge and concurred with our plan. The two of us went single file with spotters at both ends. We were pretty excited to be back on the ridge.
Touring Skis and Boots, Skins, Poles, Avalanche Transponder, Shovel, Probe, Goggles, Helmet for the Glade Skiing, Good Sunscreen for the Intense Snow Reflection, 4W Drive if Recent Snow.
External LinksParks Canada
Canadian Avalanche Association
100’s of Canmore and Banff National Park multi-pitch rock climbs, ice climbs, alpine climbs and scrambles, just scroll down to routesOR: Best True Technical Clothing and Accessories in the Outdoor IndustryScarpa, has surpassed La Sportiva in terms of quality, function, valueOsprey Backpacks, Not a Second ChoiceGreat Outdoors DepotMont-BellCascade Designs (MSR; Thermarest; Platypus)