If you are using this information for your own trip, please read this disclaimer and description of my abilities.
My latest adventures took me ski touring up Mount Field in Yoho National Park, BC. We got an early start, mostly because I had to work at 4pm, but also because we were expecting a very warm day and avalanche conditions weren’t ideal high up on the mountain.
Mount Field (8672 feet) is south facing, meaning it fries in the sun all day. It was about 10 degrees C out when we skied up. This resulted in two things for our ski up: evidence of various (and recent) point release and slab avalanches high up towards the summit and hard, crusty snow lower down just below treeline, making skiing more like an exercise of carving through concrete.
The turns off a high bench on the peak made the climb well worth it, though. The sun had softened the snow just enough that we had spring skiing conditions at their best with soft, buttery turns through melting snow. Unreal. The last half of the ski down takes you through sparsely treed areas and alder trees (not my favourite!) and the hard snow made this all the more of an exciting descent.
To access Mount Field, park at the Little Yoho Valley Road (to Takakkaw Falls) just east of Field, BC. Take the road about 5 km until you reach just under half a kilometre past the end of the switchbacks (you’ll know these when you see them). Veer left off the trail and make your way to more open terrain. From here, we decided to traverse all the way left to the trees on the other side of the open slopes of Mount Field (the ones filled with alders). Hug the trees to the left, switchbacking your way through the open slopes as is necessary. Once you gain the treeline, traverse back to the right to gain the top of the outcropping of trees on the other side, across the open slopes below the summit (see photo below). Here you are on some nice low-grade slopes not as prone to avalanche. The higher up you climb, however, the steeper the slope, so be extra cautious. We skied down from one of the highest benches beneath the summit.
If you choose to go to the summit, you will need to find other posts about that! Both times I’ve been on this mountain, I haven’t gone all the way up. Ski down pretty much the way you went up, though veer left (looking down) of the outcropping of trees you gained on your traverse earlier, instead of going down the way you came up. You’ll eventually meet up with your uptrack on the other side of this outcropping.
Mount Field is a great day trip – you could be up to the summit and down in about 7-8 hours (or less, if you’re super fast). Have fun, but be safe up there – this is avalanche terrain, but it does offer some great open, low grade slopes to practise your turns.
© Meghan J. Ward, 2010.