January 9, 2020
The avalanche danger just keeps getting higher and higher with an abundance of storm snow and high winds. I really needed a mountain ski fix, plus I had new Scarpa boots to break in. We had to find a route with low to no avalanche danger.
My new boots are the Scarpa Gea. I had the Scarpa F1s for a few years, but I found they had no sense of adventure. The Gea’s are a stiffer boot, and a tighter fit. As my dps skis are a bit longer than I’d ideally like, the more aggressive boot goes a long way towards control.
If I were to do this route again, I would take my light touring (cross-country skis with metal edges) skis and boots. While there are some fun turns in the logged area (and a possibility of turns on Rummel Ridge during a low avi cycle), the amount of ups and downs on the trail towards the lake is better suited for a waxed ski.
Rummel Lake is a classic ski tour in Kananaskis Country. It’s easy to get to, mellow elevation gain, and very straight forward. People also hike it in the summer, but it’s one of those trails I’ve only done in winter.
Drive to the entrance to Mount Engadine Lodge on the Smith Dorian highway. Park on the highway, directly to the east of the entrance. On the east side of the road you will see the trail heading off into the trees.
The trail is very straight-forward. Due the extreme popularity of Rummel Lake, the likelihood of the trail not being set for you in the winter is very remote. We did have to clean the track as we were the first ones there, but it’s not trail breaking. Be prepared for a slew of snowshoers and winter hikers.
From the highway, follow the trail south (paralleling the highway) for about 700 m. The trail then switches back to the NNW for another 1 km.
At the 2 km mark is the intersection for the High Rockies Trail, which is part of the The Great (Trans Canada) Trail that runs from Elk Pass (Alberta – BC border) to Banff.
Once at the T Intersection, there are three signs, which may be a bit confusing. The first sign is saying that the High Rockies Trail is running along the top of the T – or going North / South. The way back to the highway is on the stem of the T, or heading west.
The second sign is a bit more useful. If you go Right (South) you will be on the connector trail that takes you to Chester Lake. I skied this route with the Calgary section of the Alpine Club a few years ago. It’s not much of back-country tour, and would recommend using light touring gear.
If you are at all worried that you might be on the wrong trail because there is no reference to Rummel Lake on any of the professional signs, that’s okay. Someone has put up their own sign that alleviates all confusion. At the T Intersection, head left (North)!
Be sure to turn around every now and again to admire the view across the valley. You will be trapped in the trees for most of the trip, so be sure to enjoy the views while you can.
At around 3.3 km, look for the Rummel Lake turn off on your left (east). It is marked with an arrow, and should be very obvious.
Be prepared to say good-bye to the sun. This area has not been logged or burned, so the trees are tall and thick. It’s a lovely trail, but be prepared for a drop in temperatures in the winter. It was -17 in the sun, and it dropped well below -20 in the trees. My nose froze going in, despite working hard with skins. On the way out, I was absolutely frigid. My hands were frozen despite using hot shots in the my gloves.
The trail to Rummel Lake is an uneventful 1.7 km ski. While the trail feels fairly flat, you are indeed gaining elevation the entire way. Be prepared for two or three big dips along the way. This is more of a problem on the way out when the skins are off and you have to side-step up the slopes. We were lucky with all the fresh snow, but on a tracked out icy trail, it might be easier to walk up.
There are several flags to guide you through the trees if you happen to be the first ones here after an early fall snowfall.
It’s a good thing the ski trail flags are up so high…
Breaking out of the trees at the lake is pure joy! Lo and behold! The sun is indeed shinning.
Rummel Lake is in a tight area, hemmed in by none other than Mount Galatea. We are so lucky in Alberta to have access roads up and through our mountains. Galatea is usually hiked from Highway 40 as you go towards Lillian Lake and the upper Galatea lakes.
With the avi danger high, we didn’t venture further than the lake. The Tower had several natural slides down it’s flank. All the more reason to stay away from any run out paths.
Rummel Lake Return
Return back to the trail head the way you came. If you are in touring gear, then take advantage of the open areas to get some low angle, avalanche-free turns in.
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Totals – Tracked on Strava
Date: January 9, 2020
Group: Two (Alisen & Mike)
Distance: 10.24 km
Elevation: 416 m (1,405′)
Time: 3 hours 45 minutes (includes lunch and skin breaks)