Snow Peak
a trail/off-trail hike to the peak north of Burstall Pass

I'd highly recommend this spectacular route to an awesome peak, and plan to go back myself sometime with more sun


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Distance - 19km Elevation gain - 900m
5 hours ascent / 3.5 hours descent (it's not that it's grueling so much as terribly photogenic..)

Snow Peak is the mountain rising up from the south end of Burstall Pass.
It's an off-trail extension to the excellent Burstall Pass hike with no technical or routefinding difficulties that would make it a scramble, though usually defined that way.
The Burstall Pass trail starts with a quick walk up old road to the gravel flats.
The gravel flats are the area where the creek descending from the Robertson Glacier joins Burstall Creek.
They happen to meet in a very flat spot, so rather than any clear creek path, the various creek bits meander all over this area.
It would be useless to put in any kind of bridge, as the water changes route on a regular basis, and the bridge would soon be over a dry bed.
So instead, the trail has markers, visible above the shrubs, that show you the general direction you need to head.
Then depending on the water and your preparation, you hike around and over them, or put on some sandals and walk straight through.
On the way in, the water was fairly low, but we went for the walk straight through option.

A view of Snow Peak from the road-trail.

Looking up to the Robertson Glacier.

Peter and Jeff (back left) cross creeklets.

The Robertson Glacier, source of most of the water.

Ridge reflected at the end of the flats.

Once above the flats, you're onto real trail, and it switchbacks up the hillside over two pronounced steep bumps.
The lower meadow is an open forest with lots of flowers, then the second steep push brings you to the environs of the pass.

Burstall Creek.

Peter hikes through the lower meadow.

Peter and Jeff head up the second headwall.

Burstall Slabs climbing area.

Karsty terrain just below the pass.

A look at the ridge to Snow Peak.

Western Anemone and other flowers below the pass.

Burstall Pass itself is a spectacular spot, and well worth a hike even if you don't go any further.
The pass is a karst wonderland with ridges, sinkholes, and fun exposed rock, and the pass sprawls broadly along to a recognised South Burstall Pass.
The view in all directions is awesome, with sharp peaks lining the view to the east, and the great alpine of Banff's south end to the west.

Mount Birdwood from the pass.

Snow Peak from the pass.

Mount Assiniboine to the west.

Leman Lake below the west side with unnamed peaks.

Full pano from Burstall Pass, centred on Snow Peak to the north.
At far left is South Burstall Pass, and the ridge between it and the main pass. Right of the ridge is the Belgian Group in Height of the Rockies Provincial Park.
Mount Leman is the farthest right in that group, and right of it is Leman Lake. Behind Leman Lake is a group of unnamed peaks across Spray Pass, which lie above Talus Lodge.
The next set of mountains to start up are Mount Leval, then Mounts Vavasour, and Warre. We then lose view as Snow Peak takes over the north side.
Right of Snow Peak is the pointy Mount Birdwood, then Shark's Tooth barely poking out, and Commonwealth Peak in shadow. A Burstall Lake is visible below Commonwealth.
Looking NE, the Chester valley lines right up with Burstall, and across the 742 we can see The Tower, Mount Galatea, The Fortress, Mount Chester, and the ridge of James Walker.
Back on closer ground, the edge of Mount Burstall rises above the lake, then is hidden by Whistling Rock Ridge. Mount Sir Douglas is caught between the edges.

From Burstall Pass, the route heads straight up the obvious ridge line to Snow Peak.
The only difficulties are a little rock band at the top (still no hands-on), and a snow patch that lingers just below the summit.
I would generally suggest that people (especially in July) carry an ice axe for backup crossing the snow patch, but we didn't have anything, so had to consider the safety.
When we were there, the snow was perfectly solid but soft enough to step into, so though a slide could have been dangerous, it didn't seem likely.

Peter and Jeff contemplate the route ahead.

Hiking up the ridge.

Peter hikes above the trail to the west.

Jeff on the ridge line.

Peter hikes through terrain as technical as it gets.

Jeff uses his hands for additional balance on the steep.

A look back to Burstall Pass and Mount Sir Douglas.

The ridge in Burstall Pass seems tiny now.

Close up of Mount Assiniboine on the ascent.

Some concerning clouds gather in the west.

The snow patch below the summit.

The heavily corniced summit ridge.

Peter hiking up the ridge.

Looking back at the largecornices.

The view from the summit is great, and covers a broad area. You're definitely one of the taller things around, though the peak doesn't break 3000m.
We had a short photo break, then headed back down quickly, as the sky was darkening and we didn't want anything to hit us while we were exposed on the ridge.

Full Pano from the summit, centered on a view to the south.

Jeff starts back down the ridge.

One more look at the ridge ahead.

Jeff hikes back across the snow patch.

The rest of the snowpatch continues below.

Jeff hikes down the side of Snow Peak.

Jeff and the broad pass below.

Jeff and Peter back just above the pass.

Mount Sir Douglas across South Burstall Pass.

Burstall Pass ridge.

Mount Sir Douglas.

The weather conveniently passed us by, and while it stayed cloudy the rest of the way, there was no rain.
When we again crossed the gravel flats, we didn't feel like changing our shoes, so did some more creative leaps and bridge-building to stay dry.

Starting back down into the valley.

Jeff and Peter reach the flats.

The water tends to rise over the day, as much of it is runoff from the Robertson Glacier.
It's not uncommon to return to a completely different set of running channels with much higher water.

Jeff jumps a creek.

Peter takes a flying leap.
           
Peter is stymied by this wide creek, and decides to hop gravel bars.
           
Jeff follows in excellent style, with an interesting zigzag pattern.

Jeff and Peter drag a large log...

to build a bridge for the less jumpily-inclined Rachel.

Jeff, Peter, and their excellent bridge.

Photos taken by Rachel

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