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2022-03-30 at 22:11 - comment by Diana Piggott
Well, well! I must have seen your tracks turning off at the infamous junction yesterday, and shook my head at the "crazy backcountry skier", wondering what had become of them!
2022-03-29 at 21:34 - comment by Ulrikeski
Quite an interesting exploration. In the old Telemark ski days I remember Boom Lake to Taylor Lake being on the trip agenda of the HOG's (Hostel Outdoor Group). Route finding and broken cable bindings made the trip more challenging. I bet not that many folks take this route these days. A destination to find solitude.
2022-03-28 at 22:21 - comment by Mike W
Photos 7-12 from my report
Photo 7: The Little B's enjoying fresh tracksetting
Photo 8: Giant Prototype Steps
Photo 9: Cirque 1
Photo 10: Cirque 2
Photo 11: Banksy's first snow sculpture - on auction as an NFT at Sothebys.com
Photo 12: O'Brien Lake and Mount Bell
Don't sink, think pink!
Report Submitted by Mike W
(trip) Date: Sunday Mar 27, 2022
Submitted: Monday Mar 28, 2022 at 22:17
Photo 1: The Little B's raring to go!
Photo 2: Thor's Folly
Photo 3: Boom / O'Brien junction. Turn right for O'Brien.
Photo 4: Abandon hope all ye who enter here
Photo 5: Floundering on long narrow skis 6 years ago on this route
Photo 6: Only a pair of snowshoe tracks left
Me and the Little B's
Note: Photos 7-12 are in a "Comment" above this report.
The Little B's were so happy after their outing to Marmot Creek last Monday. But they were inconsolable on Thursday when I told them they couldn't come with me for resort skiing at Lake Louise. To make amends, I fitted them out with brand new Rottefella Magnum bindings and promised an even better adventure for Sunday. They could hardly contain their excitement! I diligently searched for the perfect destination, and finally found it: O'Brien Lake from the Boom Lake trailhead along "Thor's Folly". That's what it's called on page 67 of the 1978 edition of The Canadian Rockies Trail Guide by Brian Patton and Bart Robinson. It says "The trail is reported in very rough shape, and few have completed the journey without a good deal of bushwhacking". Perfect, that's exactly what the Little B's love! Seeking confirmation, I consulted the 1977 edition of Ski Trails in the Canadian Rockies by Rick Kunelius: "This is one of those 'I wonder why people bother' type trails. ... Forget about locating a trail - bushwhack". Now that I had two independent sources extolling its virtues, I made my plans.
SpotWx called for 50/50 sun/cloud with a high of +2C, preceded by a good overnight freeze. Photo 1 shows the Little B's all set to go at the trailhead that morning, and photo 2 was our route. Six years ago a group of us did it as a traverse from the Boom to Taylor Lake trailhead, but this time I was on my own so I had to do an out-and-back. I tried to convince Chuck to join me; he said he couldn't come. But after seeing his "hopefully not pink" comment on Sara M's Mar 26 post, I suspect the real reason was because he didn't want to be seen with someone on pink skis! I wonder if Sara M would be willing to join me on the Little B's next adventure?
The weather at my 0915 departure was overcast and -2C. The Little B's got strange looks from a group of AT skiers in the parking lot. I asked where they were headed; "Kindergarten Couloir" they replied. I now understood their strange looks; they realized they had the wrong gear for their enterprise and were coveting my kindergarten skis!
After 2.3km on the Boom Lake trail, you reach a signed junction: Boom to the left, O'Brien to the right (photo 3). The trail was packed by what appeared to be several hikers, snowshoers, and AT skiers from many days earlier. 20 metres later was a brand new Parks sign telling you to abandon all hope should you dare continue (photo 4). I wonder how many souls came to an untimely end before Parks was willing to spend the money on the sign?
The overnight freeze hadn't happened; there was just a thin skin of crust over almost isothermal snow. Ski poles were next to useless. The trail was narrow and very steep in places, rising 350m to a treeline shoulder E of Mount Bell. I remember my trip six years earlier in similar conditions; it required full-length skins and a lot of floundering (photo 5). But the Little B's were in their element and scampered up the trail with glee! The kicker skins worked fine for all but the steepest parts, and the short Little B's let me easily sidestep those bits. One by one, the prints left by earlier hikers and skiers fell by the wayside, until upon reaching the shoulder only a pair of snowshoe tracks remained (photo 6). They went no further and the Little B's were now cutting fresh tracks (photo 7). The route now turns to the NW, past two cirques before reaching the third one and O'Brien Lake.
The route is generally downhill, so I kept the skins on and carefully cut an uptrack for my return. En route are the Giant Prototype Steps, formed in the ice age prior to the Paradise Valley ones (photo 8). Photos 9 and 10 are the first and second cirques. Just before turning the corner into the O'Brien cirque I was surprised by a magnificent anonymous snow sculpture. The swooping lines and bulbous forms immediately identified it as a Banksy. I was tempted to cut it out, carry it back home, and auction it off, but decided to leave it for others to enjoy. Instead I took this picture (photo 11), on auction as an NFT at Sothebys.com.
The skies cleared as the Little B's reached their final destination - O'Brien Lake with Mount Bell behind (photo 12). After a short stay, I retraced my route back to the trailhead. The AT skiers were nowhere to be seen. I presume, crestfallen after the realization of their poor gear choice, they packed up and went home.
PS Rick Kunelius' "I wonder why people bother" comment actually referred to skiing the Taylor Lake hiking trail.