Distance: 5.5 km
Elevation gain: 780 mView mapDownload GPS track
The continuing high avalanche risk in the mountains had us searching for a trip that would be both scenic and safe. As the cause of the high avalanche risk this weekend was a buried weak layer from February 11, we decided to target an area that hadn't received much snow since then, thus keeping the risk relatively low. We decided Little Lougheed, a western outlier of Mt. Lougheed, potentially fit the bill and headed out knowing that should we be wrong about the snow conditions, Rummel Lake
and it's minimal avalanche terrain would be a decent backup plan. Thankfully, our instincts were right - very little snow had fallen in the area in the past month and a trail laid down Feb. 18 by another group was still visible, as well as a fresher track from the past week.
The route up Little Lougheed starts at Spencer Creek (the creek flowing down from between Mt. Sparrowhawk and Mt. Lougheed), about 2.8 km south of Spurling Creek (signed) on the Smith-Dorrien highway. A clearing by the road allows you to see the route up from here, which basically follows the left (north) bank of the creek, then begins very steeply ascending along the ridgecrest. A boulder field a few hundred meters up offers nice views out over Spray Lakes, but the trail we were following avoided it so we did as well. A sun crust over sugar snow did not make travel particularly fun off the packed trail! Near the boulder field we also had to remove our snowshoes for a moderately long section of dry terrain, but this wasn't a problem as we'd come prepared with microspikes for the last section of the ascent which was, and usually is, snow free.
After a bit more than 2 hours of hard work with a few breaks thrown in, we reached treeline just 15 minutes below the summit. We replaced our snowshoes with microspikes at this point and began fighting the wind and surprisingly loose rock on the final push to the summit. In retrospect an ascent a bit further to the left may have been easier, but regardless we both made it to the summit. Other than loose rock, the only problematic area was a narrow section just before the summit next to a large cornice. While the cornice made it appear much wider than it was, a fall onto it would not have turned out well.
The views from the summit are superb and easily rival some of the best snowshoeing trips we've done. The entire Spray Lakes reservoir is visible to the west and Mt.'s Lougheed and Sparrowhawk dominate the view to the east and south. Definitely worth repeating, and potentially a nice summer destination too.