Distance: 10 km
Elevation gain: 1185 m View map Download GPS track
I've wanted to snowshoe up Mount Haffner for a few years now, but concerns about potential avalanche terrain near the summit and our ability to happily ascend nearly 1200 m on snowshoes kept the trip near the bottom of my to-do list. In the past year, however, our fitness has been steadily improving and is at the point now where 1200 m of elevation gain on snowshoes shouldn't be a problem. I've also been learning how to evaluate potential avalanche terrain and felt confident that I'd be able to pick a safe route around any suspect areas. With a low/low/low avalanche risk today I was also confident that even suspect slopes would be quite safe to ascend. Coupled with a forecast of nothing but sun and temperatures great for a workout (-10 C) we decided to give it a go!
We followed the route described in Andrew Nugara's Snowshoeing in the Canadian Rockies
, starting our ascent directly across Highway 93S from the Numa Falls parking lot and ascending roughly southeast to the col between Mount Haffner and Vermillion Peak before heading straight up Mount Haffner. The entire area was burned in 2003, but the burnt forest kept most of the ascent open to the sun and the burnt trees and their shadows were quite artistic. It was quite nice, actually.
The one unknown today was whether there would be a trail broken for us or not. We planned for the worst and carried extra food just in case we'd be breaking trail the whole way up, but after walking across the highway from the Numa Falls parking lot we found ourselves staring at an excellent snowshoe track heading up the slope! Today would be an easy day! Very shortly into the trip I also discovered that the snowpack was incredibly supportive. Even around small buried trees we didn't sink whatsoever and thus simply forged our own route up, staying close to the snowshoe track just in case the snow conditions changed. Around 1900 m we encountered fresh snow that increased in depth to about 15 cm near the Vermilion-Haffner col. It was still easy to walk in, but we retreated to the broken track to keep things a bit easier. We'd been so happy with the remarkable snow conditions that we'd raced up the first 600 m or so and were now a bit on the tired side!
The final 200 m of the ascent were the most avalanche-prone of the entire ascent. Here we encountered two slopes that I figured could slide in the right conditions. The first was small and we were able to completely avoid it, while we were able to lessen the risk from the second by contouring around it along the western ridge of Mount Haffner. The snowpack today was rock solid, however, so I felt quite safe in both instances.
The view from the top was absolutely stunning and was the best we've ever had from a snowshoe trip. I'm not really sure there are many other generally avalanche-safe trips that could compete with this one. It's that nice! Together with the sunny skies, great temperature, and the best snow conditions we've ever experienced this was definitely one of our favourite trips!