Visitors 28
39 photos

Distance: 19 km
Elevation gain: 1100 m
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I don’t often head out twice in one weekend, but with absolutely spectacular weather both days – and abysmal weather last weekend and likely next weekend too – there was no way I was going to sit home today. My destination was the east peak of Panorama Ridge, a scenic viewpoint rising above the meadows to the north of Taylor Lake.

I arrived in the Taylor Lake parking lot just before sunrise. I assumed (correctly, it turned out) that the trail would be solidly packed to the lake and so donned microspikes and strapped my snowshoes to my pack. It was quite cold in the forest (around -20 C) and this helped me set a very brisk pace and arrive at the unofficial Panorama Meadows – Taylor Lake junction in a bit over 1.5 hours. I had a quick snack here and swapped microspikes for snowshoes, then continued along the well-packed ski trail heading for the meadows.

A short time later I arrived in the larch-filled Panorama Meadows. The sun was already beating down into the little valley and I warmed up quickly, but it also had me a bit concerned about the snow conditions for my ascent. While I was quite certain my route would never expose me to slopes over 25 degrees, from afar the route looked absurdly dangerous and the hot sun didn’t do much to ease my anxiety. Things always look better the closer I get, however, so I continued onward, following an old ski up-track that made travel easy.

When the ridge started to steepen I stopped and decided to measure the slope angle using a neat little inclinometer I made (accurate to within a degree when compared to a cell phone app). To me it looked stupidly steep, but it turned out to be just 25 degrees. I’m just super cautious with these things I guess. With this mental reference in mind I continued forward, encountering only one other very short slope in the forest that was of similar steepness.

The map suggested the slope angle would decrease considerably above treeline, and while for the most part it did there were still areas I measured to be 25 degrees and several little convexities that I chose to contour around. It was sweltering hot, however, and while the snow wasn’t yet melting I wasn’t entirely sure how long that would last and was pushing myself to get to the top as quickly as possible.

I arrived at the summit just 3.5 hours after starting out. With blue sky, no wind, and warm temperatures the view was absolutely spectacular and I spent 20 minutes wandering around taking photos and eating a quick snack. I wanted to spend much more time on the summit – the weather hasn’t been this nice yet in 2018 – but I also wanted to get down and I was still a bit concerned how the hot sun would affect the snow.

A short distance from the summit I saw a skier coming up and quickly recognized him as Vern Dewit. Despite the two of us doing a ton of similar outdoor stuff we’ve never run into each other before (actually, we briefly met on Volcano Peak back when I was sufficiently introverted to avoid such introductions), so it was nice to finally meet. It was also reassuring to see that someone with far more experience than me had little concern about avalanches on this small peak, so I’d been correct in my assessment of the conditions.

Off-track snowshoeing conditions were excellent on the way down and I decided to forge my own route down to Taylor Lake. I’d turned off the trail before the lake on the way up, but figured it was worth the short detour now. This worked fine and the added scenery was worth it, and after switching back to microspikes I made my way back down to the truck. I met a lot of people coming up and was surprised to see that nearly everyone was on skis, the only exceptions being one couple on snowshoes and five people on fat bikes. Apparently I was the only one who just hiked up.

It was another spectacular day in the mountains!

Categories & Keywords
Category:Lifestyle and Recreation
Subcategory:Outdoors
Subcategory Detail:Hiking
Keywords:Banff National Park, Panorama Ridge East Peak, Panorama meadows, Taylor Lake, snowshoeing