canada general hiking snow

Full moon (ish) ascent of Ha Ling Peak

It was actually the day before full moon, but the dubious forecast was looking slightly better for Sunday than the actual full moon, and I had managed to convince a fellow mad-man that it would be a good idea to come with me and go for a night-time hike in the snow. Towards the evening there were threats of winds gusting to 40-60 km/hr, but we laughed in the face of danger and decided to go ahead and hike anyway.

We managed to leave town not too long before 7pm, driving to the trail-head on the grounds of common sense/boringness/time considerations (delete as appropriate). The sky was looking thoroughly overcast, and my fellow mad-man was making comments about the clouds thickening about the Three Sisters and the east end of Lawrence Grassi, yet we decided to push on.

The trail was just packed snow until we hit the tree-line, where we were suddenly slowed by deep drifts and very breakable crust. There was a little waist-deep wallowing, and then a little more waist-deep wallowing, some scuttling across wind crust and hoping it wouldn’t break, and then we were hopping from rock to rock, making our way through the scree.

On sticking our heads over to admire the view from the saddle, we decided that the wind really wasn’t too bad, and we may as well push on to the summit. It was a bit too windy for any camera balancing or long-exposure tripod action though, so there was just a lot of trying-to-stay-quite-still photographs, while not really wanting to remove gloves or turn off my headlamp, as it was still quite cold up there, and getting colder with all that messing about with a camera.

In a strange moment of serendipity, the clouds in front of the moon cleared for about 15 seconds just as we reached the summit, and the full moon peered out at as from a tiny hole in the overcast sky. Not long enough for a photo, but long enough to go “Ooh look, the moon really is out tonight”, what an excellent idea this was.

As we turned around and started to head down, we realised that it was indeed quite windy, and battled downhill into the gusty wind, back through the scree and down into the punchy snow for some good old-fashioned snow slogging. After not quite forever we actually made it into the trees, then scampered/slid our way back down to the car again.

In the end it was a three hour return trip, door-to-door, which is fairly slow, but not bad given the amount of the hike that was spent waist deep in snow. Same time next month?

canada general hiking snow trail running

Slogging up Ha Ling Peak

Because doing things the easy way is boring, I decided to try heading up to the summit of Ha Ling Peak on foot, all the way from town. That’s the way it was originally done by its namesake, so I’ve been meaning for a long time to do the full ascent. It would, perhaps, have been easier in summer though.

Into the inversion, my ice eyelashes had started to melt

The temperature was hovering around -16oC in the valley, so I was really hoping for an inversion. It was jolly cold all the way up to the pass, and then interesting to get onto the trail. Huge snow drifts barred the way into the trees, but I waded through and hoped the going would get easier. It didn’t look like there’d been any foot traffic since the last snow, so I was slowed down to a slog. On the plus side, it started to get warmer and warmer as I climbed – an inversion, hurrah!

Nearing the treeline, the path was still obvious and easy enough to travel along

Although there were hoards in the Goat Creek car park, they all had skis and were heading in the other direction, so I had the whole mountain to myself. The only question would be whether I could actually make it past the treeline. There’s usually a section there with deep drifts of snow, before you reach the wind scoured scree slopes up higher.

Low sun, just a day after solstice

Although the snow got deep, I could largely stay on the pre-compacted trail. The few times I lost it I immediately plunged into thigh-deep powder, and easily hauled myself out and back onto the proper trail again. That’s the only section I really wished for snow shoes. Beyond, the going was easy, and the summit was beautiful – warm and still, and gorgeous views. Well, comparatively warm.

Summit shot

And the only unfortunate part was having to descend into the cold weather again.

Retracing my footsteps

Distance: 20km
Elevation gain: 1324m
Time: ~3hr20min

canada general hiking moosling

First Ha Ling Peak hike of the year :)

On a gorgeous sunny February afternoon, we decided to hike up Ha Ling. It was packed snow all the way, except when we finally got above the tree line, the snow cleared entirely in the end. Very nice conditions!

When we reached the top, the Moosling’s jacket was stashed in a pack that hadn’t made it to the top yet. So he had run around in my down vest. Very on trend.

There was barely a breeze too, perfect conditions up there.

And then the Moosling tried to descend on his own – this didn’t last long.

canada general hiking moosling

Let’s try this again

After last month’s disastrous Ha Ling Peak attempt – well, not disastrous exactly, we didn’t fall off the mountain, and weren’t eaten by bears or grues, we just didn’t make it to the top, but did spend a lot of time wallowing about in thigh-deep snow.

Anyway, I thought we’d had enough warm weather that it was worth trying things again. So the Moosling and I set off from the carpark. But only after we’d spent some time discussing whether or not he’d be wearing a hat and sunglasses – the removal of which is a new trick that he’s working on perfecting.


The first half of the track up is nearly bare, although with plenty of snow patches and mud. Closer to the tree line the snow patches morph into permanent snow. The traverse across the treeline to get to the start of the scree trail isn’t clear at the moment, and nor is there a packed trail in the right spot – there are a couple of meandering paths that are getting down to bare ground in completely the wrong spot though, and some good deep snow to wade through otherwise. The scree to the summit is clear though.

mostly bare

Mostly bare trail


nearly a chipmunk

Not quite a photo of a chipmunk


It was a lovely warm day with barely a breeze (unlike the gale you get sometimes), so we hung out on the summit for a while, and the Moosling had a play with some rocks and dirt, but totally failed to notice the chipmunk that was bouncing around all over the place.

summit shot

mountain baby

Mountain baby

canada general hiking moosling

Failing to hike up Ha Ling Peak

Last Winter, we got so little snow that hiking up Ha Ling Peak in February wasn’t a problem. This year has been a little different, it was obvious from the start that there was still a lot of snow, with fresh skin tracks heading up beside the trail.

Still, with a nice packed trail, hiking in the snow was pretty easy. Until we hit the treeline.

Then our nice packed trail dispersed into a myriad of snowshoe trails. We did some tentative exploration on one of them. Brendan post-holed a lot. So did I.

This was the view from one of my holes.

Meanwhile Finn just hung out in the Ergo with his sunnies on.

So, conclusion? Bring your snowshoes if you want to get to the summit. Or maybe wait another month.