I assumed with all the talk about La Nina conditions again this year, we’d be looking at much more snow than we’ve currently got. Even with the mediocre conditions, I couldn’t turn down an opportunity for a fun ski tour to Mount Elma on December 11th.
Where is Mount Elma?
Mount Elma is across Paradise Meadows from the Raven Lodge. Imagine sitting on the deck at the Raven Lodge looking out over the snowshoe and cross-country ski area. The big ramp of a peak in the background is Mount Albert Edward. Closest to the lodge, just over Lake Helen McKenzie is Brooks Mountain on the right and Mount Elma on the left. They are about 2 kilometers from the Raven Lodge parking lot via the snowshoe trails. Our route took us around the edge of Lake Helen Mckenzie because the ice wasn’t thick enough in the centre. Our weight is spread out being on skis but I’d rather not go for an icy bath and lose my skis in the lake.
Mount Elma has parking?
We took the steep but paved road up Mount Washington and took the left onto Nordic Road near the top. The Raven cross-country lodge is at the end of that road, and we parked there for the day. A quick walk around the lodge and we strapped on our skis and started our tour through the snowshoe and cross-country trails.
The snow on the way to Mount Elma was crusty and hard. Not having had fresh snow in a few days and a bit of rain on top of that made for some hard packed ground cover. On the one hand, that made the tour less tiring as we weren’t sinking into the snow with each step. On the other, the steeper sections were tough to maintain a grip on the ice if there were ridges and dips in the hard snow. When it’s nice and soft, the squishy snow gives you even grip with your skins on the snow.
We followed the trails through Paradise Meadows, meandering towards Brooks and Elma. We crossed a bridge over a creek that was piled high with snow. Don’t trip up there when your skis are at the height of the railings. You’d go for a swim!
Eventually we made it to the edge of Lake Helen Mckenzie. The signposts for the Strathcona park were barely visible above the snow and another foot will bury them. The ice was fairly thin on the lake so we decided to play it safe and skirt the edges. We were on the ice but close to the shore. If any one went through we’d be able to get to shore. The thin ice was visible in the middle of the lake. Another few weeks of snow and cold weather and you’ll be able to ski straight across the lake, shaving 20 minutes off the time to get to the col between Brooks and Elma.
Wandering Paradise Meadows
From the other side of the lake we headed up into the woods until we hit the ridge of the col. Here you’d head right to go up Brooks or left up Elma, as we did. The hill steepens here but nothing a little switchbacking can’t handle. In 20 minutes we were having lunch on the summit of Elma chatting to the other snowshoers that had come up the east ridge.
Little ski jump
The ride back down was a little hairy in sections where it was just icy hardpack. The patches of powder that were left made the trip worth it. If it had not been for a couple powdery sections it would have just been an icy snowshoe.
Skiing back to Mount Washington
How did the gear do?
All the gear performed well this trip. I was glad to be wearing polypro as the base layer. When we were in the sun it was quite warm and I’d sweat but once we got into the shade it would cool down dramatically. A polypro base and a merino mid-layer has been my go-to setup for the last few trips.
I tried Sole heat-moldeable insoles in my ski boots this time but they still gave me blisters on the insoles of my feet. This is an ongoing experiment to find out what fits for me. I might have to go to a different boot.
The Montana GPS screen was acting up as well. It wasn’t calibrated properly so it was hard to hit some of the buttons. I calibrated it on the summit which seemed to help a bit but didn’t quite solve the problem. It might have been too cold to calibrate properly. I was using my hands with no gloves on so it shouldn’t have had a problem. I’ll have to re-calibrate in a nice warm indoor environment and see how it does.
What gear did I use?
G3 Saint 170 skis
Scarpa Spirit 4 Touring boots
Black Diamond Contour Elliptic Shock Compact trekking poles
Helly Hansen long-sleeved polypropelene base layer
Merino 260 weight longsleeve
Arcteryx Gamma AR softshell jacket
Osprey Talon 33 pack
Garmin Montana 600 GPS
Montbell Alpine Light down jacket
Dakine Titan glove
Julbo Race sunglasses
Canon T1i DSLR camera
AdventureMobile: Subaru Impreza 5-door
Have you been up Mount Elma? What was the trip like and what gear did you take?