Mount Chief Pascall

Elevation Gain: 945m
Distance: 12.07km
Total Time: 6 hours 47 minutes
Date: March 11th, 2023

Mount Chief Pascall is one of the smaller summits in the Joffre Group/Duffey Lake area, but that is by no means a detractor. It’s an exceptionally popular peak owing to a short 10-12km round trip and sub-1000m elevation gain. However, it’s most popular with skiers and they aren’t usually interested in going to the summit. From what I’ve seen most get as close as 3-400m from the top before reaching the north bowl entrance that attracts the majority of visitors. Andrea and I were originally planning to do the Gargoyles and Columnar, but at the last minute avalanche danger got bumped to C/C/M. This was a blessing in disguise as we were both wrecked from battling a harsh cold all week. Scrambling around for alternatives, we decided on Mount Chief Pascall as the avi danger was better and the route much shorter.

On the Saturday, we were off to late start as Andrea was feeling especially unwell, but we eventually got out the door around 8am and pulled up the trail head around 11 feeling a bit more alive. That’s still plenty of time, especially with an easy ski down, so it was no matter. The weather was looking moody, with most peaks in the clouds, but that wouldn’t be too much of a problem for an easier summit like Chief Pascall.

Thanks to its popularity, the majority of the route is already tracked out and so we set off from the parking lot to follow the proverbial yellow brick road. There was a few fun sections in the lower forest and then the ascent began in earnest as we gained the Cerise Main Road and then followed a short section of spur road up into the forest. From there we wrapped around to the north face to gain the ridge. As we climbed the weather gradually began to improve and by the time we reached 1900m we could actually see the summit under sunshine.

Heading down Cerise Creek Main, just before the spur road turn off
Skinning through the forest
Nearing the ridge line
Things are starting to open up!

We gained the ridge and continued along the southern side where the sun was in full force now. An obvious sun crust underfoot made all southern aspects look especially spooky with the extra fresh snow on top. Thankfully, we’d be skiing the north bowl so we pressed on. The ridge had one tricky section at 2020m with a steeper and awkward bluff to navigate around and then we were back onto tame terrain.

Andrea on the ridge! A long connecting ridge of Joffre is visible behind
The one little tricky section (on skis at least) ahead
Andrea taking in the views

Ahead we could see the summit proper and a convenient place to drop our skis. The tracks beyond here were blown out from the wind and it appeared we were the first ones to reach that far today. We pulled up to the last stretch of continuous snow just below the steepening summit ridge and ditched our skis. I had hauled crampons up just in case and was now thankful to have them as the sun crust underneath would make it challenging to get purchase.

The summit directly ahead
Andrea below Chief Pascall’s final summit ridge. Joffre is obscured in clouds still
Looking back down the ridge line
Looking at the route ahead

Andrea and I started boot packing up the ridge line and found generally good conditions. Not long after we started up a group of skiers crested the ridge line and we thought we might have some company on the summit. However, they started preparing to drop into the north bowl instead and we carried on business as usual. There were a few post holes here and there, but otherwise just some shallow rocks to contend with. We topped out without issue and spotted the “true summit boulder” ahead. It was covered in quite a bit of snow and I pondered how best to climb it. Wrapping around the other side I spotted a short step and decided to start clearing snow to get up top. I found a smaller step underneath the snow to mantle up and then made my way up top.

Myself starting the boot pack
Andrea coming up
Almost to the top
The summit boulder ahead

With crampons and ski boots I didn’t bother getting much closer to the edge as who knows what’s going on underneath the snow. I was satisfied to call that the summit and hopped down. Andrea and I then made our way back to the skis and paused for some food.

Starting the awkward mantle up
Good enough for me
Looking down the tricky summit ridge. Thankfully it’s not required for us to go there
Summit shot
Heading back down to the skis
Mount Rohr made an appearance. I climbed it back in 2021 with Jacob.

The skiiers had dropped in on a quite steep section just below the ridge and released a decent amount of sluff in the process. Andrea and I are moderate skiiers so we opted to ski down a short ways to a tamer entrance into the bowl. Andrea lead the way from there skiing some awesome turns through perfect powder to a safe waiting spot. I followed next and had, honestly, one of the funner runs in my life. I can’t believe we have access to such cool terrain and skiing deep powder positioned high above Duffey Lake, just doesn’t get much better.

Myself skiing down
Andrea skiing down to our entrance in the bolw
Andrea dropping into the bowl!
Looking back at our line
Heading down the final section of the open terrain
One last look at Mount Chief Pascall’s north bowl

We continued leap frogging down the end of the bowl and followed the open terrain as it funnelled into a drainage system at the base. Then it’s a short and not too challenging tree ski session back to the road. Once on the road we had about 2-2.5km of skinning before reaching the car again.

Plodding back to the car now

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