Puzzle Peak (or OXO peak) is usually a great, classic ski tour to a prominent mountain summit that is relatively easily accessible along the Icefields Parkway. The day I met up with Brandon, however, it was a little more of a “scramble in ski boots” than it typically would be. But I think, that’s part of the fun isn’t it?
Covid has made ski season a little more difficult this year. With the current lockdown in place, we’ve had to drive separately and try to maintain distance with partners leading to a slightly higher effort and less social experience than usual. But still, it’s been great to connect with friends and get out as much as possible for touring days when we can.
Despite the poor conditions, the weather was great. Getting to spend a bit of time chatting and enjoying the outdoors with friends on such an awesome summit is worth any ski-boot scrambling we were forced to endure.
When in doubt, go for the summit anyways
Brandon and I both had this summit on our ski touring tick list for a while, and despite the knowledge that conditions might be… mediocre… we decided to go for it. On the drive, we noticed the top 1/5 of the peak was definitely rocks, not snow, but ever the optimists, we decided to go for it anyways.
As a side note, this ski tour can be found in the guidebook for the area “The Icefields Parkway”
We skied up to where the rocks began and Brandon asked rhetorically “lets go for the summit, why not?”. Long story short, about 20 minutes later he mentions “I guess this is the ‘why not'”. Either way, a long and arduous snowy scramble in ski boots later and we sat on the summit, enjoying some incredible views before stumbling back down loose rocks to the snow.
Back in our skis, we enjoyed some relatively awesome conditions back to the base of Dolomite Shoulder, and headed back to the car. We contemplated doing a lap of Dolomite, but our poor dad bods were not having any of that idea, so it was a short day instead.
One of the best parts of this summit and zone is the stellar view across the valley of the Grand daddy Couloir, one of my favorite lines on the parkway. Read the trip report from this incredible line here.
Accessing OXO Puzzle Peak
A summit of OXO Puzzle Peak is roughly an 11km day trip with around 800-900m of elevation gain. To access the peak, park as for Dolomite shoulder. The car park is just past the mosquito parking lot on the north side of the highway. Be sure to park as far off the road as possible to make it easier for snow plows.
Ski around 3-4km from the car park, following the route as per Dolomite shoulder. Once you gain the bench that circles around the north side of Dolomite, look for branching skin tracks or forge your own route to the base of the ramp feature. Aim to maintain as much elevation as possible by staying slightly left of the creek drainage.
Follow old skin tracks, or make your own switchbacks to the summit of OXO. Stay climbers right (or north) of the landslide zone to avoid getting cliffed out.
Extending the day
The run down is absolutely amazing in good conditions, and features a long, nearly 600m run from summit back to the bench below Dolomite. Get a second lap, or snag a quick round of turns at Dolomite Shoulder before heading home.
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