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Huge Southeast Face of Mount Diadem in Rockies Skied

Jon Walsh and Kylee Toth skied a remote mountain on the Icefields Parkway north of Banff

Photo by: Jon Walsh

Skiers in Canada have spent the past few months opening huge descents down some of the biggest faces in the Rock Mountains. From remote couloirs in B.C. to huge faces that rise about the town of Banff, it’s been a great year for backcountry skiing in the Rockies.

Jon Walsh and Kylee Toth have now skied the 1,000-metre southeast face of Mout Diedem, a 3,371-metre peak in Jasper National Park. Walsh has been making bold first descents in Canada for over 15 years. He said that he’d been wanting to ski Diadem for years.

Walsh wrote the following on his Instagram: Ski Alpinism. It brought me to the Canadians Rockies and was the gateway to a multi decade climbing obsession, and has always remained something I’m passionate about doing. Yesterday, all weather forecasts and conditions pointed Kylee and I to Mount Diadem’s SE face. I’ve been dreaming of skiing this one since I first picked up a copy of Selected Alpine Climbs in the Canadian Rockies, about 25 years ago, which was mainly a source of ski inspiration at the time. Kylee had climbed this line last fall, but had vowed to return to it with skis. SE aspects are tricky at the best of times, and we were lucky to get this one in perfect conditions. Yet we never felt like it was a sure thing until it was done. We had to always be ready to accept the fact that we might get shut down. The powdery conditions made the climb strenuous, difficult, and slow to climb, which was less than ideal with the overhead hazard from the cornices looming above, or the possibility of too much daytime warming. Fortunately the air was mostly cold. At times when the sun broke through the overcast skies, we felt like it could get too warm and we’d have to turn around. Fortunately, stability felt great, there wasn’t any snowballing, and the clouds always provided some shade before long. The cornice was the final uncertainty, that fortunately had one spot in it that was reasonable to climb through and allow us onto the 3,371 m summit. It was my second time there, the first one was via the alpine route Humble Horse up the north side. Amazing views of Mount Alberta, and many of the peaks of the Columbia Icefields, mind blowing powder from the first to last turn down the 1,000-metre face, made this one a real highlight for both us, and took 8.5 hours car to car.

Other big ski descents this winter include the east face of Matt Bell, the south face of Mount Dunkirk by Christina Lustenberger, Ian McIntosh and Nick McNutt; the east face of Mount Nelson by McIntosh and Lustenberger; Gold Card Couloir M4+ WI4 C0 60° 800m, which is a serac-threatened line in the Monashees, by Lustenberger, Brette Harrington and Andrew McNab; and Thor’s south face near Shelter Bay by Lustenberger and McNabb. In the Bow Valley, the east face of Cascade Mountain was skied this winter for the first time, read about it here.

There have been a number of avalanche deaths in Canada’s backcountry from avalanches this winter, including a skier who was killed on Haddo Peak last week. Always check conditions here and never head out without the proper training and experience to tackle these big lines.

Lead photo: Jon Walsh