After grunting my way up Serendipity Peak, I didn’t linger long in the fierce winds at the summit but turned my attention quickly towards a distant looking Patterson’s Peak. Actually, my first glance towards Patterson’s made it appear much closer than I was expecting. It’s not until I actually started descending to the Pyriform S5 / Patterson’s col that I realized it was further than I first guess. Typical.
After several weekends in a row of very low motivation, I finally felt the call of the mountains again as the last weekend of October 2017 approached. My apathy the weeks previous had been mostly due to typical fall conditions – hurricane force winds in the front ranges, despite warm temperatures. I’ve done a lot of front range hikes and scrambles in these conditions and they’re never as fun as you imagine they’ll be when planning them. It’s like peak bagging in Waterton. The peaks are always more enjoyable afterwards, when looking at the photos without the wind trying to blow you off the peak!
With the upcoming Thanksgiving long weekend and some unexpected days off work beforehand, I was looking to take advantage of a pretty nice wx with a scramble or two before the snow starts to pile up in earnest around the Rockies. Lucky for me, I received an invite from Cornelius and Trevor inviting me for a jaunt up the relatively obscure front range mountain, “Castle Rock”.
After approaching and ascending Cyclone Mountain the day before, Phil and I woke up to a frosty but clear morning on Friday, September 29 2017. After Phil took a few hours to collect soil samples from Douglas Creek, we packed up our camp and headed back along the trail towards the core Red Deer Lakes area in the Skoki backcountry of Banff National Park. Our destinations for this glorious fall day were Pipestone Mountain and Merlin Lake. These two things are not very close together, in case you were wondering.
Over the years, Dr. Phil and I had been eyeing up a couple of easy ascents, rising over the Red Deer Lakes in the Skoki backcountry of Banff National Park and on the western edge of the Drummond Icefield. When we finally scrambled up Mount Drummond in late September, 2015, our interest in Cyclone Mountain and Pipestone Mountain increased. In late September 2017, it was finally time to go check them out a bit closer. Rick Collier details a trip that he and Mardy Roberts did back in June of ’92 where they traversed from Pipestone to Cyclone Mountain as a day trip.
As I started my annual week off in late September 2017, I didn’t know what I was in the mood for. The weather wasn’t fabulous, but it wasn’t horrible either. Being solo, I didn’t really feel like a huge day – not to mention Phil Richards and I had some pretty big plans for later in the week and I didn’t want to ruin those with too big a day already on Monday. Of course, being September, I wanted larches to be part of the landscape. I’ve often looked at Mount Howard Douglas, either while skiing at the world class Sunshine Village resort, or from various trips nearby such as The Monarch, Ramparts, Healy Pass or Twin Cairns.
After completing the long approach trek up Healy Pass and then Whistling Pass and the subsequent ascent of Lesser Pharaoh Peak (don’t forget about “Tiny” Pharaoh), Phil and I grunted our way back up Whistling Pass and set our now-tiring bodies towards Scarab Lake and the diminutive and unofficial Sugarloaf Mountain. I haven’t been able to find out where “Sugarloaf” comes from, but it’s on enough references to be official enough for me to bag and claim it. We noticed quite a few people on the main Pharaoh Peak above us as we passed under it on our way back to the Scarab Lake turnoff.
With larch season comes great responsibility for the Rockies hikers, scramblers and photographers. The responsibility comes from having two weekends (at most) to take advantage of the very limited and short-lived phenomenon of what’s commonly called,
On Sunday, September 10th I joined Cornelius Rott for a jaunt up a Kananaskis peak that’s been on my to-do list for many years now – Mount Lougheed I. 2017 has been all about getting out and trying Rockies adventures that have been on my mind for years and never got around to for some or another reason. Originally Phil was going to join us for another (longer) objective, but plans changed so I asked Cornelius if he was interested in Lougheed. As we’d never done a trip together before, you might be surprised that we choose a difficult Nugara scramble for our first outing. I wasn’t worried because in looking at his web site you realize pretty quickly
On Saturday, September 02, 2017 I completed one of the most dangerous mountain ascents of my life and was only the 8th recorded ascent of a peak that is very distinct and recognizable and highly visible from a major highway corridor (#93) and yet not very well known in the climbing or scrambling community. I was joined on this dubious adventure by Wietse and Phil. OXO peak has been on Wietse’s radar for several years. I remember discussing it with him for at least 3 or 4 years, since he first saw a Rocky Mountain Rambler’s trip report on it in 2013.
I first spotted the impressive hulk of Mount Lyautey in 2006 from an ascent of Mount Putnik as part of an engaging and entertaining Northover Ridge backpacking and peakbagging adventure. At the time I was only around 5 years into my scrambling career and wasn’t very familiar with the peaks all around me. Now, over a decade later I’ve been on most of their summits – but as of the morning of August 20th, 2017 I still had not stood on top of Mount Lyautey. In August of 2009 my interest in the mountain was once again sparked by two reported ascents in the span of just a few days – on a peak that had only seen a handful of total ascents since the 90’s!
Ever since I first read about Mount Ogden (likely from Nugara a decade ago), it’s been on my endless to-do list of peaks. Nugara added the peak to his second scrambles book. When Kane added it to his latest book, with a different lower access route than Nugara’s, it only peaked my interest (pun intended). Earlier this year I joined Liz and Mike for a delightful trip up Divide Mountain, which granted me excellent views of Ogden. Based on negative trip reports from Kane’s route via Sherbrooke Lake and a manky avalanche slope, I knew I wanted to utilize Nugara’s approach up the south ridge directly from the Trans Canada Highway.
8.5 hours after leaving the car along highway 93, Phil and I were finally done with Quill Peak and turning our collective attention towards a distant Conical Peak, rising through the smoky skies to the SE of our little perch at the edge of Quill’s access glacier. Conical Peak had been on my radar for many years already – mostly due to a rumored shortcut route over, or near its summit from hwy 93 to the Dolomite Creek valley and Isabella Lake. We were planning to use this shortcut for our Recondite trip in 2013 but decided a trail approach via Helen Creek the was better option – thank goodness for that decision.
I was feeling quite ill the week of August 7th 2017. I’d probably been on one too many long day trips with Dr. Phil – or I was just allergic to work. Probably the latter. Of course, as the weekend approached and looked to be quite clear and warm, we started throwing around plans despite my current illness. After finally settling on a pretty fantastic trip that excited both of us, we were discouraged to find out that despite its relative obscurity, this particular peak was being visited by another party on the very same weekend. We decided we didn’t care (even though we really did) and upheld our plans for a two day trip.
I wasn’t sure if I was in the mood for another peak as the August long weekend came to a close. I’d spent the weekend relaxing with family and was still feeling the effects of some pretty long days in the hills the weeks previous. Thanks to wildfires in BC and especially in the Verdant Creek and Ball Pass areas, the air was also very smoky in much of the Rockies. But I had the Monday off and family stuff was done, so how could I realistically just sit there and not take advantage of another beautiful day in my beloved Rockies? Precisely.
I capped an awesome 9 days off in July 2017, with a long-sought adventure up the distant, obscure and somewhat neglected Cataract Peak, just across the Pipestone River Valley in Banff National Park. This mountain has been on my radar for many years now – mostly because it’s high (almost 11,000 feet) without being so high that it gets more attention (i.e. 11,000 feet). When Ben and Steven did it back in September of 2014 I was fairly bummed that I didn’t get to join them.
From the summit of South Totem Peak, Spreading Peak looked pretty darn sweet. I remembered looking up at Spreading Peak from our long traverse towards Marmota Peak in 2015 and thinking the same thing. A beautiful line of snow highlights the ridge to the summit cap and it looked pretty easy to boot. The issue – as with any peaks in this part of the Siffleur Wilderness – is access. There is no quick or easy way to access the gorgeous summits in this area. Or is there?
After a very successful and somewhat tiring 5 day trip with my daughter in which we traveled approximately 57km and over 4500m of height gain, I was ready to put my feet up for the remainder of my week off. Then Phil texted me… When Phil sends a text, it’s usually some idea for an exhausting day trip involving many kilometers and many hundreds of meters of height gain, usually on an objective that nobody has ever heard of. Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised when we settled on a day trip of South Totem and Spreading Peak in the Murchison Group just east of Totem Creek in Banff National Park.
After a few intense days of backpacking and scrambling five summits, Kaycie and I were ready for a relaxing day by a gorgeous and remote backcountry lake. So that’s exactly what we did. When doing research for our trip, I’d relied heavily on Matt Clay’s August, 2015 trip where he and Sandra backpacked into Weary Creek Gap before traversing up and over Mount Muir before being turned back at the Carnarvon Lake chains. I had changed things up, based on his experience, choosing to ascend, rather than descend the chains. Since our original plans called for a much longer trip, I was keen to extend ours by at least a day and came up with an intriguing option to spend a day and night camping at Lake of the Horns (LOTH) from our Weary Creek headwall bivy.
Summit Elevation (m): 2883Elevation Gain (m): 740Round Trip Time (hr): 3Total Trip Distance (km): 4Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 : you fall, you sprain your pinkie fingerDifficulty Notes: No difficulties from Weary Creek Gap. The headwall to the gap / lake is harder than anything on this easy scramble as long as you stick to the easiest route. Note: I did this peak after traversing from Carnarvon Lake to Weary Creek over Mount Muir.GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: SC5; YDS (Hiking)Map: what3words Kaycie […]
After a nice, relaxing day spent ascending Mount Strachan before chilling at Carnarvon Lake, Kaycie and I woke up early on Monday morning to tackle Mount Muir and our highline traverse to Weary Creek Gap. The idea for this traverse came from a thread that Matt Clay started on ClubTread and from some further research into a longer backpack in the area known as the “Elk Highline”. The basic idea was to take full backpacks up and over Mount Muir and down towards Weary Creek Gap which would be our home for another night and possibly a base camp for an ascent of nearby Mount McPhail.
Of course when I started my two week vacation in September, the weather turned for the worse in the Rockies. And when I say “worse”, I mean way worse… First of all was the dump of snow that covered the entire range of the Alberta Rockies from north of Jasper to Waterton Lakes National Park. While a bit of snow isn’t a huge issue, especially in the fall – it definitely limited my choices for peak bagging. I had to dial down my ambitions from lofty 11,000ers to trips that involved more hiking and backpacking. I didn’t mind, to be honest. I was in the mood for more reflective trips anyway – sometimes the intensity of larger peaks can distract from the beauty and peacefulness of the area that you’re traveling through. Not a terrible thing necessarily, but it’s nice to stop and smell the roses every once in a while.
Once we descended from Christian Peak and looped back to our traverse tracks from the day before, we decided to give Arctomys Peak a try. I think we all underestimated the amount of effort required to get all the way over to the eastern edge of the Lyell Icefield from the south ridge of Christian Peak, never mind the effort to then descend 400 vertical meters, cross another small icefield and then re-ascend to the summit of Arctomys. Now reverse it all the way back to the Lyell Hut!! Sometimes we are just suckers for punishment.
For Father’s Day and for the longest day of the year, we chose a fairly easy scramble in the Spray Lakes region of Kananaskis. Originally I was hoping to climb North Victoria early on Sunday before coming home to celebrate Father’s Day, but that didn’t work out thanks to a very chaotic weather forecast that kept promising perfect weather and then changing at the last minute! Oh well. June in the Alberta Rockies is known for unpredictable and chaotic weather.
After a fairly straightforward route to the summit of Threepoint Mountain it was time to explore. Nugara is pretty sure in his guidebooks that there is “no direct route” from Threepoint over to Mount Rose, it’s shorter neighbor to the south. He’s right, of course. There is no direct scramble route. But when there’s no direct route what do you do? Obviously you scout around a bit and look for an indirect one. The thing with Mount Rose is that while it’s a nice enough little summit, surrounded by some very nice terrain, it’s not really the sort of mountain you want to dedicate a whole day to ascend. Phil and I both remarked more than once that if we didn’t get Rose with Threepoint we wouldn’t be coming back for it any time soon. From the summit of Threepoint, there were a few obvious gullies to try on the ridge splitting south (skier’s left) off the west ridge that Nugara recommends using for an alternate descent. We knew that the long band of cliffs running along this ridge were huge and even overhanging so the odds of these gullies working were slim. We also figured that for sure Nugara would have tried them – although if he did Threepoint in the winter he may not have bothered.