Wietse, Phil, Calvin and I took advantage of yet another great May weather forecast on Sunday, May 27th 2018 to summit a peak that’s been on my list for the past few Alberta spring scrambling seasons thanks to its position on the front ranges of the Rockies near the Crowsnest Pass. For some reason Phil and I ended up canceling several planned excursions here, but alls well that ends well – and we picked the perfect day in the end.
Pasque is another low, front range mountain that has been on my radar for quite a few years now. A few weeks ago I managed to ramble up Isola and Monad in very little snow and pretty good views, and decided there and then that it was time to hike up Pasque – a mountain just to the north. A few weeks passed before Phil texted me that he wanted to do a scramble on Sunday, November 27. We were initially interested in something a bit tougher but settled on Pasque after the weather forecast proved a bit unstable and a dump of snow came through the Rockies on Friday.
After summitting Isola in some strong and cold west winds, we turned our attention to Monad Peak, lying to the west and slightly south of Isola. Considering our heavy philosophical discussions of the day, “Monad” is appropriately named after a fascinating Pythagorean world view that was steeped in a cosmology of mathematics where the world is seen as existing solely on the backs of numbers. I could actually get behind this theory! OK – don’t get me started… 😉
Ever since snowshoeing and hiking up Monola Peak in extremely strong winds and a fair amount of snow back in 2012 on November 18th, I had a trip filed away in the back of my mind that would entail both Isola and Monad Peaks to the south and west of Monola. After a stretch of incredible late fall weather in the Canadian Rockies which saw me bag around 7 peaks since the end of October, I was ready to give this trip a shot. Raf Kazmierczak was looking to hike up Monad Peak, so we agreed to team up for this one.
After a great ascent of Centre Peak, we turned our full attention to the west ridge of Caudron. We both had commented more than once over the approach and scramble of Centre that Caudron looked more involved than we were expecting. The west ridge looked easy enough, but just under the summit block, the slope steepened somewhat alarmingly and we wondered how easily we could scramble it. Lingering snow and ice were also visible, making us feel like our approach shoes might be too light. But there was nothing to do but get our noses in it at this point – so up we went!
Ever since reading a pair of trip reports from Brandon Boulier which detailed winter scrambles up both Centre and Caudron Peaks in the Livingstone Range near the Crowsnest Pass in Southern Alberta, I’ve wanted to do them both as a day trip from the west. Most folks ascend only Centre Peak and they do it from the east side – an easy to moderate, or even difficult scramble, depending on the route chosen. Rick Collier did both peaks as part of a grand traverse from Thunder Mountain to the Crowsnest Highway. Brandon gave me some key beta, including the advice to avoid his approach route on Centre and use his descent route instead.
After summiting McGillivray Ridge in better-than-expected weather conditions, Wietse, Dave and I turned our attention to Ma Butte – a nice looking ridge to the west of McGillivray, sitting pretty in front of the impressive Crowsnest Mountain massif. Ma Butte looked intimidating from the southern part of McGillivray but from the summit we could see that the north end of the ridge would be easier – just as Bob indicates in his report. The descent to the McGillivray / Ma Butte col was quick and easy. From there we found ourselves looking up several hundred vertical meters at Ma Butte.
Wietse, Dave and I were approaching the trail head for Southfork Mountain and Barnaby Ridge when we noticed dark clouds and rain on the windshield. Since nobody felt like hiking or scrambling in the rain, we started searching our minds for easier objectives that could be done in the rain and wouldn’t involve driving too terribly far. I remembered a “back pocket” easy family outing that I’d been planning recently up McGillivray Ridge and Ma Butte. Since the sun looked to be shining over the Crowsnest Pass area, we agreed to try it. By some minor miracle, Dave hadn’t yet been up these obscure, meaningless bumps – his words, not mine – but I agree.
Thrift Peak has been on my radar for a while now, it was cemented as an objective while on a drive back from Cabin Ridge (Twin Peaks) with Wietse in November of 2015. I didn’t even realize this was the Livingstone Fire Lookout until doing some research later! There are three approaches to this summit, two of which require a crossing of the Oldman River. One goes up the south ridge from near the gap with Thunder Mountain. The second goes up a fire road from the west. A less well known and less traveled route that does not require a river crossing at all, was discovered by the indefatigable Bob Spirko in April of 2008 when he also ‘discovered’ Camp Creek Ridge. This is a longer route, but potentially involves another summit / ridge which is always nice.
After a few weekends at home, I was ready to explore some front range areas again – somewhat of a tradition when the weather turns and it’s not quite ski season yet. After conversing with Wietse for a while, we settled on Cabin Ridge, also known as Twin Peaks. I was too lazy to research the route, so Wietse did some Googling and decided that road 532 through the “Windy Gap” to hwy 40 (gravel) was closed (due to the 2013 floods) and we should take Township Road 104A (Oldman River Road) to hwy 40 instead – driving past the parking area used to ascend Thunder Mountain. We decided to check out Windy Gap ourselves on the return trip, because I had a hard time believing it was still closed from 2013!
On Sunday, November 18 2012 I joined Bill Kerr, Dave Salahub and Kevin Papke on a snow slog up an unnamed peak to the south of Isola. Dave decided to call the peak “S.O. Isola or Monola” in order to satisfy Kev’s requirement of an ‘official’ summit. (Since then the peak has been named a more fitting name, Monola, due to its location between Isola and Monad Peaks.) Monola isn’t particularly difficult. We managed to cross the river in our 4×4’s on the blue bridge and drove all the way up the approach road on 4-6″ of fresh snow. We even drove a couple hundred meters down the ATV trail until the track dropped down – we stopped on top of this drop. On hindsight when you get to the obvious clearing it’s best to stop rather than follow the narrow track into the trees beyond.