Devil's Head


Trip Details
Mountain Range: 
Mountain Subrange: 
Attained Summit?: 
Trip Date: 
Friday, September 14, 2012
Summit Elevation (m): 
Summit Elevation (ft): 
Elevation Gain (m): 
Round Trip Time: 
Total Distance (km): 
Difficulty Notes: 

A fall on the crux would severely injure or kill so take necessary precautions.

Trip Report

On Friday, September 14 I joined Wietse, Kevin and Dave for a hike / scramble / climb of Devil's Head in the Ghost River Valley. This mountain has been on my radar for years already but I've never gotten around to actually climbing it for various reasons. I've done a lot of front-country peaks over the first 10 years of my peak bagging career so lately I've been more interested in peaks a bit more remote and a bit bigger.


It turns out that Devil's Head is actually pretty remote (considering it's front-range) and is a lot of fun despite being pretty lowly in stature. We approached the mountain via the "South Gullies" route along Bastion Ridge. We drove to marker 39 (apparently a lot of people ignore the seasonal closure of the road beyond this point) and walked about 1km upstream to the first gully (aka "Valley of the Birds") on our right. We had to cross the river 3 times just to reach this first gully, despite conjecture from others that it would only be once. This necessitated a walk back to our river crossing gear since we dropped it after the first crossing thinking we were done. The river has re-routed against some steep terrain that results in the two extra crossings. Best to keep your river crossing gear on until reaching the correct access gully / trail!


[A gorgeous fall day as we approach the Ghost River Wilderness Area - the sunlit peak is Phantom Crag or Devil's Fang.]

[Our first river crossing.]

[Note the river abutting the cliff? This necessitated another two river crossings... :)]

[The team is thrilled to change socks again.]


There was flagging marking our steep route up the left (west) edge of the drainage - it was that or immediately start scaling waterfalls (again - these are known as the "Valley of the Birds" ice climbs in winter) so it was an easy decision where to start. :) We grunted our way up the trail - it was obvious all the way until it broke out of the trees. From here the route remained obvious - simply gain the ridge on climber's left and follow it all the way around to the east and south cliff faces on Devil's Head. The only issues with the route were some height gain / loss along the way but nothing too serious. It was a very pleasant fall hike all the up to the base of the cliffs. The wind gusts were quite strong at times but again, nothing serious, especially for this area.


[The drainage can't be followed very far - this is the Valley of the Birds! Go to climber's left on an obvious trail right from the river flats.]

[Looking down at where we started our scramble - waterfalls to the left here which make up the Valley of the Birds ice climb.]

[A surprising and pleasant walk in light forest under the ridge.]

[Kev breaks tree line after a steep grunt through the trees.]

[Our first head-on view of Devil's Head with our route to it pretty obvious along the ridge leading right to left. ++]

[Looking back at Kev as he descends the first bump after breaking tree line on the first ridge.]

[On the left, just out of sight is the bump we had to descend after coming out of the trees and gaining the ridge. On the right is our objective. ++]

[Looking back at the highest 'bump' on the ridge also called "Bastion Ridge" by Gillian Daffern (right side). Black Rock is the peak in the distance. ++]

[Getting a bit closer the views are awesome up here! Castle Rock lies to the right of Devil's Head here. ++]

[There are sheep / human trails all around DH. It sure looks impregnable from the east!]

[The ridge coming off DH to the left is another ascent route. A bit shorter but more convoluted than the one we used. ++]

[Looking back at our ridge walk along Bastion Ridge (right) and the awesome valley to the north. We had our lunch break here. ++]

[Getting close to the traverse under the cliffs - we stopped for a break near here.]

[The group approaches our rest stop with our approach ridge (Bastion Ridge) stretching out behind them. ++]


We had lunch under the impressive cliffs of DH, just out of rock fall range, and then proceeded to traverse under them towards the gullies on the south side of the west ridge that would grant us access to the upper mountain via scrambling, rather than the climbing route up the west ridge. The gully was pretty obvious (it's the only scramble terrain you'll come across after the traverse) and we quickly worked our way up it. It is somewhat steep and loose and a party of 4 was almost too many for this section. We had to be extremely mindful of rock fall. Several sections were pretty steep but probably not more than moderate (upper) scrambling. Near the top we traversed climbers right through the "Devil's Horns", another obvious landscape feature to guide you to the crux.


[A pleasant walk under the cliffs - brain buckets mandatory! ;-)]

[Looking up the scramble gully. Take the main gully up until the trail goes climber's right through the devil's horns.]

[The gully is steep and VERY loose.]

[There are enough cairns marking the route that you shouldn't get lost.]

[We tried to stay as close as possible in the gully.]

[Dave climbs right over Wietse to prove how good his climbing shoes work! Actually he was worried about getting stuck in the tight chimney that Wietse is climbing! :-)]

[Traversing over to the devil's horns.]

[The Devil's Horns from the west.]

[Through the horns, looking at the crux gully and route to the top!]

[Wietse coming through the devil's horns (the scrambling gully is behind him).]


As we scrambled up to the climbing section - a short 5.3/5.4 move over or around a chock stone - I noticed a ladder leaning up against the chock stone! My first thought was that this would make the whole route a 'scramble' but upon inspection the ladder had a lot to be desired. It was obviously a light contraption and wasn't anchored properly to the mountain. Climbing the ladder would be almost worse than climbing the rock - although the rock seems to be crumbling around and under the chock stone which is now seriously overhanging (when it falls the route may be only 'scrambling'!). We anchored the ladder with a cam which made it just possible to clamber up it - but there was no way we were down climbing it! There's a good rap station right above it anyway that we'd use on descent.


[Yes - that's a LADDER! It's not supported though. The rock is still overhanging from the top rung so it wasn't quite as useful as I first thought when seeing it.]

[Kev holds the ladder (also supported with one piece of pro) while Dave climbs over the chock stone.]

[Assisting Kev coming up the ladder - and taking his photo of course. :)]


The rest of the route was fairly obvious with cairns etc. and probably low-difficult scrambling. It was never horribly exposed but has enough steep sections to warrant some caution. It is also predictably loose, so scrambling here with a large group may not be the wisest thing to do.


[Enjoying a beautiful day in the Rockies!]

[Don't underestimate the rest of the route - it's still upper moderate to difficult scrambling.]


The summit of Devil's Head is a huge scree plateau. We enjoyed the views and some lunch in amazingly calm conditions and descended our ascent route with no issues. We rapped the overhanging chock stone and Wietse and I went ahead of Dave and Kev in the loose 4th class gully to avoid 4 people kicking rocks down on each other.


[Coming up the summit plateau with Castle Rock visible in the background with Poltergeist to the left and Astral just to the left of Castle Rock in the far distance.. ++]

[We're pretty tiny in this terrain. Aylmer at center in the distance and Poltergeist at right.]

[After the tight scrambling, the summit area is huge! Astral Peak is in the background just right of center with Castle Rock on the right in the foreground. Poltergeist with the shadowed face at left in the foreground and Aylmer in the distance at far left. ++]

[The summit cairn is unimpressive compared to the other terrain on Devil's Head. ++]

[Looking east. Blackrock Mountain in the distance just left of center and Phantom Crag to it's right. To the right of Phantom is Orient Point and our approach ridge visible in the foreground. ++]

[A great summit to enjoy with good friends.]

[Blackrock Mountain looks pretty small now - that's a great scramble in the area.]

[Astral Peak is at left and Castle Rock in the foreground both look awesome from this angle.]

[A pretty old register considering how prominent this mountain is from the east and from Calgary.]

[Hey - it's Bill Kerr and Gary! Nice to remember that Gary used to tramp around these hills...]

[My favorite view was northeast, the Johnson Creek Valley down below is delightful and impressive with it's cliff walls. ++]

[Leaving the summit.]

[The down climbing above the crux is in some ways more difficult simply because there's no bolted rap station to make it safe! :)]

[More tricky down climbing above the crux.]

[This should give you a good idea of what to expect.]

[More steep and loose down climbing.]

[Wietse sets up for the rap]

[Kev and Dave rapped after Wietse and I so that we could get down the loose gully in pairs instead of all four.]

[Looking back at the crux section - looks pretty impressive from here.]

[Descending the gully below the Devil's Horns.]

[Wietse having fun in the gully!]

[Johnson Creek Valley deserves some exploration I'm thinking. Lots of nice looking rock walls in there.]

[Getting ready to drop back to the Ghost River.]


We met a party of sheep hunters on our way out. A bunch of campers / backpackers were making their way to the Ghost as we barreled home (Kevin found the gas pedal!) - the road was pretty darn rough. A highly recommended climb / scramble - bring a rope for the crux. Until it falls off it's some short, steep climbing to avoid it and would be tricky to down climb IMHO.


[Detritus in the forest on descent.]

[Just this steep descent and we're back at the river.]

[Done the hard stuff! Looking back at the last descent section to the river.]


Thank you for all the great pictures and details



This will prove a useful tool. Much appreciated and plenty of gratitude for your pics and comments.

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