After a few weekends of general laziness, I was in the mood for some moderate hiking with my family on Saturday, August 29 2015. I was hoping the recent smoky conditions would be calmer than they were over the week previous, but as the day approached we realized that we wouldn't have the clear views we wanted. Oh well. We still wanted to get the exercise and I wanted to scope out the fall colors that I was sure would be starting in the alpine.
[Our route in Google Earth]
Red Peak and North Buller Pass was an obvious choice for us. I've had this one on the radar for a while already. I'd never hiked all the way to Buller Pass but I had been on the trail a few times, once when I scrambled Mount Buller and another time when I approached and scrambled Mount Engadine. Needless to say, it's been a few years since I was last on this trail and I didn't remember it. We were the first to leave the Buller parking area in cool, crisp mountain air - a perfect start! The trail climbed steadily at first before losing most of the elevation back to a bridge over Buller Creek which was obviously heavily damaged in the 2013 floods. A wide trail of some sort is being cut into the slope near the bridge, but our trail cut back up the left hand side of Buller Creek. We followed an obvious and pleasant trail past the faint track heading up Buller Mountain. The trail was well-maintained and all bridges have been re-built since 2013. After gaining some height up a steeper headwall section we arrived at the junction between the north and south Buller Passes. The main trail goes right to the south pass, while a much smaller track goes left.
[Fall colors are already out along Spray Lakes. This is the trailhead for the Buller Pass trail.]
[An excellent trail - not too over used but still obvious and nicely graded for the most part.]
[The burnt forest section is interesting.]
[Looking up at the drainage that leads to Buller Mountain via Kane's route. I remember this drainage being rather unpleasant.]
[The hike was very pleasant in the cool morning air and warm sunshine.]
[Just before the trail splits, we arrive at an upper meadow / burn area.]
[A much smaller track to North Buller Pass]
There was some blow down on the North Pass trail, but nothing significant. The trail was hard to find through some of the flooding damage too, but again, there were cairns and flagging if you looked hard enough. We passed a few gorgeous falls in the creek and I was happy to see some brilliant fall colors in the vegetation - more and more the higher we went. When I saw the final slopes to North Buller Pass, it looked much tougher than I was expecting! Hanneke was questioning how hard it would be, but as with most terrain challenges, it looked easier upon closer inspection and soon we were grunting up loose scree / dirt to the high col.
[Getting near tree line now - you can see the false summit of Red Peak in the far distance now.]
[A nice waterfall along the way - North Buller Pass in the far distance.]
[Beautiful open alpine meadow. North Buller Pass looks like a steep grunt from here!]
[A steep grunt up North Buller Pass]
The views from North Buller Pass over towards Ribbon Lake were astounding! The smoke was a bummer, but the brilliant fall colors and sparkling tarns and ponds made for a magical view. Hanneke commented that she expected to see hobbits down there! After a food / water break we somewhat reluctantly turned our attention to Red Peak, which isn't even visible from the pass. The first task from the pass is to traverse around the east side of the false summit to the north. We ascended 'til just below the false summit and followed a faint trail around it on very loose and annoying scree. Some folks won't like this terrain if they're used to hiking on trails. Part way along the traverse we could finally see our obviously red (!!) peak. The ridge to the summit was broad and easy, with some pretty nice views of Buller, Ribbon, Bogart and very smoky views of Nestor, Old Goat and just barely Assiniboine, Eon and Aye. On a clear day this would be a heckuva walk!
[Gorgeous views into the upper Ribbon Lake area from North Buller Pass. ++]
[Looking back down our approach from North Buller Pass. The Tower on far left, Engadine on the left and Buller at center right.]
[Hanneke and KC come up to the false summit with North and South Buller Pass behind them.]
[Finally Red Peak comes into view on the far left. Mount Bogart on the right.]
[KC and Hanneke come around the false summit. Galatea looms in the far distance.]
[Panorama from the ridge, looking west and north. ++]
[Looking over the many ponds above Ribbon Lake which is barely visible thanks to the smoke. Mount Kidd on far left and Kidd South to the right of it.]
[Near the summit now - many familiar Kananaskis Peaks in the background including Kidd South, Galatea, Tower, Buller. ++]
The wind was cold at the summit, so we quickly signed the register before heading back down. There weren't as many entries as I expected, but I guess this peak is off the beaten path and there are many loftier objectives close by. Our descent went well, including an encounter with a black bear in the upper alpine valley. It was a well behaved bruin, walking in a wide berth around us, stopping to look every once in a while. Hanneke thought we should stop photographing and keep walking, so Kaycie and I reluctantly kept going. :)
[Summit pano looking south and west. Eon, Aye and Assiniboine just visible with Nestor and Old Goat on the right. ++]
[Great shot of Red Ridge with Sparrowhawk looming over it.]
[A wider pano looking over Red Ridge with Sparrowhawk and Bogart on the right and Buller on the left. ++]
[Sparrowhawk tarns are directly below Red Peak but not visible from here.]
[Looking over Spray Lake at Nestor (L) and Old Goat (R)]
[Looking southeast with Kidd South on the left]
[Coming back down in nice weather - although it was quite windy on sections, almost blowing us off our feet if we weren't ready for it!]
[Gorgeous terrain down from North Buller Pass, above Ribbon Lake]
[A local resident ambles past us in the upper valley...]
[A barren, but beautiful landscape]
[A nice waterfall along the North Buller Pass trail]
[Fall is in the air]
I highly recommend this hike / easy scramble for a day when maybe higher peaks don't make sense, or for a nice family hike. There are many nice views lower down and incredible views once you get to the North Buller Pass. Some day I'll return and do the Buller Pass circuit or hike over the South pass to Ribbon Lakes.