So far 2017 has been a great year for me. Despite all the smoke ruining views for people all over the Rockies, I've been pretty fortunate with views when I really wanted them. This year was all about ticking off peaks and trips that have been on my radar for many years now. This includes (but isn't limited to);
After approaching Carnarvon Lake via Carnarvon Creek and setting up camp, KC and I completed the easy scramble up nearby Mount MacLaren. We made the decision to traverse under the false peak of MacLaren towards the first peak on the traverse to Mount Shankland.
The route up MacLaren started straight out of our tent on the western edge of the lovely Carnarvon Lake, and soon KC and I were grunting up grass and scree on the lower part of the ridge above the lake. It was hot and it was windy. It felt wonderful to have pretty light packs on after our lengthy approach that morning.
Doing both Watermelon Peak and Bobac Mountain as a day trip is like having a really, really good meal, but in several mind-altering bites instead of over several hours. Even though the longer meal is usually the preferred way to enjoy a palette explosion, sometimes you want to enjoy all the same flavors of a long, slow meal in a few compressed, heavenly bites. And that is exactly what we got on this trip.
I agree with Liam that it's important to break free of the lightweight, hustle bustle, go-as-fast-as-you-can mentality of our modern culture. That's what backpacking with my daughter next week is all about. That is not, however, what this particular trip was going to be all about. This trip was about overloading the senses with nature and wild landscapes in one long, compressed day while traveling as efficiently as possible.
After enjoying a Kane difficult scramble on Divide Mountain with Liz and Mike on Friday, I choose to go solo on a Nugara difficult for Saturday, July 8 2017. Mount McGillivray has been on my hit list for many years already. I first heard of it in 2003 when the Nugara brothers attempted it from the east. I don't know how many times I've driven past the mountain over the last 14 years, wondering why the heck I hadn't done it already?! It was time to find out.
On Friday, July 7 2017 I finally managed to get out with a couple of Facebook friends that I had never actually met in person. I met Liz and Mike at the gate blocking the old highway 1A near the Lake O'Hara parking lot for an attempt at one of the newest Alan Kane scrambles, rated difficult. Kane mentions Divide Mountain in an interview with Gillean Daffern as one of his new favorites.
After an easy day on Mount Stelfox, Mike Mitchell and I were pretty excited to find a scramble route up it's higher northern neighbor - Bright Star Peak. As far as we knew there are no recorded scramble ascents of this peak and as it turns out there is good reason for the lack of beta on this peak.
When our plans for climbing Mount Lefroy fell through, Mike and I started looking at other options. After swearing that I was done with David Thompson Country for at least a few months, I found myself planning another trip to the area. Our plans for the Sunday and Monday were to scramble Mount Stelfox, spend Sunday night camping and then attempt to find a scramble route up Bright Star Peak, it's higher neighbor to the north.
There aren't many published scramble reports on Abraham Mountain, but the few that are published make it sound pretty arduous and exhausting. I couldn't for the life of me, figure out why. It measures less than 11km round trip with about 1600m of height gain. There is no long approach and no mention of heinous bushwhacking either. How can it be such an exhausting trip? Only one way to find out!
After staring at it while ascending 6 or 7 peaks in the Two O'Clock Creek area of David Thompson Country, I finally managed to ascend Elliott Peak solo, on Monday, June 19 2017. Mike Mitchell is absolutely correct when he labels this scramble as nothing more than a "hike on loose scree" - but it's his follow-up wording that maybe I should have paid a bit more attention to...
After coming so close to its summit the day before after a traverse from Tuff Puff, I knew I was coming back immediately to make a second attempt at Whirlpool Ridge's highest summit the very next day. I enjoyed a delightful (free) camp along hwy 11 the evening before, setting up my mid on the back of my truck for the first time, which worked out great.
While on our 15 hour, 2600m+ vertical day traversing from Mount Ernest Ross to Two O'Clock Ridge with Mike Mitchell, there were two other peaks dominating the landscape for most of the day. The first was Elliot Peak to the north, the second was Whirlpool Ridge to the south. I kept looking over at Whirlpool's north bowl which looked to have a very esthetic line going up snow gullies and chimneys to its summit.
After a longish outing on Mount Head a few days previous with a couple of smelly guys (no offense guys), I decided it was time for a nice hike in Waterton Lakes National Park with my wife for a change. She not only looks (a lot) nicer than those other guys, but she smells nicer too. Again - no offense guys.
On Friday, June 09 2017 I managed to summit Mount Head in the Highwood Range of the front range Rockies with Wietse and Kev Papke. Exactly ten years previous, to the day, I scrambled up Mount Head's southern neighbor, Holy Cross Mountain, also with Wietse. Also, almost ten years to the day, was the first time I became aware of the scrambling on Mount Head when some friends did it and reported back.
There was nothing to do after finally standing on top of Two O'Clock Peak but start our long descent towards Two O'Clock Ridge and the highway, far below and far in the distance still at this point. We were feeling pretty positive as we started down the summit ridge towards the obvious east descent ridge. It looked pretty darn easy and not too far. We should have known better!
In his trip report, Eric mentions that he side-hilled on the east side of Two O'Clock Peak before reaching the far ridge and then backtracking back up to the summit on blocky terrain. He also mentions that it might work better to access the summit directly from the Landslide col. Mike and I were about to find out as we slowly and painfully worked our way down the huge (and freaking loose) boulders and rocks down from the summit of Landslide Peak.
After leaving the summit of Ernest Ross it was time to traverse to the higher, and unofficially named, "Bridge Peak". The sun was out and our views were fantastic as we worked our way down the west ridge of Ernest Ross towards a very distinctive colored band of rock and the much higher summit of Bridge Peak above us.