After scrambling Prairie Bluff in the morning, we found ourselves with plenty of time for a short objective on our way to setting up camp for the night at the Beaver Mines Recreation Area in the Castle Wilderness. I had a trip report on Mount Backus from Bob Spirko who snowshoed it in March of 2014. Backus was located along the highway leading to Beaver Mines, so it made perfect sense to try it.
After squandering a perfectly good weekend, followed by a disappointing May long weekend, I was more than ready for some time away from the rat race in Calgary by the time the last weekend of May rolled around. Both my kids were also ready for a break and with Hanneke home studying and writing assignments, we decided that a two day trip to the Castle / Crown area was just the ticket for us.
I've been dreaming of climbing the highest peak in Banff National Park and 8th highest in the Canadian Rockies for many years. I'm not 100 percent sure when I first laid eyes on the hauntingly beautiful northwest face and dramatic summit pyramid of Mount Forbes but I do know that it probably terrified me the first few times I looked at it.
I wasn't sure that I would manage to summit my last 11,000er on the main Columbia Icefield in the spring of 2016. Rumors were flying around that the Athabasca Glacier approach was toast this year thanks to an extremely warm winter / spring combined with low snow and an serac event that covered the route I've always used through the headwall with tons of ice and snow earlier in the year.
After approaching the Hargreaves Shelter at Berg Lake the day before via a long slog involving carrying our skis and skinning on mud, gravel and scree we were pretty bagged. After a party of 5 joined us in the shelter (quite late) we managed a few hours of restless sleep but way too soon Ben was waking us up.
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...
I debated labeling Camp Creek Ridge a distinct summit, but due to several factors, I've decided that I'm going to count it separately. The main factor is that while Thrift is accessible from many sides, Camp Creek Ridge isn't. Also, the ridge is pure hiking whereas Thrift is easy scrambling and won't be for everyone. YMMV, but for me these two summits are very different.
On March 05, 2016, after we successfully scrambled End Mountain, Mike Mitchell (Giant's Gate Journeys) and I set our sights on my second and Mike's third summit of the (long) day. There is no good reason not to hike to the summit of Association Hill if you're in the area anyway and you're a peak bagger.
On Saturday, March 05 2016 Mike Mitchell (Giant's Gate Journeys) and I left my truck (parked the wrong way on a one way for some reason...) at the Yamnuska parking lot and headed off up an obscure cut line on an adventure to scramble End Mountain and hopefully Association Peak and Hill along the way.
After crossing the Sheep River and ascending the very easy Wolf Creek Hill, I turned my attention to Channel Ridge to the SE. Interestingly, I could find no other trip reports on this ridge so I was on my own when it came to beta - a rare thing for easy front range ridge hikes (and one of the main reasons it interested me).
I still wasn't feeling 100% on the last weekend of February 2016. I decided that the forecast was too 'iffy' to try anything too lofty or remote on Sunday, February 28th so I woke up late and once again drove past Okotoks, through Black Diamond and Turner Valley and continued on to Kananaskis Country.
On Sunday, January 24, 2016 I was joined by Mike Mitchell for a long ski tour up Unity Peak in the Skoki region of Banff National Park near Lake Louise. Due to a 'considerable' avalanche rating, specifically around ridges and wind loaded, faceted slopes, we had to be very choosey with our choice of ski tour.