I wasn't totally feeling it when Dr. Phil contacted me regarding a possible scramble for the Remembrance Day weekend, 2017. The weather looked pretty good for a front range peak and even promised light winds for once, so eventually he wore me down with his incessant texting and I agreed to slog up something just to make him happy. Ok, ok, I was kind of in the mood for a nice day out and with the wx looking so lovely, it was hard to say no despite my SAD disposition. After the usual flurry of invites were sent, it was Wietse, Dave, Phil and I who were joining forces on the front range Kink Peak. We were inspired by the trip reports of Matt Hobbs and Matt Clay, who had done the peak in dry conditions a few weeks earlier and their reports made it sound fun. I knew that they'd been inspired for a Halloween ascent by Cornelius Rott's trip report where he named the peak - Ghost - after finding a summit register from a local geocaching group calling it so.
I was partly inspired by a misunderstanding myself. When Eric Coulthard and I hiked past the Fallen peaks earlier in 2017 on our way up Waiparous Peak, I wondered how easy they'd be to ascend - see my Fallen Peak trip report for details on that. At the time, I thought that Kink was part of the Sheep Meadow Mountain group that Gillean Daffern mentioned in her guidebook, but now I realize it's not. She's talking about the Fallen peaks. I also remembered the great views of Kink from Castle Rock earlier this fall. It looked tiny from 2950m, but still nice enough to make an effort for.
[Kink Peak seen from the summit of Castle Rock.]
When I arrived at the meeting spot to pick up Dave and Wietse, it turned out that Dave was replaced by Raf! No matter. It's been a while since Raf joined us and it was nice to catch up as we drove towards hwy 40 north to meet up with Phil who was driving down from Canmore now that he's a mountain townie. Originally we were all going to pile in Phil's SUV but when we noted the amount of snow in the front ranges, we decided that maybe we should take my Taco and it's winter tires instead. Phil jumped in the truck with us and we continued the ~50km up hwy 40 to the clearly signed Hunters Valley Road. This road was followed for about 5km before turning left down a side road. (We missed that turnoff before realizing our mistake and backtracking a bit.) If you cross a third bridge along Hunters Valley Road, you've gone too far. Turn back and take the first obvious road just before that 3rd bridge. We followed this much smaller and undulating road for another 3km before parking just before the first bridge along it. With snow or rain this final road could be problematic for anything other than a 4x4 with good tires, otherwise all roads were in great shape.
[We took a brief detour to a lookout along 940 offering great views of Orient Point, Costigan, Phantom Crag, Black Rock, Devils Head, Poltergeist, Castle Rock, Astral (L -R).]
[On the spur road leading off Hunter Valley Road with Kink Peak looking very respectable.]
We parked alongside the Fallentimber Creek spur road and proceeded to freeze our butts off in the very crisp morning air. Phil was especially surprised with the cold temps (-13) as it was +3 back in Canmore that morning! Wietse and I were somewhat convinced that we should wear snowshoes right from the truck. There was at least 6" of sugary snow on the ground at the parking lot and presumably a lot more the further in and higher up we went. Phil and Raf weren't so convinced and eventually wore us down until we somehow ended up not only not wearing snowshoes from the truck, but not even brining them along. Group think is a wonderful thing. Wietse led the way along the route, following a set of tracks at most a few days old through the sugary snow. Snowshoes wouldn't have helped much for the first few kms of trail as the snow was so unconsolidated and easy to walk through. We traveled through a few open meadows which are the "marshy" areas that others have talked about but were frozen solid for us in the cold temps. After about 45 minutes we started hiking along an obvious cutline, heading straight for our objectives.
[Wietse starts from the trailhead. Note the sign and our two peaks in the distance. Fallen Peak at left and Kink Peak at right.]
[The open marshy areas with our two peaks in the distance.]
[On the cutline now, chatting with two members of the "Dutch" club.]
As expected, the snow slowly deepened as we hiked, until we were at least ankle to boot top deep in spots. It was still sugary and Phil had the energy to break trail (the tracks we were initially following died out at the marshes) so that made life easy for the rest of us. Finally, after about 90 minutes of hiking relatively flat terrain, we started going obviously uphill. For the most part the route remained very obvious, but of course having a GPS track to follow made it very simple, as usual. Two hours after leaving the truck we were out of the forest, skirting the edge of a clearing and finally grunting up a steep grassy slope with dirt bike ruts (not allowed here) before coming upon a surprisingly scenic and extensive rock and boulder garden under Kink Peak's eastern aspect. Phil continued to break trail as we decided to try shortcutting the col with Fallen a bit, accessing the south ridge on Kink above the col to climber's right. For the most part this worked OK but probably wasn't worth the extra effort. The boulder garden provided some nice pics though. Topping out on the ridge we were treated to a cold breeze but some pretty darn nice views to the west.
[Hiking along the cutline.]
[Finally gaining height on an obvious trail through the light forest.]
[Not quite as warm as this photo shows - but lovely nonetheless.]
[Even with no recent tracks and fresh snow, the trail was pretty darn obvious.]
[On the edge of a clearing we leave the trees and really start ascending.]
[A nice day - we're warm from the ascent and breaking trail. This is looking back from the start of the rock garden.]
[Surprising views looking south to Fallen Peak from the rock garden. Note Wietse at far left. Kink is out of sight at right. ++]
[Another view, this time looking back over the boulder field at lower left.]
[Phil kicks steps to the south ridge of Kink with Fallen looking attractive to the left. This is when I decided we should probably tack it onto our day.]
[Great views south and west from the south ridge of Kink. Note the wind blown slab - this will become important later.]
While I was waiting for Phil to hurry up and kick steps for me (!) up to the south ridge of Kink, I found myself intrigued by the great view of Fallen Peak to the south, sharing a col with Kink. I yelled up to Phil that we should probably ascend it afterwards and he readily agreed. Phil is like that. It's pretty much guaranteed that any time I make a suggestion that involves more distance and height gain he is all in. That kind of sucks, because then I have follow through on my own suggestion and be all in too. Some day that's gonna get us in trouble... But not this day! This day it got us a second peak.
From just above the col, Phil and Wietse led the way up to the obvious crux above. The crux on Kink is short but interesting. It's interesting because if you don't know there's a moderate to easy route through the intimidating cliff band, you will either do some difficult scrambling or you'll turn around and go home. The gist of it involved ascending right to the bottom of the band before contouring slightly around to climber's left and then back right up an obvious short gully. At the top of this short gully was the moderate crux, turning back to climber's left and steeply up to a rocky (in our case snow covered) bench. The bench led easily along another cliff band running to the west before cutting sharply back east (right) and back up to the south ridge proper. A very interesting "zig-zag-zig" navigation that provided me with some of the best photos of the day. Other than a few no-slide zones (which would have taken us over the lower cliff band), this was pretty easy scrambling terrain with a nice alpine feel thanks to the snow.
[Phil and Wietse head up to the crux. Approx route line indicated. Initially I wanted to go up the obvious "x" gully but the correct one is hidden out of sight to the right and is much less exposed.]
[Another view of the crux / route on Kink seen from our descent of Fallen later in the day. Note that Kink is higher than the unnamed summit at center, despite appearances.]
[It's a strangely windless day as Raf follows me up the south ridge.]
[The terrain steepens towards the bottom of the crux gullies.]
[Phil heads into the bottom of the first easy gully just under the crux one - still out of sight here.]
[Definitely trickier with snow - there were a few no-slide or slip zones.]
[Phil leads the way across the ledge. Note the ice climb at left? Possibly an unclimbed route.]
[One of my favorite shots of the day. Raf follows our tracks along the ledge with Fallen looking like a proper peak in the distance. ++]
[At the end of the ledge traverse, the route cuts sharply back to climber's right (east) to gain the south ridge again. I was happy there wasn't more snow as it was very slabby here.]
I think I underestimated the remaining elevation gain and distance to the summit from the ledge traverse. Because this is the crux, I guess I assumed that it was also close to the summit. It wasn't. We still had over 1km of distance and 350 vertical meters of height gain after the ledge. Oh well. It was easy enough terrain and our views were awesome, so it still passed fairly quickly. A few interesting spots on the south ridge were easily bypassed, including a bottomless hole just off the ridge crest that looked to have water ice in it. I wonder if there's a cave down there? Soon we were topping out to some pretty decent front range views of many of the giant 3,000 meter eastern Banff and Ghost Wilderness Area peaks such as Barrier, Puma, Davidson, Astral, Castle Rock, Costigan and others. There was a stiff, cool wind at the summit but nothing horrible and we sat down for a bite to eat and some warm coffee / tea from our thermos'. I was surprised to find two summit registers, one looked to be from a geocaching group.
[The slog up to the south ridge crossed over the top of a large avalanche slope which had a thick crust (slab) on it.]
[Looking back down the south ridge towards Fallen Peak and over the crux cliffs below.]
[From the false summit there's still over 130 vertical meters to go.]
[The cliffs are far below us now and Black Rock is showing up beyond the double (triple?) summits of Fallen Peak.]
[Looking along the east face of the summit block towards Ya Ha Tinda and over Pinto Creek.]
[Wietse looks tiny in the distance as more peaks show up - Orient Point at distant right.]
[Phil tops out on Kink Peak.]
[A great mountain-meets-prairie summit panorama looking north (L), east and south (R) from the summit. ++]
[A panorama looking west (L) and north to Ya Ha Tinda includes (L to R), Oliver, Puma, Panther, Zombie, Otuskwan, Dormer, Barrier, Minos, Wildhorse Ridge, Maze, Eagle and many more unnamed peaks. ++]
[Panorama looking south (L) and west (R) includes (L to R), Fallen, Black Rock, Orient Point, Saddle Peak, Devils Head, Costigan, Castle Rock, Poltergeist, Astral, Davidson, Waiparous and Oliver. ++]
[Two of the South Ghost's most impressive peaks, Costigan at distant center and Castle Rock at right.]
[An impressive register / cache.]
[Raf approaches the summit. Note the Waiparous Creek valley in the distance between Fallen SE2 and Black Rock. This is the valley that Eric and I used to approach Waiparous Peak back in March of this year.]
[Mount Davidson (R) is an impressive peak and only one of a handful of official summits in the Waiparous Area. Waiparous Peak is in front of Davidson on the connecting ridge with Kink, and Astral Peak is at center distance. All of the peaks in the area are at or near 2950m high.]
[Devils Head is impressive from the east, but barely visible in front of Costigan at center here.]
Since Raf and Wietse were taking a pass on the mighty Fallen Peak "twofer", Phil and I started down immediately in hopes that we'd catch up with them later. We quickly descended to the crux and carefully downclimbed it without issue until we were at the col, gazing up the ~250 vertical meters to the summit of Fallen Peak.
[Looking back up the false summit block from descent.]
[Phil makes his way back along the ledge with our second peak visible at center.]
[This slope cannot slide when you're on it - the consequences are high here thanks to a cliff below.]
[Exiting the crux gully before descending the short, easy gully to Phil's right.]
[Looking back up the moderate (short) crux gully.]
[Approaching the col with Fallen Peak looming above us roughly 250 vertical meters.]