Most trip reports on Association Peak wax on and on about the length and wasted height gain involved in a relatively low lying and insignificant front range summit. Knowing this, I've never been in a hurry to attempt it - there always seems to be better and more exciting options! Well - on Friday, October 25 2013 it was finally my turn to discover the delights of Association Peak and it's approach. I was joined by Wietse and Bill.
Inviting Bill along on any excursion to the mountains is always a good idea - especially if there's any ambiguity about the route. Bill has lots of mountain experience and is a bit of a geek when it comes to researching routes. This one was no exception. Without going into details (email me with questions), we managed to lob off at least 4-5km of distance and probably as much as 500 meters of total elevation gain which thankfully demoted Association from a long and tiring slog into a rather normal outing of 21km total distance and around 1435 meters of total elevation gain.
We started off the day by parking near the start of the road to the Yam parking lot. We followed cut lines, ATV tracks and light bush around the east side of Yam's east shoulder until hitting Old Fort Creek. The weather was beautiful for late October!
[A beautiful fall morning]
[Yamnuska lights up to the east]
[The bush isn't too bad - anything thick can be avoided.]
[There were only a few thicker sections - but even they were very tame compared with any real bushwhacking!]
[We hit an obvious cut line]
[Now we're on a horse / ATV track]
[At Old Fort Creek - East peak of Wendell in the distance]
Once across the larger creek (I'm still not sure which creek is Old Fort - there's a smaller creek coming in from the west and then a much larger one running more North - South), we worked our way towards the small creek / trail running to the Association Peak / Hill col to the north. This trail isn't too hard to pick up as long as you know roughly where to look for it. :) The easiest way is to use Bob's GPS track. You'll know you're on track if there's a circle of stones (fire circle) at the start. This trail is just a detour around the creek - it rejoins the creek again temporarily before finally going uphill to the col on a very obvious trail. This is not an ATV track but a real trail and no more than 1-2 feet wide at most.
[The trail to the col]
[The forest is open here - the weather was extremely pleasant!]
[Late fall in the foothills / front country]
[Scouting our route]
[We're finally gaining height - this is looking back at our approach. Association Hill is out of sight to the left. Yamnuska's east shoulder in the far distance and Wendell's east shoulder in the foreground. We saved a lot of height gain / loss by avoiding as much of these shoulders as possible.]
[Gaining the col - Association Peak rising above us.]
Once we finally gained the col we thought the rest of the route would be very obvious. All we had to do was traverse up and climber's left around the northeast shoulder of Association and follow a scree slope to the summit ridge right? Well... Not exactly that straight forward - but close. As we rounded the northeast shoulder we were surprised to see, not one cliff band but three. The lowest one didn't look too inviting - and this one surprised us a bit. Nobody mentions this lowest obstacle. The way around it was to navigate some moderate terrain directly up the ridge above. We followed an obvious ramp before gaining the ridge crest. After gaining the ridge we traversed climber's right, into the bowl and just below the second cliff band. We managed to get around the second cliff band following cairns up easy scree.
[The lowest cliff band may be ascended directly but we didn't take chances. Instead we went up the ridge out of sight on climber's left. You can spot the second cliff band just above and then the third one high up.]
[Some moderate terrain gaining the ridge crest east of the lower cliff band]
[Traversing just under the second cliff band - we broke through it on the climber's right (west) side on easy scree slopes - there were cairns here.]
After breaking around the second cliff band we worked our way up easy scree / grass slopes just climber's right of the upper cliffs. From there it was an easy slog to the summit ridge and then the summit itself. The weather was gorgeous - hardly any wind and a warm sunshine. We enjoyed the summit for a while and I called Hanneke to let her know how my day was going. After a little while on the summit we decided we'd better start the hike back, considering the short daylight hours available to us.
[On the summit ridge, End Mountain on the left and Association on the right. ++]
[Looking east off the summit. ++]
[Looking west at familiar peaks including Lougheed, Yamnuska, Wendell (east and main), Morrowmount, Devil's Head and End Mountain. ++]
[Bill approaches the summit of Association Peak.]
[Unfortunately, End Mountain is not easily reached from Association, although obviously people do the traverse as a climb. (UPDATE 2016 - There is a difficult scramble route along ledges to the west from Association and a moderate route via the SE ridge.)]
[Looking towards Saddle Peak]
[The original register is wet and falling apart - some familiar names here though!]
[It seems like most local climber's head up this area eventually - probably getting itchy feet in the off season.]
[Another Rick Collier register replaced the original ruined one.]
[Vern on the summit - calling Hanneke to let her know when I'll be home! (I was off by a few hours because we got lazy on descent...:))]
Descent was fairly straightforward, although we did get ourselves pretty turned around near the parking lot - hilariously following the wrong cut lines and overshooting our route several times in the bush!
Overall, Association was a much nicer outing than I was expecting. We took our time and went a very leisure pace and still beat 10 hours. With gorgeous fall weather (almost summer at times!) and great conversations about everything from black holes to climate change to philosophy it was a very pleasant day NOT spent at the office. :)
[The bowl on the north side. Eventually we traverse skier's right to the ridge - but not until we're just under the second cliff band. ++]
[Looking back as Wietse and Bill navigate through a smaller cliff band under the 2nd one as we traverse back to the ridge.]
[Descending the moderate section of ridge.]
[Traversing back around the NE shoulder to the col.]
[Very pleasant weather / terrain coming down from the col]
[Taking the trail back to the creek.]
[Late fall color]
[You're on route if you see this. :) After this (on ascent), you'll go back to the main creek for about 100-200 meters before leaving the creek on the north side, following an obvious trail beside a small stream. The stream disappears but the trail is obvious all the way up to the Associate Peak / Hill col.]
[Back on the confusing ATV / Horse trails and bush!]
[Thankfully the forest is mostly thin - you can avoid most of the thicker stuff by going above or below it.]
[Bill gets a 'bright idea' while navigating back to the truck. Believe it or not, I made this shot on purpose - the trick is a small aperture to make the sun star. :)]