On Saturday, January 7 2011 I joined Raf, Wietse, Marcel and Greg for a front range scramble up Kananaskis Peak in (this will be hard to fathom), Kananaskis.
Why were we scrambling instead of skiing? I'm not sure, to be perfectly honest. Maybe it was all the avalanche fatalities over the past week or maybe it was the spring-link weather that Calgary has been getting, but I was more in the mood for a scramble and obviously so were the other 4 guys so that's exactly what we did!
Kananaskis Peak is not normally done in winter. There are a few reasons for this including the fact that it's more difficult than some surrounding summits like Wasootch and Baldy and the fact that there are no trails to its summit make things interesting on the approach in winter. We were expecting some snow in the approach gully but I think we got slightly more than we bargained for after about 4 inches of fresh stuff fell the night before. We decided that to avoid as many difficulties as possible we would ascend the "easy" descent route as ice or snow on the normal crux would render this beyond a scramble.
Just like I did for GR338442, I led the group up the Wasootch Peak trail in order to gain height on a well-defined track and stay out of the creek bed as long as possible. Once we traversed into the creek bed things got much tougher. Greg and Marcel led most of the knee to waist deep trail breaking up the creek and eventually we were looking up at some rather nasty looking scree slopes to the high col of Kananaskis Peak.
[Ascending the Wasootch trail with a nice view opening up behind us already.]
[After descending to the creek things got a bit tougher.]
[Mount Kidd looks very impressive once we get past the waterfall and start gaining some height in the creek bed.]
I led the way up the scree slope, trying to trend climbers left and ascend some bits of ridge that were poking out of the scree. This part was still rather miserable but not difficult. From the col I turned left (east) to ascend the final bit of ridge to the summit. In the summer this would be moderate scrambling but with snow and some small cornices just before the summit this felt almost alpine. The blasting wind didn't help!
[A wider perspective looking back down the creek bed.]
[Ribbon Peak is calling my name!]
[We are trying to get to the end of this gully where we will turn climbers right up the scree gully.]
[Finally our ascent gully comes into view. We ascended the snow in the foreground and then the real grunt began!]
[Wasootch Peak in the background. We were stuck in the shade and wind on some loose scree. Awesome times... ;-)]
[The scrambling part starts just east of the col.]
[Looking north from the top of the scree slope. Wasootch is in the center and the summit is to the right. ++]
[The final bit to the summit was trickier with snow and a small cornice.]
[Looking more like an alpine climb than a scramble from this angle! Marcel comes up the crux just before the summit.]
[Raf and Wietse come up the summit ridge. McDougall looms in the background.]
[Raf just before the crux. A slip would be fatal here to either side.]
Summit views are amazingly good for a front-range peak and we enjoyed the view for as long as we could stand the chilly west wind. The descent was fast and mostly without incident, save for Wietse's knee acting as a bouncing board for a rock. Overall, a great day out with great company. I really enjoyed this one.
[Summit panorama looking east includes Tiara Peak. ++]
[Summit view looking north over Wasootch and west towards Lougheed. ++]
[Looking back at the summit with Raf and Greg on it. ++]
[Wietse says that Marcel stepped out of a 1975 MEC catalog! I think his bright colors are awesome for winter photography!]
[Wietse is about to introduce his left knee to a hunk of rock courtesy the two guys above him. Maybe sticking closer together is a better idea on this slope...]
[The narrow section of creek bed canyon is a bit tricky to get through in winter. The waterfall is opposite us here.]