On my last week off in the first week of October I decided to try a scramble in the fresh snow that the front ranges got. I don't have a lot of Kananaskis front range peaks left to do so I looked in Andrew's book for ideas. I settled on the last part of the "big traverse" that I had left - Old Baldy Mountain (GR356417 or McDougall NW2) and Mount McDougall.
As I drove down hwy 40 I thought maybe I'd get lucky and have minimal snow on my approach trail. As I walked up the Evan Thomas trail (road) I realized that there was probably more snow than I was initially counting on. The small trail running up beside McDougall creek isn't that obvious. Basically go a couple of hundred meters past the "trail not maintained" sign. You'll crest a small hill with a trail on the left. Don't take this one! Go another 50 meters and just before the creek there's two small cairns with a trail in between. Follow this trail.
I followed the trail no problem until it steepened and widened considerably. As I climbed higher the snow obviously deepened and soon was over my ankles. I tried following the trail high above the creek and of course I lost it. That sucked big time. Since I had no idea where the trail was supposed to go I did what peak baggers always do - I traversed way too high. By the time I finally realized that I was way off the trail I was getting a bit grumpy. It felt like I was wading through an endless amount of snow on slick side-hilling and wasn't even on the mountain yet!
[Nice views of Fortress, Gusty and Galatea already from near Evan-Thomas Creek.]
[Two small cairns indicate the proper trail - lots of snow already here]
[A small creek that I crossed soon after leaving the Evan-Thomas trail.]
[The trail becomes less obvious the higher I get up McDougall Creek]
[Lower slopes of Volcano Peak on the left and The Wedge at far right.]
[The valley splits before the bump visible here and you want to be in the valley bottom to take the left branch.]
[The trail was obvious in places.]
[Looking back along my side-hilling approach.]
[I'm off route and side-hilling now. I dropped into the creek bed on the right and went to the tarn which is around the corner out of sight.]
Finally I dropped down to the creek and followed the trail again (barely visible in ankle deep snow) to the small tarn. From there I began to kick steps up a snow gully leading to the west slopes of Old Baldy Mountain. This snow gully was awesome but also exhausting since I was the only one breaking trail! I wouldn't come close to this gully once the next heavy snow fall fills it up as it's a major terrain trap.
[At valley bottom in McDougall Creek.]
[McDougall pond was almost completely dried up. This is where I started going up on climber's left. The snow was over ankle deep here.]
[Mountain goats - they pretty much ignored me as a thrashed past them!]
[The snow gully I ascended from McDougall Pond.]
[Looking down the snow gully.]
Once I reached the top of the gully I was almost ready to give up on the day. I was pretty tired already - the past few weeks have slowly worn my body down - and the amount of snow was getting annoying. My feet were already soaked because I stupidly forgot my gaiters and the route to the summit didn't look easy with water ice, rime and slick snow on slabs. I decided the weather was nice enough that I might as well at least make the summit of Old Baldy while I was up this far anyway, so I kept going. I ended up traversing on climber's right of the ridge before finally gaining the summit of Old Baldy.
[Gaining the upper ridge, looking at my tracks and Daffern's "Old Baldy" below - the grassy ridge. ++]
Due to the snow it was hard to know where the trail went near the summit so I stayed right on the ridge. This was more exposed than I was expecting and with the snowdrifts over my knees and water ice on the slabs I actually wasn't sure I was going to make it! Near the top I decided to traverse over climber's right and this worked well - I found a light track that led me up to the summit.
[Working my way along the east side of the ridge to the summit above.]
[Traversing to the summit.]
The views were incredible with all the fresh snow and as I replenished and gazed around I discovered some new energy. Amazingly I decided to try the traverse to McDougall - it looked a bit tough with all the snow but didn't look that bad and the views were crazy so why not? The only issue was my escape route off the mountain. I knew from others that the traverse to Volcano Peak was not easy and the descent off that peak was hellish bushwhacking so I had no desire whatsoever to do that. Volcano is also not mentioned or listed as a peak in Nugara's book and really is nothing more than a bump on the ridge so I couldn't claim that as a separate summit anyway.
[Panorama from the summit looking back over my approach ridge on the right and valley at center. Kananaskis Village and many familiar summits in the background including, Kidd South, Kidd North, Bogart, Ribbon, Sparrowhawk, Lougheed, Allan, Collembolla, Skogan Pass, Lorette, McGillivray, Mary Barclays and Mount Baldy (L to R). ++]
[Great views down my approach valley and an outlier between Old Baldy Ridge and McDougall's west ridge. ++]
[Views south to McDougall along the interesting connecting ridge from Old Baldy. ++]
[Views east and south include (L to R), Midnight, Midday, Boundary, Brown, Tiara, Bryant, Compression Ridge and possibly Mount Howard. ++]
[Looking over Barrier Lake and Baldy Mountain to the north. Midnight and Midday peaks to the right.]
[Great shot of Chester, Fortress, Gusty, Galatea across hwy 40 to the west.]
[Bogart is in the clouds - Ribbon Peak in front of it. Kidd on the left.]
[Looking over the Nakiska Ski Hill at Allan and Mount Lougheed buried in clouds in the bg.]
[Mount Kidd is an impressive mountain.]
[Fisher Peak on the left and Evan-Thomas East at center with other Opal Range peaks at right.]
[Looking over the ridge traverse to the summit of McDougall.]
I had 3 choices ahead of me for a safe exit. I could descend the west slopes of McDougall directly to another valley below and either find a trail or bash my way out through the snow. I spotted an easy route down GR357404. The issue with GR357404 was the traverse between it and GR362405 - a high point on the ridge running from Old Baldy to McDougall. This ridge didn't look that easy with cornices, water ice and heavy snow but it looked to be worth a shot. The third and least desirable option was to re-ascend Old Baldy and descend my ascent route. This route would give me a 2000m vertical day and with the snow and everything else just the thought of it was tiring. ;-) I decided to push on and make the exit decision later.
[At least good views distracted me while on the traverse to McDougall!]
[Looking back at my descent track from Old Baldy - I avoided the over hanging slab by traverse down and around it oos to the left here.]
[Looking back at my tracks.]
[The ridge to McDougall looked intimidating in several spots, thanks to the snow, but usually it was quite reasonable and easy scrambling. ++]
[Looking back where I came from.]