On Saturday, August 4, 2012 I was joined by the illustrious Sonny Bou for a jaunt up Ribbon Peak and hopefully Bogart Tower. Ribbon Peak has been on my radar for a few years already, mainly due to a trip report from Andrew Nugara and consequently it's appearance in his scrambles book. For some reason or another I really like the Memorial Lakes area and I'd been up there 2 or 3 times previous and never realized the scrambling objectives that are in the area.
One thing we may have underestimated was the length of the trip - especially when combined with Bogart Tower. We were smart enough to bring our bikes for the first 3.4km along Ribbon Creek and by 08:00 we were biking up the easy road / trail with a brilliant blue sky above and fresh mountain air filling our lungs. It felt great to be out of the city again - I sincerely wished I was camping all weekend on such a great weather forecast for the Rockies! The bike ride went by quickly and within 20 minutes we were stashing our bikes in the trees and preparing for the hike to Memorial Lakes.
[The peaceful waters of the second Memorial Lake as we work our way up the headwall to the third one.]
I have done so many hikes and scrambles but it still surprises me how much quicker the same length of trail goes by in the morning than the evening on the way back. You'd think that since the way back is mostly downhill that it would seem much quicker but usually the opposite is true - the way back always seems much longer than you remember the morning trek taking... Time and distance went by at a good pace as Sonny and I chatted about life - we haven't scrambled together since our accomplishment on Vaux last year so there was plenty to talk about. For more photos and a detailed trip report of the Memorial Lakes approach hike, see my separate hiking trip report.
[A gorgeous view of the third, and final, Memorial Lake with Bogart Tower (L) and Ribbon Peak (R) standing guard over it. ++]
After approaching and admiring the tranquil Memorial Lakes, Sonny and I started a traverse high above the third Memorial Lake around a scree bench on the west side, underneath the towering cliffs of Mount Bogart heading towards the headwall cliffs guarding Ribbon Peak. I was a bit skeptical looking ahead at the cliff band we were supposed to get through to access Ribbon, it looked rater impenetrable from our vantage point with waterfalls coursing down steep rocky cliffs. As usual in the Rockies, it takes close inspection before you can spot a route through seemingly impossible terrain!
[We traversed this bench to the back of the scree bowl and bottom of the headwall.]
[Looking back at Sonny on the bench traverse with the third Memorial Lake at lower right.]
[The cliff band ahead is finally starting to look like there might be a scramble route through it.]
[We went up the snow in the foreground and traversed climbers left of the small stream to find a weakness in the upper part of the band.]
[We traversed this bench before finding a reasonable route up to the right.]
We used a handy patch of snow to avoid some miserable scree up to the cliffs and from there we traversed climber's left along an obvious scree bench, crossing two or three small melt water streams before angling back up to climber's right and breaking through the cliff band. I was initially attracted to the same difficult section as the Nugara brother's first attempt, but I think in the end our route was probably a bit easier than the one they settled for - but we didn't have a rope either! ;-)
[Part way through the cliff band, the third memorial lake is just visible. Mount Bogart at upper left.]
[Sonny comes up through the headwall - as you can see the terrain is huge and loose here.]
[Telephoto over the third Memorial Lake and Bogart Tower towards Sparrowhawk. Apparently there is a scramble route up Sparrowhawk from this side.]
[Another view down the headwall showing why you don't want a large group above you on it!]
[A panorama from the top of the cliff band looking back at Mount Bogart (L) and Sparrowhawk (R). ++]
After breaking through the cliff band we found ourselves in one of those places in the Rockies that is pure magic. Somewhat similar to the beautiful upper valley on Lougheed II and III, except much more barren and lonely - this place is very rarely visited by humans. Ribbon Peak looked quite imposing with it's impressive slabby west face rising up to our left. I knew from Andrew's report that we could start up a series of ledges along the west face rather than going all the way to the col so I started up an obvious ledge / crack system in the west face, angling upwards toward the south ridge. I found the ledges on the west face to be moderate scrambling at most - not too bad but loose and somewhat exposed.
[The upper scree valley is a quiet and magical place that few humans set foot on. Ribbon Peak's west slabs rise dramatically to the left.]
[Sonny is a tiny dot at center in the midst of the impressive landscape between Ribbon (R) and Bogart (L).]
[Gazing east towards Mount Kidd with The Fortress visible just left of center. Note the steepness of the slabs I'm on at far left.]
[The scree covered ledges and slabs were straightforward - but you still had to concentrate on your footing or you'd slip off the west face!]
[The views are improving as I gain height on the west face. This is looking east to Mount Kidd North and South. ++]
[Looking back down my ascent route up the slabs - Sonny visible at bottom just starting up.]
Upon reaching the south ridge the terrain became much more difficult. Nugara almost makes it sound like the ledges bypass all of the difficult scrambling on the south ridge but I couldn't find a ledge system any higher than the one I took (that would be only 'moderate' scrambling anyway) and there's no way that the section of south ridge we had to take was "wide" or "easy" either. Looking down at the section of ridge that our route avoided, it looked exposed but not nearly as steep as the section we still had to negotiate. We popped out on the south ridge just as it takes a dramatically steeper angle.
[The angle of the south ridge takes a dramatic upturn where we met it. You can see the angled crack that I didn't take on the way up because the rock that would be my hand hold looked (and felt) too loose!]
[Looking east from the spot where I intersected the ridge - Kidd South with Fortress area peaks to the right.]
[Impressive slab terrain, looking back from where I hit the south ridge. Sonny barely visible at the bottom of the slab.]
[This is the ridge I butt-shuffled over on ascent.]
I started up the ridge, immediately finding myself balancing very delicately on my tush across a very exposed and loose rock fin. There was a crack running underneath this fin, but I didn't trust the fin enough to use the crack and pull hard on the rock - rather choosing to shuffle my way along the top of it, reasoning that if it crumbled at least I'd fall onto more solid rock underneath the loose stuff! :-) (On the way back I took the crack but it didn't feel any safer due to the crappy rock I had to hold onto...)
[Looking to the south off the ridge at Mount Kidd - north peak with the lookout at left.]
It's been a while since I scrambled in difficult terrain and it took me a few minutes to adjust. There's so much more concentration needed when you can't afford the tiniest little slip or misstep. When I got to the crux on the ridge I had to spend some time on it before committing to go further.
The crux (for me) was a rock step / crack just off the ridge on climber's left, hanging over the west face and slightly over hanging. Going up wasn't a big issue (I love being 6 feet tall) but I knew right away that descending the step was going to be tricky. Because of the slight overhang and loose holds above the crux it was really unnerving for me to descend it. I had to back up to the overhang, go down on my left knee and then try to find a tiny down sloping ledge with my right foot while clinging to some unreliable holds. All of this is performed over the west face - a slip would certainly be fatal! I really didn't like it and spent more time than usual on this section, practicing going down it until I was sure that I could do it properly. Finally I heaved myself over the crux and continued on.
[The crux is right above me in the photo. You can see the angled crack running up to the left before the crux which goes back to climber's right near the top of the photo.]
As usual, everything after the crux felt pretty straightforward, but there was still a high degree of concentration needed until I finally spotted the summit block ahead. "Summit tower" might be a better description! The scrambling wasn't as hard as it looked and eventually I was walking the final ridge to the true summit.
[The terrain after the crux seems pretty tame in comparison. Thank goodness!]
[The summit tower looks fun from this vantage point! Allan and Collembolla in the background with their startling green and brown slopes. ++]
[The final summit ridge stretches out in front of me on a glorious day to be scrambling.]
The views from Ribbon Peak were better than I was expecting. The weather was also fantastic - warm and no wind, so I spent a good half hour relaxing, eating and taking photos. The summit register has gotten busier since Nugara's book, but still only 1 or 2 ascents per year on this obscure mountain. Only true peak baggers would consider this trip, I think!! There are so many easier and more accessible mountains out there, but of course that's what attracted me to this one in the first place.
[Fantastic views back south along the summit ridge towards Kidd North and South. Bogart at center and even Mount Assiniboine just peaking out to the right of Bogart's summit. ++]
[Serious exposure down to the third Memorial Lake and tiny Bogart Tower far below me.]
[Summit panorama looking at Bogart, Sparrowhawk, Wind, Allan (L to R) and even the third Memorial Lake and Bogart Tower are visible far below at lower left. Further right, looking west towards Kananaskis Village, Olympic Summit, Baldy and Wasootch Mountain. ++]
[Wind Mountain with Lougheed II rising behind.]
[I'm sure Mount Allan is a busy place today.]
[Fisher Peak brings back great memories - it's a difficult Kane scramble.]
[Panorama of the Kananaskis Range to the west including James Walker, Fortress, Gusty and Galatea (L to R). ++]
[The Opal Range lies to the south.]
[The Ribbon Creek Valley and environs are green and lush on this summer day. ++]
[Looking over Olympic Summit's ascent ridge over Mount Baldy towards the Trans Canada Highway.]
[Wasootch looks tiny from here!]
[Not a lot of ascents in the past 6 years - maybe 1-2 / year at most.]
[Some famous scramblers have made it up here.]
[More interesting names in the old register.]
After 40 minutes I began to get itchy feet. The weather was perfect and I could have stayed up there for hours, but I wanted to get the crux down climb over and done with. Sonny hadn't shown up yet, but Sonny and I have a lot of experience and when we scramble together we don't really worry too much about sticking right with each other. I knew he wouldn't be offended if I started down and waited for him in the upper valley before the headwall so I started down.
[Leaving the summit, traversing back down the south ridge.]
[Can you spot Sonny on the ridge? Trust me - he's there somewhere. ;)]
I met Sonny on the upper ridge and as I suspected, he didn't mind having the summit to himself for a while so I continued down. The crux was tricky to descend just as I thought, but thanks to my practice moves on it I managed it fine. As I sat perched on a particularly exposed fin on the ridge I meditated why it feels so good to have nothing but air on either side of me with a cool breeze and cool rock against my skin and warm sunshine on my neck. I don't think I'll ever get the answer to that question - but it is rather addictive. ;-)
[Looking back up steep, loose terrain on the descent.]
[Sublime views off the south ridge.]
[Some serious exposure looking back along the slabs / descent crack.]
[Looking down a narrow ledge on the west face that I descended.]
[One more look up the narrow ridge section with the ledge bypass.]
[I enjoyed the views along Ribbon Creek from this 'resting perch' on the south ridge where I dangled my legs for a bit and contemplated life. ++]
Eventually I made it down to the rock valley before the headwall descent and spent an hour or so napping there and drinking copious amounts of fresh water from the stream nearby. I watched as Sonny slowly descended Ribbon's ridge and west face before he joined me and we descended the headwall - following the line of cairns I had erected on the ascent.
[Finally off the west face / south ridge of Ribbon and back in the sublime valley between Ribbon and Bogart.]
[I napped here for over an hour - I love the greenery around the waterfall! The water was so good I must have had over 2 liters of it due to the heat. Third Memorial Lake in the valley bottom.]
[Extra points if you can spot Sonny picking his way down the west face of Ribbon. Hint: look at upper right.]
Once Sonny joined me, we sat a while longer while he rehydrated and gave his legs a break. After roughly 30 minutes we started the loose descent down the headwall towards our next objective for the day. The day was getting much later than I had anticipated but we decided that since we were "in the area anyway", we might as well try Bogart Tower and check out the memorial at the third lake.
[Sonny follows me down the steep / loose headwall.]
[The lovely waterfall coming down the headwall is a relief in the unrelenting heat.]
[Sonny follows me across a ledge traverse on the headwall as late afternoon shadows already start to creep over the Memorial Lakes valley below. ++]
[Sonny exits the lower headwall behind me as we hit the scree bowl underneath it and continue on to Bogart Tower.]
Overall I would agree with Nugara that Ribbon is a difficult scramble and worthwhile if you like doing more obscure peaks with more route finding challenges than others in the Kananaskis area. For me the south ridge felt harder than other difficult scrambles such as Fisher or even Mount Smuts - but that could be due to me being out of practice or the heat or who knows what? Ratings are always subjective but this is certainly no easy hike, put it that way.