Thrift Peak has been on my radar for a while now, it was cemented as an objective while on a drive back from Cabin Ridge (Twin Peaks) with Wietse in November of 2015. I didn't even realize this was the Livingstone Fire Lookout until doing some research later! There are three approaches to this summit, two of which require a crossing of the Oldman River. One goes up the south ridge from near the gap with Thunder Mountain. The second goes up a fire road from the west. A less well known and less traveled route that does not require a river crossing at all, was discovered by the indefatigable Bob Spirko in April of 2008 when he also 'discovered' Camp Creek Ridge. This is a longer route, but potentially involves another summit / ridge which is always nice.
Since the approach / depproach for Thrift Peak / Livingstone Ridge is via a very nice stand-alone hike, I've documented Camp Creek Ridge as a separate hike / summit so use it for the Thrift Peak approach beta.
[Wietse comes up to the summit of Camp Creek Ridge just before we'll drop down to the col with Thrift Peak. Livingstone Ridge at right. ++]
From the top of Camp Creek Ridge, we looked a bit nervously to the col below and the very snowy east face of Livingstone Ridge under Thrift Peak. So far we'd been very lucky with conditions - every snow patch was either frozen hard or easily avoided. Our luck was about to run out. Wietse started down the ridge to the col and quickly we started post-holing. This continued to suck worse and worse until we were knee deep at the col and wondering how hard the ascent to the lookout was going to be. It looked so darn close! In the summer it likely only takes 20 minutes but what about now, in unconsolidated snow conditions?
[It doesn't look too bad yet but there's a ton of snow on the east face of Livingstone Ridge. We tried scoping out a safe line from here (avy conditions were really bad this weekend) and spotted a track of some sort crossing gullies to the north of the col. We decided to follow these tracks and then cut up to the ridge top north of the summit before traversing back south to tag it.]
As soon as we started up Thrift from the col, we knew we were in for it. :( The snow pack deteriorated and didn't support our weight at all. Thanks to absolutely zero base, we quickly wallowed past our knees! Thankfully we'd noticed a goat track earlier, from Camp Ridge and made our way up towards it. The track made life a LOT easier, but we still sank past our knees and the wily goats liked to use trees to make the track easier, meaning we had to duck and wade our way through thick bush to follow their tracks! The "easy hike" was quickly becoming gnarly as we approached and crossed a couple of avy paths on snow that made me extremely uncomfortable. If we didn't have a partial track we wouldn't have continued - it would have taken too long to break our way across.
[Wietse crossing an avy gully in waist deep, crappy, unconsolidated snow. Without the goat track we'd likely have turned back here, simply because this was getting dangerous in the avy conditions.]
After crossing a couple of steep snow gullies, the goat track kept traversing north. This was fine, but was costing us a lot of time and of course they weren't as interested in summits as we were... ;) Finally I gave up and declared that I was "going for it". we could see on the GPS that we were very close to the ridge top and the road on the other side, so we decided to head straight up and over the ridge. I started wading uphill for the summit - and I mean literally wading. I had to first break a 2 inch crust and then wade up to chest deep (!!) uphill. The only reason I made it was the few trees that I could hold onto and assist me in swimming over the snow rather than through it. We were exhausted (and I was seeing spots thanks to a food / water depletion) by the time we finally dragged ourselves over the ridge. It took us an hour to go from the col a couple hundred meters up the east face of Livingstone Ridge! We were very relieved to quickly find the fire road and started following it south up to the summit. Thankfully the snow along it was very supportive compared to the crap we just swam through.
[FINALLY over the ridge and on the fire road and supportive snow again! Heading south to find the summit now.]
[Wietse follows the lookout road up Thrift Peak - located at upper left - stunning views to the south and west along the Oldman River and Livingstone Road. ++]
[Incredible views off the fire lookout at the summit of Livingstone Ridge looking south and west along the spine of the ridge. ++]
[Wietse enjoys lunch at the fire lookout.]
[Camp Creek Ridge stretches out to the east and south (right). ++]
[Views south to the lookout and Crowsnest Pass, west towards the Highrock Range and north along the Livingstone Range. ++]
[The distinctive peaks of "Twin Peaks" which Wietse and I did in November of 2015. To the right of Twin Peaks is Monad and Pasque.]
[Looking north to Coffin and Livingstone.]
[Mounts Lyall and Gass to the NW.]
[The Elevators (L) and Beehive (R) are north of Tornado Mountain.]
[The impressive Tornado Mountain with the Sugarloaf Lookout beneath it to the right.]
[Funnel Peak, Gould Dome and Mount Erris (R to L) are just south of Tornado Mountain. ++]
[Crowsnest Mountain lies to the SW of Thrift.]
[Looking towards Ward, Allison and Window with Erikson in the distant bg. ++]
[The summit of Castle Peak just shows up with Windsor to it's left and Victoria Peak and Ridge to the left of that.]
[Looking far south towards Waterton with Chief, Sofa and Vimy Peak and Arras Peak running left to right.]
After a great lunch at the lookout and taking in the views of some less common and well known summits in the Highrock and Livingstone Ranges it was time to head back down. Swimming through snow downhill was MUCH quicker than swimming uphill and within 20 minutes of the summit we were back at the col and ready to hike out of Camp Creek Ridge via the alternate descent route.
[Looking back at the lookout as we descend the road. Loving the interesting cloud patterns here.]
[Arg. At least it's easier coming down...]
[At the col with Camp Creek Ridge, looking back up at the fire lookout. Can't believe it took well over an hour to go up from here thanks to crappy conditions!]
[Wietse heads down from the summit of Camp Creek Ridge.]
The exit via Camp Creek Ridge was excellent - much better than the slog up and down Thrift Peak. I highly recommend that you do these two combined when conditions are drier than what we had, or do Camp Creek Ridge as a separate hike and do Thrift via the Livingstone Ridge traverse from the shared gap with Thunder Mountain. Either way, the views are great and the change of scenery is nice if you're used to the more northerly peaks around Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise or Jasper.