Admittedly, after standing on the summits of 3 11,000ers only a few days previous, "Parker Ridge" does seem a bit lame. :) But there's a reason for this objective.
The original intent was to climb Mount Athabasca via the AA col on Friday, May 10 2013 with Wietse, Scott, Kelly and myself. We planned an overnight stay at the Rampart Creek Hostel and met there on Thursday evening. Patrick Delaney, a guide with Yamnuska Mountain Adventures was also at the hostel with a client and we spent some time chatting. Patrick was concerned about the "big melt" that was going on and cautioned our group to be super-careful. We took his advice to heart and decided to get up at 02:30 and try to take advantage of colder morning temps to meet our objective safely.
After getting up and driving to the climber's parking lot we realized that Athabasca wasn't going to happen for us this particular day. It was WAY too warm. There was no overnight freeze at all. :( (It took me another 2 years to finally ascend Athabasca in perfect conditions, proving that sometimes the most valuable thing to have in mountain climbing is patience.) Plan B...
But what to do now? We basically hung around and hummed and hawed for about 2 hours until deciding to give Hilda Peak a shot. Another solo climber at the hostel had done an ascent the day before and said with good snow, it wasn't too bad (difficult scrambling). Key word? "Good snow"! We got to the Hilda Ridge parking lot and started out. The other 3 guys were on foot and I had my snowshoes on. They were screwed right from the start - Scott was sinking in knee to waist deep on a punchy crust. Plan C?
Scott, Wietse and Kelly decided to go rock climbing in Banff and I decided to go up to the high point on Parker Ridge and have a nice solo day out. It was still only around 05:30 as I worked my way up the ridge on a reasonably good snow crust (the 'shoes helped immensely with this). The birds were chirping and it felt like spring. As the sun came up in the east I made my way up to the high point on Parker Ridge's far west end. There was some steep terrain but the snow was bomber so I wasn't too concerned. IMHO nobody should claim "Parker Ridge" as a summit unless they at least attain this high point - it's a good 600+ meters elevation gain to this point and brought me almost to the same height as Big Bend Peak and Mount Saskatchewan Junior across the Saskatchewan River Valley.
[Hiking up the ridge in pre-dawn light on a firm snow crust. Hilda Peak visible here.]
[Sunrise on Mount Saskatchewan - Big Bend Peak in the foreground.]
I was tempted to go up another peak to the west - closer to Athabasca - but as I worked my way up very steep snow slopes, some of which were just primed to slide, I decided to cut my losses and traverse to the east end of Parker Ridge instead. The traverse was very enjoyable under a gorgeous, warm spring sun.
[I couldn't spot Castleguard anymore but I did get sunrise on Bryce.]
[I love Mount Saskatchewan! Junior on the right.]
[The sun is up now! Looking at the Hilda Glacier and peak from the summit of Parker Ridge.]
[Pano looking west and north over hwy 93. ++]
[Pano from just on the Athabasca side of the summit showing the ridge, Cirrus, Big Bend, Saskatchewan and Junior. ++.]
[An outlier of Athabasca and Hilda]
[A small tarn on the west side of Parker Ridge.]
[Apparently Hilda is *NOT* a scramble - The guy who claimed to have soloed it the day before wasn't on this summit. Apparently it's 5.5 climbing.]
[My shadow and the peak I went about 1/3 up on the left. Parker Ridge summit on the right.]
[I can spot Castleguard again as I'm traversing east.]
[A gorgeous morning. ++]
[Looking to Mount Wilcox with Woolley and Diadem on it's left]
[Looking back at the high point on Parker.]
[The Saskatchewan Glacier and Castleguard Mountain. It's so much further than it looks.]
[Looking back west along Parker Ridge from the east summit.]
[Looking north into some interesting and rarely explored areas.]
[A great pano showing all of the "Big Bend" peaks, Castleguard, the Saskatchewan Glacier, Athabasca, Hilda, Wilcox and Nigel among many other peaks. ++]
After completing the traverse of the entire ridge it was time to backtrack to the parking lot. I descended easy slopes to the Parker Ridge parking lot and then proceeded the extra 1km back to my truck.
[Views across Wilcox Peak include Woolley / Diadem, Alberta and Kitchener.]
[An excellent view of the Saskatchewan Glacier and Castleguard Mountain. The Castleguard Meadows are left of the shadow in the center of the photo.]
[The entire Parker Ridge from hwy 93. I traversed from right to left from the Hilda Ridge parking lot. ++]
The day was still very young and I didn't want to 'waste' such a gorgeous day or such a long drive so I decided to try "Crystal Ridge" by Bow Lake next. The only issue? I didn't have a route description and only a very vague idea where exactly it was... :)