On Tuesday, August 09 2011, Wietse and I scrambled to the summit of Mount Noyes in Banff National Park. This scramble is uncanny in it's similarities to Mount Weed, the mountain just to the south of Noyes. As awesome as the views from Weed are, I would have to say that Mount Noyes is a more enjoyable scramble, or it certainly was for me.
The main difference between Weed and Noyes is that Weed is pretty straightforward route-finding and a fairly typical Rockies approach. The routefinding on Noyes isn't nearly as straightforward and there are some hidden gems along the way. I had more fun on the Noyes approach than I can remember on any recent approach over the past couple of years.
We started from the overflow camping area on hwy 93 (roughly 10km north of Bow Summit) and went about 15 minutes along Silverhorn Creek before the terrain forced us up to climber's left. I can't possibly describe our route accurately, but suffice it to say that if you don't have a good route finding 'nose', you will do your most difficult scrambling in the trees!
We were very fortunate to discover a great little break in the upper cliff band which led us over the first ridge. I marked our exit on my GPS because there's no way we'd find it back otherwise! The thickest bushwhacking of the day brought us to the upper hanging valley, leading towards an obvious cliff / headwall with a waterfall plunging down the middle. We walked to the cliffs and turned up to climber's left where we saw our first cairn (at the top). Sticking to the bottom (right of) the upper cliffs, we worked our way up and to climbers left before a route to the SW ridge of Noyes became obvious. We took advantage of a semi-permanent snow field to reach the SW ridge.
The face of the upper mountain looked very intimidating on the approach, but like many other Rockies peaks, it's bark was certainly much worse than it's bite! The moderate chimney felt more difficult than it should have due to snow and ice and wet rock. If there is any snow on the upper face you should consider bringing crampons. That would have made this section MUCH easier. We were following fresh tracks to this point and thought for sure someone had beat us to the summit for 2011 - this was not the case according to the register and I think they turned around at the crux.
After the crux it was a steep and loose grunt to the summit cairn. The views were outstanding - too many peaks and valleys and icefields to mention! After 40 minutes on the summit we casually descended, using my GPS to find the break in the cliff band and finding the way down a bit more bushy than we remembered it from the morning! :-)
Noyes is a top 20 peak for me. Just a wonderful day in a beautiful area. Wildflowers were everywhere including but not limited to Camas, Saxifrage, Aster, Paintbrush, Arnica, Aven, River Beauty, Blue Bells and Columbine.
We hiked along Silverhorn Creek for about 15 minutes before cutting up to climber's left. You can only avoid the steep elevation gain so long! It's 1400 meters over 3.3km!
There is no trail through the forest - only smatterings of animal routes.
We stumbled across this small break in the cliffs which saved us some upper moderate / difficult scrambling.
LOTS of wildflowers in the upper meadows.
Looking across a hanging valley towards Chephren and White Pyramid. We came up from the left and continued up to the right - out of the picture.
This is looking right from the previous picture with Noyes dominating the scene. Walk towards the headwall until the ramp to climber's left is obvious.
Ascending the scree ramp to access the upper bowl on Noyes. Weed to the left and Patterson on the right.
After gaining the screen access ramp you contour around cliff bands to climbers left to gain the obvious SW ridge and then scramble directly up the face of Noyes. If there's more snow than on this photo you may have a hard time safely obtaining the summit. Crampons would have made the crux much easier for us with only this much snow...
Wietse comes up behind me. Note the huge split rock to the left of him.
A snow field helps our ascent (and descent!)
The crux doesn't look like much but with ice, snow and slick rock it was hard enough. Not exposed though, so a fall wouldn't kill you... ;-)
The Lyell's from the summit.
I love that cool looking mountain on the left - Corona Ridge. This is looking east from the summit of Noyes.
Panorama of the hwy 93 corridor including Peyto, Mistaya, Waterfowl and Chepren lakes. Summits from left to right include Jimmy Simpson, Rhondda, Habel, Peyto, Caldron, Patterson, Mistaya, Mummery, Howse, Forbes, White Pyramid, Lyells, Chephren, Kauffman, Sarbach and Murchison (plus many, many more!) Click to view full size.
Panorama looking east. Click for full size.
One of the Waterfowl lakes. Click for full size.
Vern on the summit of Mount Noyes.
Cool terrain begging for some exploration on the east side of Noyes.
Wietse is ready to start heading down.
The small icefield on the unnamed summit to the south of Noyes, Mount Weed behind.
Wietse negotiates the tricky bypass to the icy crux. Tiny handholds and wet rock made this section tricky. Crampons would have made it easy / moderate at most.
Ready to head down the scree ramp (out of sight to the right).
Very interesting rock patterns on Noyes.
Spot the cairn? There were only two, marking the route to the upper bowl.
Wietse is almost done the scree ramp.
A beautiful hanging valley (perfect bivy location!). Howse, White Pyramid and Chephren in the background. We have to ascend the ridge on the left of the photo and go down from there.
View of Mount Weed from the ridge I mentioned in the last photo. Gorgeous mountain from this side!
Flowers on the ridge with Noyes in the background.
Looking back at the ridge that gives access to the hanging valley and the lower route just before the headwall. This was the bushiest section.
Going back down our cliff break.
The cliff break is not easy to spot!! We got kind of (very) lucky. In this photo it's on the left side.
River Beauties. (Not Fireweed but similar)
Looking back at the first section of forest / cliffs from near Silverhorn Creek. Initially we wanted to follow the creek to the right hand ridge and ascend that but the creek gets narrow and we ended up in the forest. You can spot our two cliff breaks near the center and trending up to the left if you have good eyes... ;-)
Yellow Mountain Saxifrage.