Richardson, Mount & Ptarmigan Peak

Summit Elevation (m): 3086
Trip Date: Monday, September 5, 2005
Elevation Gain (m): 2200
Round Trip Time (hr): unknown
Total Trip Distance (km): 18
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2/3 – you fall, you sprain or break something
Difficulty Notes: No major difficulties. Mostly an easy scramble with some minor route finding. Combined with Ptarmigan made for a moderately long day.
Technical Rating: SC6; YDS (3rd)
GPS Track: Gaia
Map: Google Maps
Photos: View Album

Jon, Rod and I scrambled Mount Richardson under a cloudy, snowy sky on September 5. The weather didn’t look very promising at first and for most of our ascent we had no idea where the actual summit was! The day had started out great however, when we got a ride up the 4 km Louise fire road so we were in excellent spirits despite the gloomy start to our 3 day trip.

Mount Richardson & Ptarmigan Peak Route Map

Our plan was to stay the first night at the Hidden Lake campground while bagging the three Kane peaks in the area (Richardson, Pika and Ptarmigan). The second day we’d move our base to Baker Lake for two nights. From there we’d complete the Kane Skoki scrambles, provided that we had the energy and the weather of course! The first part of our hide to the Hidden Lake campground went quickly and soon we were setting up camp and heading out to attempt our first peak – Mount Richardson.

Mount Richardson

Even though we couldn’t see the route most of the time it was pretty obvious from cairns and a faint trail. The upper mountain was covered in cloud and it even started snowing on us at one point but we made it up. There was quite a bit of snow at the top but the views were still incredible.

Hidden Lake.

After the obligatory summit photos we continued on the upper ridge to scope out the alternate descent route to the Richardson / Pika col. One quick glance down to the col had us convinced that this would not be the day to attempt it. The clouds would move in quickly and when the clouds were around us we would have no idea where the snow slope was or where we were. Since none of us had axes along (or crampons for that matter) we probably wouldn’t have done the traverse even in clear weather.

Lake Louise from Richardson.
Redoubt at center right with Boulder Pass at lower center left and Ptarmigan at left. Peaks in the distance include Bonnet and Hickson at left, Pulsatilla at center.

I highly recommend this peak. Not an especially difficult scramble but great views at the top and a chance to bag the highest scramble in the Skoki area. This trip could also be done in a day from the parking lot, especially with bikes on the 4 km approach road.

Looking west over the Pipestone River and South Hector towards Daly and the Wapta Icefield.
Looking at the ascent slope for Pika Peak (L) on descent of Richardson. The traverse to the col at left is above the obvious cliffs here and not as steep as it looks.

After bagging our first peak of the trip, it was time to try the second one – Ptarmigan Peak.

Ptarmigan Peak

Ptarmigan Peak was the second peak of the day for Jon and I. Rod decided to head back to our Hidden Lake camp for a break while we continued on. Earlier we had climbed Mount Richardson and now we found ourselves plodding up the scree slopes of Ptarmigan from Hidden Lake. We didn’t see any of the mountain’s namesake but we did see lots of bear sign on the lower, grassy slopes above Hidden Lake and Boulder Pass!

Looking up the scree ramp on Ptarmigan to the summit.

Ptarmigan is an easy scramble and other than a very short bit at the top it is a mere slog up scree slopes that don’t seem to end quickly enough. The fun occurs right at the top where you briefly have a bit of a ridge to contend with and some slight exposure – nothing to worry about if you’re a Rockies scrambler though.

Douglas (L), Fossil, St. Bride, Lychnis, Tilted, Brachiopod, Bonnet, Hickson, Anthozoan, Heather Ridge, Avens, Pulsatilla, Protection, Armor, Bulwark, Redoubt, Lipalian (R). Visible lakes from L to R include Baker and Redoubt.
L to R, Fossil, Douglas, St. Bride, Tilted, Lychnis, Brachiopod, Bonnet, Hickson, Anthozoan, Heather Ridge.
At the Hidden Lake campground. Look at the luxury camp gear and food! Things have changed in my pack over the years…

Note, if you’re coming to Ptarmigan from Pika I think it is possible to cut up to Ptarmigan from the Pika side-slope before coming all the way down to the meadows. Consult your map and look carefully at the slopes before hand.

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