Summit Elevation (m): 2852
Elevation Gain (m): 1600
Trip Time (hr): 12
Total Trip Distance (km): 25
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3/4 – you fall, you break something or worse
Difficulty Notes: Some delicate traverses and down climbs on Og Mountain but nothing too extreme. Low difficult scrambling. Cave Mountain is simple OT3 scrambling. Note: This trip report is for both Og and Cave mountains which we combined into one day trip from our Naiset Hut.
Technical Rating: SC7; YDS (3rd)
Map: Google Maps
To get to Og and Cave Mountain, we first had to hike along the Windy Ridge trail from the Assiniboine Lodge area and our Naiset hut. After getting some sublime morning sunrise shots of Mount Assiniboine early in the day, it was nice to walk past it again in full day light. With a plume of snow peeling off it’s lofty 11,871 foot summit it looked incredibly huge and intimidating. I would stand on its summit almost exactly four years after staring up at it on this trip – sure that I would NEVER have the skills or the courage to climb its steep NE ridge!
We got on the trail by 09:00 and began the march north of Assiniboine Lodge. The Og Pass trail is very well marked but a lot muddier than we expected! Overall, on this trip, there was far more mud than I’m used to in the Rockies. Usually all you get is scree with the odd bit of grass and we would have preferred that to the sticky, slippery muck that we got. Oh well. When we finally got to the lower slopes of Cave Mountain (about 4-5km) we quickly started climbing and left the muddy soup behind.
Windy Ridge / Og Mountain
The trail up to Og Pass through the trees on the lower part of Cave Mountain is well marked and obvious. When we reached the crest of this trail, between Og Mountain and Cave Mountain another sign told us that Windy Ridge was up to the left. We continued on an excellent, switch backing trail over and around the lower west end of Og Mountain and proceeded up a low angled trail to the Windy Ridge lookout. The lookout was actually located on the col between Windy Ridge and Og Mountain. Windy Ridge is marked on the map and I regret not spending the 15 minutes it would have taken to get up (and down!) it. An easier summit chance could not be dreamed of. But I wasn’t sure the ridge was officially named, the weather was closing in, the air was cold and there was a lot of snow on Og that we had to get up so we left Hann and Yolande to attempt Windy Ridge while Rod, Jon and I headed up the northwest slopes of Og Mountain.
There are four summits on Og Mountain. Og is a very cool looking mountain from the approach on the Og Pass Trail and with 1 foot of fresh snow it was also literally a very cool mountain when we climbed it! I was a bit chaffed because the map clearly labels the lowest, easiest west summit as the official one but the fourth and highest east summit is attainable and obviously higher so was it actually the real summit? I wasn’t going to take any chances – not after my amusing (to everyone but me) Mount Kerr experience! Rick Collier had the same question when he summited Og and he went for the fourth and highest summit. He had an easier ascent line because he ascended straight up the south facing scree slopes. We couldn’t access these slopes even if we wanted to because of a bear closure around Allenby Pass / Valley with an accompanying huge fine if caught in the area. We had to traverse the three lower peaks before we’d get to stand on the highest one.
Scrambling up loose rocks and snow up to our knees in drifts, we made it up to the first summit pretty quickly. There was a large cairn here and I assume that of the very few people who ascend this mountain, 99% of them probably pull out the map, look at the remaining 3 summits and promptly stop here. We pretty much tore apart the cairn looking for an official (or any) register (it was cold and I would have gladly stopped at this cairn if we found something semi-official) but all we found was a wooden mallet with someone’s name carved on it. We left Rod to rebuild the cairn while Jon and I pressed on. I was absolutely determined to get to the actual summit of this mountain because I knew the odds of me coming all the way back here were slim.
The first summit was descended easily before heading back up to the second. We had to lose a bit of height after the first so we tried skirting around the second instead of going all the way over it. It wasn’t worth the effort – just go right over it. After the second summit there was some moderate scrambling to get down to the 2nd/3rd col. Once we got to the 3rd summit of Og we found ourselves staring down at some loose, steep, exposed terrain. Uh oh.
We decided to poke around at the descent but after about 3 minutes, Jon decided that he’d had enough and would wait for me. I descended on very loose, sometimes exposed terrain – determined to make that fourth summit! It was the low end of difficult scrambling, but with the snow and the weather closing in it felt worse than that. Don’t forget that you can easily access this 4th peak from the Og Valley to the south (if it’s not closed for bear activity that is) but it was very cool to traverse all the distinctive summits. After the crux it was a 10 minute plod to the top where there was a small cairn buried in snow. I halfheartedly looked for a register but didn’t find anything substantial (only a few bits of disintegrating paper) so I’m not sure what happened to the register that Rick Collier placed – I would’ve looked a bit harder if I knew at the time that he placed one, I didn’t find that out til after the trip.
After snapping some photos of the interesting terrain surrounding Og Mountain I rejoined Jon and we headed down to Og pass to hook up with the others and return past Cave Mountain. Not many people get up Og Mountain or do the traverse that we did, and this is reason enough to highly recommend it. The views are also stellar and this should just convince you even more.
Unless you paid close attention on your hike into the Assiniboine area via Assiniboine Pass, you will likely never know first hand where Cave Mountain gets its name from. Obviously there are caves somewhere on this hunk of rock, but it’s so gently angled from the west that it seems doubtful they are of any substantial quality. Since we knew the name of the mountain before we headed up Assiniboine Pass on our trek into the park, we were actually looking for caves on it’s much steeper south and eastern aspects. We spotted more than one deep cave and I wonder how far in they go? Would be interesting to explore but since I’m very claustrophobic you won’t catch me attempting that any time soon.
Cave Mountain could just as easily be called ‘Bump Mountain’ or ‘Slog Mountain’ or ‘Easy Mountain’ but ‘Cave’ has a nicer ring to it – I admit! We didn’t encounter any problems at all with the ascent, just the snow made it a bit more work than usual. There are some massive cairns near the top and interestingly enough the biggest cairn is not on the high point. Either that ascent party had more of a whiteout than we did or they just didn’t care. Probably the latter.
I’m sure the views are stunning off this mountain but we didn’t get very many. The most we managed was a dramatic glimpse of the sheer cliffs on the north side and a few pictures illustrating them.
We descended a drainage system on the west side and rejoined the Og Pass trail after a very mild bushwhack before heading back to the warmth of our cabin. Unless you’re a consummate peakbagger, there are few reasons to ascend Cave Mountain other than to claim that you did it. Of course with nice weather it may be a different story, but then if you’ve got nice weather why aren’t you on something a wee bit grander?