Coffin Mountain (Livingstone Traverse)

Summit Elevation (m): 2429
Elevation Gain (m): 1700
Trip Time (hr): 10 
Total Trip Distance (km): 18
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you might sprain something
Difficulty Notes: Easy scrambling and hiking on loose scree with some route finding. Note: This peak and the stats above are part of the 5 peak Livingstone Traverse.
Technical Rating: OT3; YDS (Hiking)
Map: Google Maps

On Saturday, May 30 2009, Wietse, JW, Naomi and Keith joined me on a 5 peak day in the Livingstone Range of the Alberta Rockies. Wietse came up with the plan to hike / scramble the 5 peaks after reading trip reports from Bob Spirko. The 5 peaks (in the order we hiked them) are:

  1. Coffin Mountain
  2. Mount Livingstone
  3. Saddle Mountain
  4. Mount Hornecker
  5. Windy Peak

Our first peak of the day was Coffin Mountain. In order to facilitate a car-to-car traverse of these peaks, we drove two vehicles to the area. Wietse left his car at the end of the traverse, near the entry for Windy Peak and we all piled in my car for the short drive to the Coffin Mountain trail head. Apparently we didn’t read the instructions very good because the access road to Coffin was a bit more of a bush road than we were expecting! Wietse was very nervous as my car scraped bottom a few times on the way up. His car is much lower than mine and he wasn’t convinced his car would even make it up this road at the end of the day when we came back for mine! Thankfully this logging road isn’t long and soon we were parked in an open meadow and gearing up for Coffin.

The Livingstone Traverse Route Map

The morning had dawned clear and beautiful and thanks to another one of Bob’s reports from a week earlier, we knew that we wouldn’t have to worry about snow on this trip, even though most of the Rockies were still wearing a very white coat this day. With light packs and scrambling boots on (for the first time this year) we set off up the lower slopes of Coffin. I briefly wondered if I’d left my car lights on, and even asked the rest of the group if I turned them off but they didn’t look like they were on and I didn’t remember the car beeping at me so I shrugged off the feeling and kept going. (Obviously they were on or I wouldn’t be mentioning this information but it’s important for later.)

The lower slopes of Coffin are littered with the detritus of logging activities and some burnt lumber.

You have two choices for ascending Coffin. You can go around to climbers right or left from the meadow. The right hand side is a bit difficult at first because of dead fall but soon it leads to a fairly solid ridge. The left side is a bit easier but soon leads to loose scree. We went climber’s right on the way up and skier’s right on the way down and this worked well. I felt good and led the group quickly upwards. My recently sore back was holding up great and after only 38 minutes we had already gained 400 meters vertical elevation! Considering Coffin is only around 620 vertical meters total, we were doing very well.

Looking north towards our next objective – Livingstone Mountain.
Keith approaches the summit of Coffin.
JW approaches the summit of Coffin with Livingstone and Saddle in the bg.

Keith, JW and I were soon standing on the summit, 1:05 from the car. Obviously this is a short scramble and you should combine it with either a really long summit nap or another peak for a full day trip. Wietse and Naomi joined us after about 15 minutes and we all enjoyed a great morning view on our first peak of the day. Hardly a cloud in sight and only a stiff breeze, which served to cool us off in the rapidly warming temperatures.

We descended a steep scree gully, skirting between two cliff bands and coming out right between Livingstone and Coffin at a small pass. As we got lower on Coffin I could see that another car was parked beside mine – I didn’t expect to see anyone else on this obscure scramble! Soon we were all ready to start up Mount Livingstone but we decided to wait a few minutes for the newcomers and their dog to catch up for a quick chat.

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