Ribbon Peak (The Perch) & Bogart Tower

Summit Elevation (m): 2880
Elevation Gain (m): 1600
Trip Date: August 4 2012
Round Trip Time (hr): 13
Total Trip Distance (km): 23
Quick ‘n Easy Rating: Class 4 – You fall you are severely injured or worse
Difficulty Notes: A fall on the Ribbon Peak crux would severely injure or kill so take necessary precautions. Bogart Tower is moderate scrambling.
Technical Rating: SC7; RE3
GPS Track: Gaia
MapGoogle Maps

On Saturday, August 4, 2012 I was joined by the illustrious Sonny Bou for a jaunt up Ribbon Peak and hopefully Bogart Tower. Ribbon Peak has been on my radar for a few years already, mainly due to a trip report from Andrew Nugara and consequently its appearance in his scrambles book. For some reason or another I really like the Memorial Lakes area and I’d been up there 2 or 3 times previous and never realized the scrambling objectives that are in the area.

Ribbon Peak Route Map

Approach to Memorial Lakes

One thing we may have underestimated was the length of the trip – especially when combined with Bogart Tower. We were smart enough to bring our bikes for the first 3.4 km along Ribbon Creek and by 08:00 we were biking up the easy road / trail with a brilliant blue sky above and fresh mountain air filling our lungs. It felt great to be out of the city again – I sincerely wished I was camping all weekend on such a great weather forecast for the Rockies. The bike ride went by quickly and within 20 minutes we were stashing our bikes in the trees and preparing for the hike to Memorial Lakes.

I have done a great many hikes and scrambles but it still surprises me how much quicker the same length of trail goes by in the morning than the evening on the way back. You’d think that since the way back is mostly downhill that it would seem much quicker but usually the opposite is true – the way back always seems much longer than you remember the morning trek taking… Time and distance went by at a good pace as Sonny and I chatted about life – we haven’t scrambled together since our accomplishment on Vaux last year so there was plenty to talk about.

A gorgeous view of the third, and final, Memorial Lake with Bogart Tower (L) and Ribbon Peak (R) standing guard over it as we pass above it on our way to the cliffs (oos at right).

After approaching and admiring the tranquil Memorial Lakes, Sonny and I started a traverse high above the third Memorial Lake around a scree bench on the west side, underneath the towering cliffs of Mount Bogart heading towards the headwall cliffs guarding Ribbon Peak. I was a bit skeptical looking ahead at the cliff band we were supposed to get through to access Ribbon, it looked rater impenetrable from our vantage point with waterfalls coursing down steep rocky cliffs. As usual in the Rockies, it takes close inspection before you can spot a route through seemingly impossible terrain!

Another view looking back at Bogart Tower and the third Memorial Lake. Wind Mountain at left.

Ribbon Peak

We used a handy patch of snow to avoid some miserable scree up to the cliffs and from there we traversed climber’s left along an obvious scree bench, crossing two or three small melt water streams before angling back up to climber’s right and breaking through the cliff band. I was initially attracted to the same difficult section as the Nugara brother’s first attempt, but I think in the end our route was probably a bit easier than the one they settled for – but we didn’t have a rope along for our efforts so that’s a fair trade-off I think!

Part way through the cliff band, the third memorial lake is just visible. Mount Bogart at upper left.

After breaking through the cliff band we found ourselves in one of those places in the Rockies that is pure magic. Somewhat similar to the beautiful upper valley on Lougheed II and III, except much more barren and lonely – this place is very rarely visited by humans. Ribbon Peak looked quite imposing with it’s impressive slabby west face rising up to our left. I knew from Andrew’s report that we could start up a series of ledges along the west face rather than going all the way to the col so I started up an obvious ledge / crack system in the west face, angling upwards toward the south ridge. I found the ledges on the west face to be moderate scrambling at most – not too bad but loose and somewhat exposed.

The upper scree valley is a quiet and magical place that few humans set foot on. Ribbon Peak’s west slabs rise dramatically to the left.

Upon reaching the south ridge the terrain became much more difficult. Nugara almost makes it sound like the ledges bypass all of the difficult scrambling on the south ridge but I couldn’t find a ledge system any higher than the one I took (that would be only ‘moderate’ scrambling anyway) and there’s no way that the section of south ridge we had to take was “wide” or “easy” either. Looking down at the section of ridge that our route avoided, it looked exposed but not nearly as steep as the section we still had to negotiate. We popped out on the south ridge just as it takes a dramatically steeper angle.

I started up the ridge, immediately finding myself balancing very delicately on my tush across a very exposed and loose rock fin. There was a crack running underneath this fin, but I didn’t trust the fin enough to use the crack and pull hard on the rock – rather choosing to shuffle my way along the top of it, reasoning that if it crumbled at least I’d fall onto more solid rock underneath the loose stuff! On the way back I took the crack but it didn’t feel any safer due to the crappy rock I had to hold onto. It’s been a while since I scrambled in difficult terrain and it took me a few minutes to adjust. There’s so much more concentration needed when you can’t afford the tiniest little slip or misstep. When I got to the crux on the ridge I had to spend some time on it before committing to go further.

The angle of the south ridge takes a dramatic upturn where we met it. You can see the angled crack that I didn’t take on the way up because the rock that would be my hand hold looked (and felt) too loose!

The crux was a rock step / crack just off the ridge on climber’s left, hanging over the west face and slightly over hanging. Going up wasn’t a big issue (I love being 6 feet tall) but I knew right away that descending the step was going to be tricky. Because of the slight overhang and loose holds above the crux it was really unnerving for me to descend it. I had to back up to the overhang, go down on my left knee and then try to find a tiny down sloping ledge with my right foot while clinging to some unreliable holds. All of this is performed over the west face – a slip would certainly be fatal! I really didn’t like it and spent more time than usual on this section, practicing going down it until I was sure that I could do it properly. Finally I heaved myself over the crux and continued on.

The crux is right above me in the photo. You can see the angled crack running up to the left before the crux which goes back to climber’s right near the top of the photo.

As usual, everything after the crux felt pretty straightforward, but there was still a high degree of concentration needed until I finally spotted the summit block ahead. “Summit tower” might be a better description. The scrambling wasn’t as hard as it looked and eventually I was walking the final ridge to the true summit.

The summit tower looks fun from this vantage point! Allan and Collembolla in the background with their startling green and brown slopes.

The views from Ribbon Peak were better than I was expecting. The weather was also fantastic – warm and no wind, so I spent a good half hour relaxing, eating and taking photos. The summit register has gotten busier since Nugara’s book, but still only 1 or 2 ascents per year on this obscure mountain. Only true peak baggers would consider this trip, I think!! There are so many easier and more accessible mountains out there, but of course that’s what attracted me to this one in the first place. 

Fantastic views back south along the summit ridge towards Kidd North and South. Bogart at center and even Mount Assiniboine just peaking out to the right of Bogart’s summit.
Summit panorama looking at Bogart, Sparrowhawk, Wind, Allan (L to R) and even the third Memorial Lake and Bogart Tower are visible far below at lower left. Further right, looking west towards Kananaskis Village, Olympic Summit, Baldy and Wasootch Mountain.

After 40 minutes I began to get itchy feet. The weather was perfect and I could have stayed up there for hours, but I wanted to get the crux down climb over and done with. Sonny hadn’t shown up yet, but Sonny and I have a lot of experience and when we scramble together we don’t really worry too much about sticking right with each other. I knew he wouldn’t be offended if I started down and waited for him in the upper valley before the headwall so I started down.

I enjoyed the views along Ribbon Creek from this ‘resting perch’ on the south ridge where I dangled my legs for a bit and contemplated life.

I met Sonny on the upper ridge and as I suspected, he didn’t mind having the summit to himself for a while so I continued down. The crux was tricky to descend just as I thought, but thanks to my practice moves on it I managed it fine. As I sat perched on a particularly exposed fin on the ridge I meditated why it feels so good to have nothing but air on either side of me with a cool breeze and cool rock against my skin and warm sunshine on my neck. I don’t think I’ll ever get the answer to that question – but it is rather addictive.

I napped here for over an hour – I love the greenery around the waterfall! The water was so good I must have had over 2 liters of it due to the heat. Third Memorial Lake in the valley bottom.

Eventually I made it down to the rock valley before the headwall descent and spent an hour or so napping there and drinking copious amounts of fresh water from the stream nearby. I watched as Sonny slowly descended Ribbon’s ridge and west face before he joined me and we descended the headwall – following the line of cairns I had erected on the ascent. Once Sonny joined me, we sat a while longer while he hydrated and gave his legs a break. After roughly 30 minutes we started the loose descent down the headwall towards our next objective for the day. The day was getting much later than I had anticipated but we decided that since we were “in the area anyway”, we might as well try Bogart Tower and check out the memorial at the third lake.

Sonny follows me across a ledge traverse on the headwall as late afternoon shadows already start to creep over the Memorial Lakes valley below.

I would agree with Nugara that Ribbon is a difficult scramble and worthwhile if you like doing more obscure peaks with more route finding challenges than others in the Kananaskis area. For me the south ridge felt harder than other difficult scrambles such as Fisher or even Mount Smuts – but that could be due to me being out of practice or the heat or who knows what? Ratings are always subjective but this is certainly no easy hike, put it that way.

Bogart Tower

After scrambling Ribbon Peak, Sonny and I decided that we might as well give Bogart Tower a try since we were in the area anyway. Sometimes being a peakbagger means a lot of extra work – it’s not all fun and games. We made short work of the descent down the headwall of Ribbon Peak and used some handy snow patches to approach the third, and by far the most scenic of the Memorial Lakes. We spent some time at the memorial remembering those who died. After looking at the memorial it was time to bag the peak as the day was getting quite late already.

Bogart Tower Route Map

I led up the south ridge and west slopes which were steeper and looser than I was expecting. It may be the fact that we were getting tired but the scrambling seemed upper moderate to both of us.

Incredible views over the memorial cairn and plaque towards Wind Mountain at left.
Starting up the west slopes of Bogart Tower with the 3rd Memorial Lake already in deep afternoon shadow and Ribbon Peak rising majestically above us.

The summit views were actually pretty impressive considering how low it is and the register showed relatively few ascents. I think the first crux probably turns half the folks back who try to get up this loose pile of Rockies rubble!

Great views of Mount Allan’s green ridge and Ribbon Peak’s curved summit.
Sonny descends the loose ridge of Bogart Tower.

After a few minutes on top we headed back. 

Egress from Memorial Lakes

The hike out to the bikes was more than a little dull but the bike ride back to the parking lot was way too much fun! I highly recommend the Bogart Tower scramble if you’re confident on steep, loose Rockies choss. The views of the Memorial Lakes and the surrounding peaks are stunning and it completes a hike to the lakes with a great vista to remember or hang on your wall.

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