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Devils Head & Bastion Ridge

Astral Peak is in the background just right of center with Castle Rock on the right in the foreground. Poltergeist with the shadowed face at left in the foreground and Aylmer in the distance at far left.

Summit Elevation (m): 2890
Elevation Gain (m): 1200
Round Trip Time (hr): 10
Total Trip Distance (km): 20
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 4 – you fall, you are almost dead
Difficulty Notes: A fall on the crux would severely injure or kill so take necessary precautions. Routefinding and loose terrain around the crux. Note: Bastion Ridge is traversed on our approach to Devils Head.
Technical Rating: MN8; YDS (5.1)
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On Friday, September 14 I joined Wietse, Kevin and Dave for a hike / scramble / climb of Devil’s Head in the Ghost River Valley. This mountain has been on my radar for years already but I’ve never gotten around to actually climbing it for various reasons. I’ve done a lot of front-country peaks over the first 10 years of my peak bagging career so lately I’ve been more interested in peaks a bit more remote and a bit bigger.

It turns out that Devil’s Head is actually pretty remote (considering it’s front-range) and is a lot of fun despite being pretty lowly in stature. We approached the mountain via the “South Gullies” route along Bastion Ridge. We drove to marker 39 (apparently a lot of people ignore the seasonal closure of the road beyond this point) and walked about 1km upstream to the first gully (aka “Valley of the Birds”) on our right. We had to cross the river 3 times just to reach this first gully, despite conjecture from others that it would only be once. This necessitated a walk back to our river crossing gear since we dropped it after the first crossing thinking we were done. The river has re-routed against some steep terrain that results in the two extra crossings. Best to keep your river crossing gear on until reaching the correct access gully / trail.

Devil's Head Route Map
Devil’s Head Route Map

There was flagging marking our steep route up the left (west) edge of the drainage – it was that or immediately start scaling waterfalls (again – these are known as the “Valley of the Birds” ice climbs in winter) so it was an easy decision where to start. 🙂 We grunted our way up the trail – it was obvious all the way until it broke out of the trees. From here the route remained obvious – simply gain the ridge on climber’s left and follow it all the way around to the east and south cliff faces on Devil’s Head. The only issues with the route were some height gain / loss along the way but nothing too serious. It was a very pleasant fall hike all the up to the base of the cliffs. The wind gusts were quite strong at times but again, nothing serious, especially for this area.

Our first Ghost River crossing.
Our first Ghost River crossing.
Getting a bit closer up Bastion Ridge, the views are awesome up here! Castle Rock lies to the right of Devil’s Head here.
Bastion Ridge Route Map

We had lunch under the impressive cliffs of Devils Head, just out of rock fall range, and then proceeded to traverse under them towards the gullies on the south side of the west ridge that would grant us access to the upper mountain via scrambling, rather than the climbing route up the west ridge. The gully was pretty obvious (it’s the only scramble terrain you’ll come across after the traverse) and we quickly worked our way up it. It is somewhat steep and loose and a party of 4 was almost too many for this section. We had to be extremely mindful of rock fall. Several sections were pretty steep but probably not more than moderate (upper) scrambling. Near the top we traversed climbers right through the “Devil’s Horns“, another obvious landscape feature to guide you to the crux.

As we scrambled up to the climbing section – a short 5.3/5.4 move over or around a chock stone – I noticed a ladder leaning up against the chockstone! My first thought was that this would make the whole route a ‘scramble’ but upon inspection the ladder had a lot to be desired. It was obviously a light contraption and wasn’t anchored properly to the mountain. Climbing the ladder would be almost worse than climbing the rock – although the rock seems to be crumbling around and under the chock stone which is now seriously overhanging (when it falls the route may be only ‘scrambling’!). We anchored the ladder with a cam which made it just possible to clamber up it – but there was no way we were down climbing it! There’s a good rap station right above it anyway that we’d use on descent.

Astral Peak is in the background just right of center with Castle Rock on the right in the foreground. Poltergeist with the shadowed face at left in the foreground and Aylmer in the distance at far left.
Astral Peak is in the background just right of center with Castle Rock on the right in the foreground. Poltergeist with the shadowed face at left in the foreground and Aylmer in the distance at far left.

The rest of the route was fairly obvious with cairns etc. and probably low-difficult scrambling. It was never terribly exposed but has enough steep sections to warrant some caution. It is also predictably loose, so scrambling here with a large group may not be the wisest thing to do. The summit of Devil’s Head is a huge scree plateau. We enjoyed the views and some lunch in amazingly calm conditions and descended our ascent route with no issues. We rapped the overhanging chock stone and Wietse and I went ahead of Dave and Kev in the loose 4th class gully to avoid 4 people kicking rocks down on each other.

Blackrock Mountain in the distance just left of center and Phantom Crag to it's right. To the right of Phantom is Orient Point and our approach ridge visible in the foreground.
Blackrock Mountain in the distance just left of center and Phantom Crag to it’s right. To the right of Phantom is Orient Point and our approach ridge visible in the foreground.
More tricky down climbing above the crux.
More tricky down climbing above the crux.
More steep and loose down climbing.
More steep and loose down climbing.

We met a party of sheep hunters on our way out. A bunch of campers / backpackers were making their way to the Ghost as we barreled home (Kevin found the gas pedal!) – the road was pretty darn rough. A highly recommended climb / scramble – bring a rope for the crux. Until it falls off it’s some short, steep climbing to avoid it and would be tricky to down climb IMHO.

Devils Head
53 photos
A gorgeous fall day as we approach the Ghost River Wilderness Area - the sunlit peak is Phantom Crag or Devil's Fang.
A gorgeous fall day as we approach the Ghost River Wilderness Area - the sunlit peak is Phantom Crag or Devil's Fang.
Our first river crossing.
Our first river crossing.
Note the river abutting the cliff? This necessitated another two river crossings.
Note the river abutting the cliff? This necessitated another two river crossings.
The team is thrilled to change socks again.
The team is thrilled to change socks again.
The drainage can't be followed very far - this is the Valley of the Birds! Go to climber's left on an obvious trail right from the river flats.
The drainage can't be followed very far - this is the Valley of the Birds! Go to climber's left on an obvious trail right from the river flats.
Our first head-on view of Devil's Head with our route to it pretty obvious along the ridge leading right to left.
Our first head-on view of Devil's Head with our route to it pretty obvious along the ridge leading right to left.
Looking back at Kev as he descends the first bump after breaking tree line on the first ridge.
Looking back at Kev as he descends the first bump after breaking tree line on the first ridge.
Looking back at the highest 'bump' on the ridge also called "Bastion Ridge" by Gillian Daffern (right side). Black Rock is the peak in the distance.
Looking back at the highest 'bump' on the ridge also called "Bastion Ridge" by Gillian Daffern (right side). Black Rock is the peak in the distance.
Getting a bit closer the views are awesome up here! Castle Rock lies to the right of Devil's Head here.
Getting a bit closer the views are awesome up here! Castle Rock lies to the right of Devil's Head here.
There are sheep / human trails all around DH. It sure looks impregnable from the east!
There are sheep / human trails all around DH. It sure looks impregnable from the east!
Looking back at our ridge walk along Bastion Ridge (right) and the awesome valley to the north. We had our lunch break here.
Looking back at our ridge walk along Bastion Ridge (right) and the awesome valley to the north. We had our lunch break here.
Getting close to the traverse under the cliffs - we stopped for a break near here.
Getting close to the traverse under the cliffs - we stopped for a break near here.
The group approaches our rest stop with our approach ridge (Bastion Ridge) stretching out behind them.
The group approaches our rest stop with our approach ridge (Bastion Ridge) stretching out behind them.
A pleasant walk under the cliffs - brain buckets mandatory!
A pleasant walk under the cliffs - brain buckets mandatory!
Looking up the scramble gully. Take the main gully up until the trail goes climber's right through the devil's horns.
Looking up the scramble gully. Take the main gully up until the trail goes climber's right through the devil's horns.
The gully is steep and VERY loose.
The gully is steep and VERY loose.
There are enough cairns marking the route that you shouldn't get lost.
There are enough cairns marking the route that you shouldn't get lost.
We tried to stay as close as possible in the gully.
We tried to stay as close as possible in the gully.
Dave climbs right over Wietse to prove how good his climbing shoes work! Actually he was worried about getting stuck in the tight chimney that Wietse is climbing!
Dave climbs right over Wietse to prove how good his climbing shoes work! Actually he was worried about getting stuck in the tight chimney that Wietse is climbing!
Traversing over to the devil's horns.
Traversing over to the devil's horns.
The Devil's Horns from the west.
The Devil's Horns from the west.
Through the horns, looking at the crux gully and route to the top.
Through the horns, looking at the crux gully and route to the top.
Wietse coming through the devil's horns (the scrambling gully is behind him).
Wietse coming through the devil's horns (the scrambling gully is behind him).
Yes - that's a LADDER! It's not supported though.
Yes - that's a LADDER! It's not supported though.
Kev holds the ladder (also supported with one piece of pro) while Dave climbs over the chock stone.
Kev holds the ladder (also supported with one piece of pro) while Dave climbs over the chock stone.
Assisting Kev coming up the ladder - and taking his photo of course.
Assisting Kev coming up the ladder - and taking his photo of course.
Enjoying a beautiful day in the Rockies!
Enjoying a beautiful day in the Rockies!
Don't underestimate the rest of the route - it's still upper moderate to difficult scrambling.
Don't underestimate the rest of the route - it's still upper moderate to difficult scrambling.
Coming up the summit plateau with Castle Rock visible in the background with Poltergeist to the left and Astral just to the left of Castle Rock in the far distance.
Coming up the summit plateau with Castle Rock visible in the background with Poltergeist to the left and Astral just to the left of Castle Rock in the far distance.
We're pretty tiny in this terrain. Aylmer at center in the distance and Poltergeist at right.
We're pretty tiny in this terrain. Aylmer at center in the distance and Poltergeist at right.
The summit cairn is unimpressive compared to the other terrain on Devil's Head.
The summit cairn is unimpressive compared to the other terrain on Devil's Head.
Astral Peak is in the background just right of center with Castle Rock on the right in the foreground. Poltergeist with the shadowed face at left in the foreground and Aylmer in the distance at far le
Astral Peak is in the background just right of center with Castle Rock on the right in the foreground. Poltergeist with the shadowed face at left in the foreground and Aylmer in the distance at far le
Blackrock Mountain in the distance just left of center and Phantom Crag to it's right. To the right of Phantom is Orient Point and our approach ridge visible in the foreground.
Blackrock Mountain in the distance just left of center and Phantom Crag to it's right. To the right of Phantom is Orient Point and our approach ridge visible in the foreground.
A great summit to enjoy with good friends.
A great summit to enjoy with good friends.
Blackrock Mountain looks pretty small now - that's a great scramble in the area.
Blackrock Mountain looks pretty small now - that's a great scramble in the area.
Astral Peak is at left and Castle Rock in the foreground both look awesome from this angle.
Astral Peak is at left and Castle Rock in the foreground both look awesome from this angle.
A pretty old register considering how prominent this mountain is from the east and from Calgary.
A pretty old register considering how prominent this mountain is from the east and from Calgary.
Hey - it's Bill Kerr and Gary! Nice to remember that Gary used to tramp around these hills.
Hey - it's Bill Kerr and Gary! Nice to remember that Gary used to tramp around these hills.
Leaving the summit.
Leaving the summit.
The down climbing above the crux is in some ways more difficult simply because there's no bolted rap station to make it safe
The down climbing above the crux is in some ways more difficult simply because there's no bolted rap station to make it safe
More tricky down climbing above the crux.
More tricky down climbing above the crux.
This should give you a good idea of what to expect.
This should give you a good idea of what to expect.
More steep and loose down climbing.
More steep and loose down climbing.
Wietse sets up for the rap.
Wietse sets up for the rap.
Kev and Dave rapped after Wietse and I so that we could get down the loose gully in pairs instead of all four.
Kev and Dave rapped after Wietse and I so that we could get down the loose gully in pairs instead of all four.
Descending the gully below the Devil's Horns.
Descending the gully below the Devil's Horns.
Wietse having fun in the gully
Wietse having fun in the gully
Johnson Creek Valley deserves some exploration I'm thinking. Lots of nice looking rock walls in there.
Johnson Creek Valley deserves some exploration I'm thinking. Lots of nice looking rock walls in there.
Descent Trail from Bastion Ridge.
Descent Trail from Bastion Ridge.
Getting ready to drop back to the Ghost River.
Getting ready to drop back to the Ghost River.
Descent Trail from Bastion Ridge.
Descent Trail from Bastion Ridge.
Descent Trail from Bastion Ridge.
Descent Trail from Bastion Ridge.

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