Mushroom Peak

Summit Elevation (m): 3210
Total Elevation Gain – from hwy 93 (m): 2700
Round Trip Time – from bivy (hrs): 14
Total Distance – from bivy (km): 12.5
Related Trips: Little Alberta, Woolley, Diadem
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3 – you fall, you break something 
Difficulty Notes: Crossing the Sunwapta River is your biggest challenge to the bivy. Don’t underestimate it during spring or summer months! Glacier crossing from the first couloir on Diadem and steep scrambling down the headwall to the bivy afterward.
Technical Rating: SC7
GPS Track: Gaia
Mushroom Peak MapGoogle Maps
Photos: View Album

I have to admit that I was not feeling ‘it’ on Mushroom Peak. I was ready for some warm soup and a few hours lounging around our excellent bivy site, maybe even reading my e-book for a bit. But there were a few factors that made it sensible to attempt Mushroom while we were half way up it already;

  1. We were half way up it already.
  2. The lower glacier on Woolley was very crevassed and very slushy. Any snow bridges that held us in the morning were no longer guaranteed to be safe. Rock fall and serac fall were an issue on this route as well.
  3. We were half way up it already.
  4. Steven and Ben were ahead of me already – I had to follow them!
  5. We were half way up it already.
  6. It would make Sunday more pleasurable – we wouldn’t have to re-ascend from our bivy before exiting all the way to hwy 93.
  7. We were half way up it already.

Plus, we were half way up it already so we figured what the hell, might as well get it done and over with! Personally I hate climbing mountains when I’m just in it for the summit. I used to only climb that way but lately I’ve given much more thought to actually enjoying the journey as much as the destination.

Traversing snow covered scree to the Diadem / Mushroom Glacier. Mushroom Peak towers over us now at left.

Nobody ever enjoyed the journey up Mushroom Peak unless they were on mushrooms – I guarantee you that! In that regard, it was a good thing that we just went for it after Woolley and Diadem. It wasn’t going to be any better doing it the next day!

Woolley / Diadem / Mushroom Peak Route Map


Interesting Facts on Mushroom Peak

Named in 1947. When N.E. Odell completed the solo first ascent he found that the summit rocks, “…were carved out of dark limestone into fantastic, mushroom-like forms.” Official name. First ascended in 1947 by N.E. Odell. 

The glacier was fairly crevassed but we managed to find a safe route through it. From there it was a scree slog to the west ridge which was mostly still a scree slog, but at least it had some exposure and some great views down to the north side of Diadem. Apparently there’s a route up the north face of Diadem – Humble Horse, IV 5.7 W4 | 1984 by Jim Elzinga and Jeff Marshall. 

The scree never seemed to end, and it was the kind that makes you take a giant step and then you lose half the step before you even complete it. It’s hard to explain but anyone who’s been on that crap will instantly know what I’m talking about. 

Looking off the west ridge of Mushroom at the north glacier of Diadem towards Mount GEC.
The infamous rock ‘mushrooms’ that are the namesake of Mushroom Peak.
Great exposure off the west ridge, looking towards the Rockwall across hwy #93.

The summit was a mushroom-style peak, very unique! I found a lightning blasted summit register buried deep in the cairn. The register was blown in half and the booklet was burnt. I took the book down since there was nothing protecting it anymore. Most of the entries are unreadable thanks to the fire. The second entry is 1987 and I can read that Liam Harrap was on the summit in 2003 but that’s about it. Not many entries due to the slog nature of the ascent and two aesthetic peaks right next door.

Summit views west include Alberta, Woolley and Diadem.
Looking east off the summit towards Sunwapta, Struan, Wurzburg, Andover, Tangle Ridge and Skye (R) across hwy #93.

With daylight fading way too fast, we didn’t linger on the summit. After a very quick descent down the loose scree south face we had to find a way down the cliff bands to climber’s right (east) of the main glacier. It was pretty risky to leave it ’til the last minute to find a route down this terrain but we ended up getting away with it. Eric Coulthard had given us a route photo that came in very handy to find a key traverse through and over a waterfall (literally through it) to traverse out of the cliff bands.

Shadows are lengthening and now we have to get down the cliff bands next to the glacier.

Don’t underestimate this route, it’s not very easy to spot. The only cairns were right in the waterfall / stream – there were no other signs of a trail anywhere we could see. Another key was Steven finding a way down another cliff band which involved stemming over another stream / waterfall – thankfully we could stay pretty dry there.

We walked into camp just as darkness settled in for the second night in a row. We were very satisfied with another full day in the glorious Rockies! I can’t say I’d recommend Mushroom Peak for anyone other than determined peak baggers. It’s not really a safer exit than the Woolley Glacier and the views aren’t nearly as good as Little Alberta or of course Woolley and Diadem’s views. One reason Mushroom makes sense is for parties who go in to do Woolley and Diadem and end up with no other peaks to do in the area. 

Egress from the Woolley / Diadem Bivy

September 7th 2014 dawned bright and clear. We packed up camp and headed down Woolley Creek, our hearts and minds full of the scenery and experiences that we’d fill them with over the past few days.

Thankfully the crossing of the North Saskatchewan River was still relatively painless and within a few hours leaving the bivy we were crossing hwy 93 and planning our next adventure.

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