Summit Elevation (m): 2575
Trip Date: October 19 2014
Elevation Gain (m): 1100
Round Trip Time (hr): 5.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 16.5
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2/3 – you fall, you might sprain or break something
Difficulty Notes: No major difficulties. I would avoid doing with snow on the slopes as they’re avy slopes and steep. There is some rock fall potential.
Technical Rating: SC5; YDS (3rd)
Map: Google Maps
I wasn’t sure I was in the mood to go out on Sunday, October 19th. I had a pretty bad head cold and some motivational issues on Saturday evening. I slept in ’til around 08:00 on Sunday and awoke feeling pretty good – and the weather was pretty sweet too. I dashed around the house like a mad man and managed to get out the door by 08:25, heading down to the Kananaskis Lakes area hoping to either scramble Rawson Lake Ridge or The Turret, depending how I was feeling and how much snow there was.
I noticed on the drive that there wasn’t a ton of snow, and most of it was above 2,500 meters so it wouldn’t be much of a factor on either objective. I settled on Rawson Lake Ridge because I was solo and figured there’d be more people hiking to Rawson Lake and less chance of a solo grizzly encounter. For some reason, as I drove down to the lakes, I changed my mind and pulled into the Elk Pass parking lot. I think I changed my mind based on the low cloud bank that was pouring over Elk Pass before hitting the dry Alberta air and vanishing. I was hoping for some good pictures of these clouds from the summit. Two other people were leaving the parking lot, but other than that it was pretty quiet. Of course there was also yellow tape on the north end of the parking lot with dire bear warnings and the mention of a ‘trap’. Apparently this grizzly was causing problems. Great. Hopefully this bear would have the sense NOT to cross the yellow tape, in which case I’d be fine.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve hiked / biked / skied, snow shoed along Fox Creek from the Elk Pass parking lot. The big hill never gets smaller, but soon I was approaching the turnoff for Fox Creek. The floods of 2013 heavily damaged this section of trail, but recent work has been done to fix it up and new bridges and even cut sections are almost complete. It was about 2km up this trail that I realized a bike would make The Turret a 4 hour day. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it earlier but oh well, I highly recommend biking this approach.
Bob Spirko mentions a lot of bushwhacking in his trip report from The Turret. This is because he used So’s decent track for ascent. I used So’s ascent track for both ascent and descent, and while it adds around 4km to the trip, it also makes the bushwhack pretty much non-existent. Being solo, I didn’t want to push my luck with too much bushwhacking. I’ll mention it again – you should really bike the approach along the ski trail, it would make descent a blast (other than the big hill). I felt very alone as I branched off the Fox Creek / Elk Pass trail and started up the ski track. There was no fresh bear sign here, so that was good, and I kept up the yelling. For some reason I’ve been nervous about bears this year, in part due to a number of friend’s close encounters and the recent death of a solo hunter in the nearby Picklejar Lakes area.
The bushwhack was pretty tame compared to most of the bushwhacks I’ve done this year – perspective is everything! Soon I could see the cliffs on The Turret’s east face and started contouring around the cliffs to the south, above thick krommholtz and avalanche slopes, just under the cliffs on a well used goat path. I followed the goat path around to a beautiful alpine bowl between The Turret and Mount Fox to the south. I was about a month too late, there are a lot of larches around this area. I hiked over recent grizzly diggings, trending up to the ridge above on steep grass and over short cliff bands. On hind sight I probably could have ascended a bit sooner, but I wasn’t sure about the steep terrain directly under the summit. After a very steep grunt I crested the ridge to climber’s left of the summit block to some amazing views. I made my way over to the summit on a narrow ridge and was soon enjoying a very impressive view of the Kananaskis Lakes, the Opal Range and Mounts Fox and Sarrail. The weather was amazing for mid October, warm, sunny and windless.
After snapping a bunch of photos and enjoying a leisurely lunch I began the descent. It went quickly, but I was really wishing I’d biked on the long hike out down a good trail to Fox Creek and then all the way back along the wide trail to the parking lot. I met two folks on well-packed mountain bikes who reminded me again that I am not hardcore at all. They were biking from Alaska to Argentina!! When I asked the girl when they expected to be finished she calmly replied, “in about two years”! Wow. That is hardcore. For a nice (non-hardcore) scramble with amazing views I highly recommend The Turret. Using a bike on approach will save you at least an hour and elevates this into a half day or summer evening outing.