Summit Elevation (m): 2400
Elevation Gain (m): 1000
Round Trip Time (hr): 5.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 11.5
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2/3 – you fall, you might break something
Difficulty Notes: All difficulties can be scrambled around if desired. A very short (4m) 4th class step if you choose to stay on the ridge crest.
GPS Track Download: Download GPX File
Technical Rating: SC6; YDS (3rd)
Map: Google Maps
It wasn’t looking good as I sat in the Tim Horton’s in Sundre on Saturday, March 28 2015. It was around 11 in the morning and it was pouring outside! Not just a mist, but a full on down pour. I was waiting for Steven and Ben to arrive from Edmonton before we continued our drive to the Bighorn Campground in the Ya Ha Tinda area of the front ranges. Our original plan was to sleep over on Saturday night, at the free equine campground, before arising early on Sunday and scouting a proposed route up Warden Rock. As the weather maps adjusted themselves on Friday afternoon, I started to get more ambitious and proposed that we scramble Eagle Mountain late on Saturday afternoon / evening, since we’d be in the area anyway. The weather was supposed to clear off around 15:00, which should give us enough time. Ben and Steven agreed to the adjusted plan and we planned to leave the Eagle Lake parking area around 1 or 2pm.
So there I was, sitting at Tim’s and browsing every weather map I could think of. All were showing the same thing. Rain ’til around 15:00, then clearing. Sunday was starting to look a little bit iffy now, with extreme winds and cloud cover / snow for most of the Rockies. I texted Ben and Steven to see where they were. I was ready to drive home, to be honest. The pouring rain, combined with a so-so forecast for Sunday had officially dampened my enthusiasm for the next couple of days. We agreed to meet at the Tim’s and do some last minute changes, if necessary. As I sat there waiting, the sky to the west slowly lightened and by noon there was even a tiny blue patch (sucker hole) visible. By the time Steven and Ben arrived, the rain had significantly lessened and we were ready to give things a shot, since we were in the area anyway!
After negotiating a muddy approach road we parked at the Eagle Lake parking lot and prepared for our scramble under a clearing sky. There wasn’t a breath of wind as we started negotiating the myriad of trails around Eagle Lake. The easiest directions are as Dave Salahub describes them on Bivouac. Simply follow the ATV trail towards the lake and at the first large meadow, turn left and bushwhack up the ridge. There are a lot of horse trails that will distract you on ascent, you should probably ignore most of them. The bush is easy and the lower slopes get pretty steep to tree line. We contoured climber’s left around tree line and grunted up a few false summits on scree. There was very little snow for us, but we could see fresh snow on peaks to the west. Most surprising for the area was that we had no wind.
Eventually we came to the one scrambly section of ridge. Ben and Steven down climbed the nose of a buttress (5.0ish), while I found a route around to climber’s left that was fourth class, but very short. Clouds were coming in from the east, which was strange, and we enjoyed walking along the edge of them in very warm and windless conditions. The summit was a bit further than we realized but eventually we plodded our way to the highest point and took in the wonderful views over Ya Ha Tinda. Warden Rock beckoned us yet again, and we were happy to scout a potential snow couloir / gully that could assist our ascent the next day. It looked far away.
The descent was easy, up-climbing the crux was fun. We spent the night around a cheery camp fire at the Bighorn Campground and set our alarms for 04:00 the next day.