Summit Elevation (m): 2210
Trip Date: April 11 2015
Elevation Gain (m): 750
Round Trip Time (hr): 6.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 12
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain something – i.e. your ego
Difficulty Notes: No technical difficulties. Crossing the Red Deer River and route finding are the crux. Some intense bushwhacking.
Technical Rating: OT3; YDS (Hiking)
GPS Track: Download
Map: Google Maps
After a very pleasant scramble on Labyrinth Mountain, Wietse and I still had plenty of gas in the tank to go for a second summit. Due to the crossing of the Red Deer River and a shared approach via horse track along Wolf Creek, it makes very good sense to tackle both Labyrinth Mountain and Mount Minos on the same day. I do have some advice if you follow our idea though. Definitely do NOT ascend Minos first. If you ascend Minos first, you will not ascend Labyrinth afterwards. You will be largely unmotivated after Minos, I think!
Descending to Wolf Creek was easy, where we chose to cross. There are cliffs along the creek so you have to be a bit choosey where you will cross. We didn’t have to get wet feet, but I think a bit later in the season this might be a feisty little sliver of water in spots. After a second lunch break we began our second summit bid in earnest. Let me just say this – we earned it! I don’t think there’s a good way to avoid the bushwhacking nastiness on the lower slopes of Minos. You can’t follow the drainage that comes down from the summit, because of waterfalls / cliffs, so you pretty much have to ascend the westernmost ridge and contour around to the summit, eventually gaining the eastern ridge and the summit plateau from up high. Before you get anywhere near the summit though, you have to battle through a dead fall / burn area that will have you hating life for a little while. Certainly not as bad as BC bush or something like the Harrison approach (if you’re off route) but still bad enough!
After struggling up the first 150 vertical meters the terrain improved dramatically to the summit. First we hiked through pleasant, open burn where the trees got shorter and shorter. After a while we came on snow and had a choice to make. We could cross a gully to the easternmost ridge which looked to easily go to the summit, or we could stay on the western ridge and contour higher up towards the summit. Because the snow was very pleasantly supportive, we choose the latter option and continued up the westernmost ridge on firm snow. It took longer than I expected, but by the time we finally started to post hole (up to crotch deep), we were pretty close to the eastern ridge and I went for it in a straight line – swearing under my breath at the deep bottomless snow pack I was wading through.
Once out of the deep snow on the western ridge, we followed grassy slopes to the open, and very windy / cool summit plateau. Views were excellent as we again got lucky with the weather. There were rain clouds to the north and snow squalls to the south but we had mostly clear skies. The air temperature was much cooler than on Labyrinth so we quickly finished our summit photos and headed down.
For descent, we again took a risk and tried a slightly different route. Due to the crappy upper snow pack and powerfully cold wind I voted that we head straight down the easternmost ridge for a few hundred meters before cutting over to the westernmost one that we had ascended. This worked really well until we noticed that it was time to cross the creek and get over to the other ridge before we’d run into cliff bands lower down. Once in the creek, one of us sort of persuaded the other to continue for a bit down the creek itself. The other guy was worried about the creek cliffing out but he followed. Sure enough! About 20 vertical meters down the creek bed (we were following footprints here so I think Raf must have done the same thing.) and we started running into trouble. Thank goodness we could traverse out of the creek to gain the western ridge at this point or one of us would have been eating crow.
After escaping the creek we followed the west ridge to the blow down area and struggled our way back to Wolf Creek and over it before gaining the horse trail again. A chilly river crossing and a short climb and we were back at the truck for a total round trip time of 10 hours for both Labyrinth and Minos. I was expecting to do this quicker but an analysis of the GPS track showed a distance of 22km and height gain of over 1500 meters total. I good day out but I’m glad I don’t have to go back for Minos!