Orphan, The

Summit Elevation (m): 2576
Trip Date: June 21 2015
Elevation Gain (m): 875
Round Trip Time (hr): 5
Total Trip Distance (km): 6.5
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2/3 – you fall, you sprain or break something
Difficulty Notes: No technical difficulties. The crux is the approach up a creek devastated by the 2013 floods. The true summit is also slightly exposed.
Technical Rating: SC5; YDS (Hiking)
GPS Track: Download
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For Father’s Day and for the longest day of the year, we chose a fairly easy scramble in the Spray Lakes region of Kananaskis. Originally I was hoping to climb North Victoria early on Sunday before coming home to celebrate Father’s Day, but that didn’t work out thanks to a very chaotic weather forecast that kept promising perfect weather and then changing at the last minute! Oh well. June in the Alberta Rockies is known for unpredictable and chaotic weather.

The Orphan Route Map

On the drive through Canmore the rain was pouring down in buckets – making us second guess our choice to be out scrambling on this particular day. We knew that the weather was supposed to break around noon, so we decided to at least drive to the trailhead before cancelling our plans. We parked at the Driftwood parking lot and proceeded towards the creek that runs down between Rimwall and The Orphan. The creek was devastated by the 2013 June floods and we were in awe over the amount of widening and debris that the water carved in only a few days! In case you’ve ever doubted that the landscape can be carved dramatically over geologic time, consider the humbling fact that in a measly 1 million years, there will be 10,000 events like the floods of 2013 in the Kananaskis region! Can you imagine what the landscape will look like, just from flood events? Pretty cool actually.

KC takes dramatic cloud photos from the col – The Rimwall in the background.

After enduring about 30 minutes of rainy weather, we were stripping off our rain gear in warm sunshine. Typical Rockies weather works both ways – in this case it was slowly getting better for us. We worked our way up the creek until coming to the split. I was amused by the huge numbers of cairns in the creek bed (where the route couldn’t be more obvious) and then the complete lack of any route aids once the route leaves the original creek – just where a few aids would be nice… Nonetheless, the route is obvious and from the original creek bed we worked our way up loose scree and even muddy scree and fresh snow to the col. Yes – there was fresh snow! Nothing like a hike on fresh snow to mark the first day of summer!

Awesome summit panorama with Big, Middle and Little Sister on the left and Rimwall, Lougheed I on the right with Skogan Pass showing as brilliant green thanks to the fresh rainfall.

There are a lot of flowers on this hike, even up high at the col. Most were covered by snow when we were there. From the col the summit looks far, but it’s not. Within 30 minutes we were on top, in thick clouds. I was a bit nervous about t-storms but we agreed to wait 10 minutes to see if it would clear. And it did! Our views of the Sisters, Rimwall and Lougheed I were spectacular. I especially loved the green valleys below with snow capped mountains and clouds swirling all over. Clouds really do make mountain landscapes more dramatic. 

More views over the Skogan Pass area beneath Rimwall and Lougheed I.

After a half hour on the summit, we decided to descend before any storms started up. The descent was quick and easy on muddy scree and then boulder hopping in the creek. I highly recommend The Orphan as an easy and relatively short scramble with great views of The Sisters from a unique angle, as well as a possible combination loop with The Rimwall via it’s west ridge and descending it’s approach route.

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