Summit Elevation (m): 2176
Trip Date: March 19 2016
Elevation Gain (m): 1030
Round Trip Time (hr): 7
Total Trip Distance (km): 18
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 1/2 – you fall, you bruise your ego
Difficulty Notes: Camp Creek Ridge is pleasant hiking on open ridges. The drive to the trailhead is probably the crux! Without snow, Thrift would also be simply a hike with some easy scrambling and route finding.
Technical Rating: OT4; YDS (Hiking)
Map: Google Maps
Thrift Peak has been on my radar for a while now, it was cemented as an objective while on a drive back from Cabin Ridge (Twin Peaks) with Wietse in November of 2015. I didn’t even realize this was the Livingstone Fire Lookout until doing some research later! There are three approaches to this summit, two of which require a crossing of the Oldman River. One goes up the south ridge from near the gap with Thunder Mountain. The second goes up a fire road from the west. A less well known and less traveled route that does not require a river crossing at all, was discovered by the indefatigable Bob Spirko in April of 2008 when he also ‘discovered’ Camp Creek Ridge. This is a longer route, but potentially involves another summit / ridge which is always nice.
Although Camp Creek Ridge is easier and more of a simple hike than Thrift, I’m including both in this report since we combined them and they’re still both quite easy. The ridge is very comparable to many other front range ridge hikes including Channel Ridge which I also did this winter, and is likely in shape almost year around. Thrift Peak may look innocent enough from the road, but it has some steep avy slopes and is certainly not as ‘in shape’ as Camp Creek Ridge year around! On our approach drive down highway 22, we were surprised by the amount of fresh snow on all the peaks. As we got closer to the Thunder Mountain area, we were relieved to see that Thrift had the least amount of snow we’d seen all day.
We followed Bob’s directions and GPS track to find the parking spot near Camp Creek via the approach roads on the north side of the Oldman River. There is a lovely ranch up the main gravel road off highway 22. Soon after passing the ranch, we did a tight switchback and then we spotted a much smaller track going towards the mountains on our left. It didn’t look like much, but it was the correct road. We drove about 100m before spotting a yellow sign at a cattle trap / gate. The sign told us to stick to the main road (not really a “road” at this point…) but didn’t say “no entry”, so we continued on. Eventually we descended a hill before the track got into “4×4 mode”. I shifted gears and we continued. A large herd of elk was a nice distraction as we bumped our way along – never exactly 100 percent sure how far we should keep going. We descended a loose / steep track towards Camp Creek before squeezing through a narrow treed section and finally recognizing the parking spot from Sonny / Bob’s trip reports. A large sign also greeted us here, letting us know this was the entry point to the Bob Creek Wildland Provincial Park. The morning air was biting thanks to a stiff wind so we quickly geared up and started hiking down the ATV road into the park.
The first few kilometers were lovely and easy hiking, including a frozen crossing of Camp Creek. After the crossing, we loosely followed Bob’s track to find the correct ascent ridge. This ridge worked excellent and before long we were sweating our way to the crest with amazing views of Thunder Mountain and the valley between Camp Creek Ridge and Livingstone Ridge (Thrift Peak). As we gained the ridge proper, the wind picked up but so did the views. Thrift looked pretty close at this point, but there were a lot of intervening bumps / dips and traverses still ahead. We pushed on, mostly on bare grass with some bits of old snow. The height gains / losses started adding up at one point and I decided to use sheep trails to the east to circumvent some of them. Before long we were at the col with the descent ridge and looking up at the last section to the summit of Camp Creek Ridge. Again, looks were a bit deceiving here with more distance and more height gain than we anticipated.
From the col with the descent ridge, we again followed Bob’s track and tried to be smart about avoiding unnecessary height gains but we were only partially successful. We wanted to avoid snow to our right in the trees, so it worked much better to stick on the ridge crest which was blown clear. We did manage to avoid one obvious intervening bump via a good trail on its SW side to our left. We followed a set of wolf or coyote tracks up forested (icy!) slopes until we finally stood on the treed summit of Camp Creek Ridge. Views just off the summit were great though! After a quick break we set our sights on the very snowy looking east aspect of Thrift Peak.
From the top of Camp Creek Ridge, we looked a bit nervously to the col below and the very snowy east face of Livingstone Ridge under Thrift Peak. So far we’d been very lucky with conditions – every snow patch was either frozen hard or easily avoided. Our luck was about to run out. Wietse started down the ridge to the col and quickly we started post-holing. This continued to suck worse and worse until we were knee deep at the col and wondering how hard the ascent to the lookout was going to be. It looked so darn close! In the summer it likely only takes 20 minutes but what about now, in unconsolidated snow conditions? As soon as we started up Thrift from the col, we knew we were in for it. 🙁 The snow pack deteriorated and didn’t support our weight at all. Thanks to absolutely zero base, we quickly wallowed past our knees! Thankfully we’d noticed a goat track earlier, from Camp Ridge and made our way up towards it. The track made life a LOT easier, but we still sank past our knees and the wily goats liked to use trees to make the track easier, meaning we had to duck and wade our way through thick bush to follow their tracks! The “easy hike” was quickly becoming gnarly as we approached and crossed a couple of avy paths on snow that made me extremely uncomfortable. If we didn’t have a partial track we wouldn’t have continued – it would have taken too long to break our way across.
After crossing a couple of steep snow gullies, the goat track kept traversing north. This was fine, but was costing us a lot of time and of course they weren’t as interested in summits as we were… 😉 Finally I gave up and declared that I was “going for it”. we could see on the GPS that we were very close to the ridge top and the road on the other side, so we decided to head straight up and over the ridge. I started wading uphill for the summit – and I mean literally wading. I had to first break a 2 inch crust and then wade up to chest deep (!!) uphill. The only reason I made it was the few trees that I could hold onto and assist me in swimming over the snow rather than through it. We were exhausted (and I was seeing spots thanks to a food / water depletion) by the time we finally dragged ourselves over the ridge. It took us an hour to go from the col a couple hundred meters up the east face of Livingstone Ridge! We were very relieved to quickly find the fire road and started following it south up to the summit. Thankfully the snow along it was very supportive compared to the crap we just swam through.
After a nice lunch break at the lookout and taking in the views of some less common and well known summits in the High Rock and Livingstone Ranges it was time to head back down. Swimming through snow downhill was MUCH quicker than swimming uphill and within 20 minutes of the summit we were back at the col and ready to hike out of Camp Creek Ridge via the alternate descent route. After our exhausting scramble of Thrift Peak we finally arrived back at the summit of Camp Ridge and started back along the ridge. At the Y intersection of ridges, we went left and had a very enjoyable time on the alternate descent, making a nice horseshoe hike. The terrain, conditions and weather were great – I highly recommend descending this way.
I really enjoyed the Camp Creek Ridge hike – much more than our snow slog up Thrift! 😉 I think this hike is unique and well worth a hiker’s time if they don’t mind a 4×4 track to the parking lot, or walking extra kilometers down a dirt road. I would also highly recommend doing this hike in the off season to avoid ATV traffic that may be encountered lower down. Once you’re off the track though, I think you’ll be surprised how solitary this hike feels – there is no major signs of human activity on the upper stretches of Camp Creek Ridge.