Ship’s Prow Mountain

Summit Elevation (m): 2607
Trip Date: April 17, 2017
Elevation Gain (m): 1050
Round Trip Time (hr): 4.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 8
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2/3 – you fall, you sprain or break something
Difficulty Notes: When dry I’m sure this is a moderate scramble at most. When snow covered this is more of a snowshoe mountaineering objective, especially near the summit.
Technical Rating: SC6; YDS (3rd)
GPS Track: Gaia

Monday, April 17 I slept in until 08:30 with no intentions whatsoever to bag a peak. Ten minutes later I was backing out of the driveway, headed for Canmore with the plan to snowshoe Ship’s Prow Mountain. The weather forecast was too nice to stay at home but I could see that the weather was going to change that afternoon and wanted to beat any rain / snow that was threatening to come in.

Ship’s Prow Route Map

I parked at the recommended spot just over the Goat Pond aqueduct and started down the road running along its east side. Josee from goldenscrambles.ca started up the slope only around 100m from the parking spot and I did spot some ribbons in the trees there, but decided I’d rather search for a broken trail from Phil and Cornelius in early April. Around 500 meters from the truck, I turned right up an obvious, large gravel pit / clearing and found old snowshoe tracks – almost certainly from Phil and Cornelius. This was great news! I would not have to break trail in bottomless sugar snow and didn’t even have to worry about route finding. My day just got a LOT more efficient.

The snow was nice a supportive just as it had been the day previous on Tent Mountain. The sky was much clearer than I expected and soon I was sweating profusely. It felt great to workout on the steep, treed slopes. There is no long approach on Ship’s Prow – it’s pretty much straight up from the road. There were a few cliff bands in the trees that Phil and Cornelius had to navigate around and up, and I faithfully stuck to their tracks. As I approached the upper shoulder, where the trees started to thin out, the track was covered in snow and soon it completely disappeared. This wasn’t an issue, however, since the way forward was pretty darn obvious.

Stunning views from the point where I finally topped out on the ridge. The false summit at left and Three Sisters at right.

There was a lot more snow on the upper mountain than I expected. I broke trail in the crusty layer (about shin deep) all the way up to the summit ridge. I was giving slightly nervous glances over at the crux summit gully the entire way up. The traverse from the cairned false summit to the summit didn’t look easy either, with huge cornices on one side and avalanche slopes on the other. Fresh snow that reverse loaded the entire traverse ridge during the last storm cycle complicated things a bit. I was here now and the weather was fantastic so I decided to stick my nose in it and see how things progressed from the false summit. The views behind and around me were fantastic at this point, but I could see thickening clouds to the west and north and didn’t linger.

Good thing they still have their winter colors – spring hasn’t sprung here yet.

Within 3 hours of leaving the parking lot I found myself struggling up the crux gully / chimney on snowshoes. It wasn’t nearly as exposed as it looked from afar, but I was glad not to have any beginners on the traverse or the crux. A slide on the crux could prove nasty with a long run-out on very hard snow slopes (with big avalanche potential). If you attempt this peak in winter you should bring crampons and an ax. I was lazy so I just bulled my way to the summit in snowshoes but there was a few moments were crampons would have been much more safe and secure. Views from the summit were pretty good but the weather was moving in quickly. I snapped some photos and quickly made my way back down the crux and along the ridge to the false summit.

Looking back at my tracks along the ridge. Note the huge cornice fracture at left? Caution is required on this traverse.

After a quick water break (first one of the day) on the false summit, I plunge-stepped quickly and easily back down to treeline. The march back to the road down the steep treed slope was interesting in places but was very quick. I had to talk three moose off the road just before my truck but thankfully they were not aggressive and listened to me eventually. Overall this was a quick “bang for the buck” trip that proved a lot more involved than I expected thanks to all the fresh snow on the summit ridge. I highly recommend it for competent snow scramblers or mountaineers as an exercise day when you’re tired of the hordes on Ha Ling or EEOR. Beware that many parties take 7-9 hours on this diminutive peak thanks to a horrendous snowpack that usually sits on her lower slopes – timing is everything on this one.

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