Summit Elevation (m): 2580
Trip Date: Saturday, November 11, 2017
Elevation Gain (m): 1350
Round Trip Time (hr): 8
Total Trip Distance (km): 20
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3 : you fall, you break your leg
Difficulty Notes: Obviously more difficult with snow but shouldn’t feel more than moderate on the scrambling scale. Note: Combined with Fallen Peak for statistics indicated.
Technical Rating: SC6; YDS (3rd)
I wasn’t totally feeling it when Dr. Phil contacted me regarding a possible scramble for the Remembrance Day weekend, 2017. The weather looked pretty good for a front range peak and even promised light winds for once, so eventually he wore me down with his incessant texting and I agreed to slog up something just to make him happy. Ok, ok, I was kind of in the mood for a nice day out and with the wx looking so lovely, it was hard to say no despite my SAD disposition. After the usual flurry of invites were sent, it was Wietse, Dave, Phil and I who were joining forces on the front range “Ghost” or “Kink” Peak. We were inspired by the trip reports of Matt Hobbs and Matt Clay, who had done the peak in dry conditions a few weeks earlier and their reports made it sound fun. I knew that they’d been inspired for a Halloween ascent by Cornelius Rott’s trip report where he named the peak – Ghost – after finding a summit register from a local geocaching group calling it so.
Interesting Facts on “Ghost Peak”
It’s hard to say what the official, unofficial name of this minor front range peak should be. On Bivouac it’s named “Kink Peak” for a good reason – it’s the kink in the elbow of a ridge running towards Mount Davidson – the only official peak around the Waiparous Creek drainage. Gillean Daffern names two outliers of this peak the “Sheep Meadow Mountain” summits in her guidebook, but only mentions “two”, when there’s clearly three peaks along the ridge. We’ll assume she’s talking about the two smaller peaks. Bivouac names these outliers “Fallen”, after the nearby Fallentimber Creek.
In April, 2016, Cornelius Rott scrambled this peak and found a register with the name “Ghost Peak” labelling the summit after the area in which it’s located. “Ghost” is cooler than “Kink” and has taken on a life of its own within the scrambling community and in general I prefer that name myself to be honest.
I was partly inspired by a misunderstanding myself. When Eric Coulthard and I hiked past the Fallen peaks earlier in 2017 on our way up Waiparous Peak, I wondered how easy they’d be to ascend – see my Fallen Peak trip report for details on that. At the time, I thought that Kink was part of the Sheep Meadow Mountain group that Gillean Daffern mentioned in her guidebook, but now I realize it’s not. She’s talking about the Fallen peaks. I also remembered the great views of Kink from Castle Rock earlier this fall. It looked tiny from 2950m, but still nice enough to make an effort for.
When I arrived at the meeting spot to pick up Dave and Wietse, it turned out that Dave was replaced by Raf! No matter. It’s been a while since Raf joined us and it was nice to catch up as we drove towards hwy 40 north to meet up with Phil who was driving down from Canmore now that he’s a mountain townie. Originally we were all going to pile in Phil’s SUV but when we noted the amount of snow in the front ranges, we decided that maybe we should take my Taco and it’s winter tires instead. Phil jumped in the truck with us and we continued the ~50km up hwy 40 to the clearly signed Hunters Valley Road. This road was followed for about 5km before turning left down a side road. (We missed that turnoff before realizing our mistake and backtracking a bit.) If you cross a third bridge along Hunters Valley Road, you’ve gone too far. Turn back and take the first obvious road just before that 3rd bridge. We followed this much smaller and undulating road for another 3km before parking just before the first bridge along it. With snow or rain this final road could be problematic for anything other than a 4×4 with good tires, otherwise all roads were in great shape.
We parked alongside the Fallentimber Creek spur road and proceeded to freeze our butts off in the very crisp morning air. Phil was especially surprised with the cold temps (-13) as it was +3 back in Canmore that morning! Wietse and I were somewhat convinced that we should wear snowshoes right from the truck. There was at least 6″ of sugary snow on the ground at the parking lot and presumably a lot more the further in and higher up we went. Phil and Raf weren’t so convinced and eventually wore us down until we somehow ended up not only not wearing snowshoes from the truck, but not even bringing them along. Group think is a wonderful thing. 😉 Wietse led the way along the route, following a set of tracks at most a few days old through the sugary snow. Snowshoes wouldn’t have helped much for the first few kms of trail as the snow was so unconsolidated and easy to walk through. We traveled through a few open meadows which are the “marshy” areas that others have talked about but were frozen solid for us in the cold temps. After about 45 minutes we started hiking along an obvious cut-line, heading straight for our objectives.
As expected, the snow slowly deepened as we hiked, until we were at least ankle to boot top deep in spots. It was still sugary and Phil had the energy to break trail (the tracks we were initially following died out at the marshes) so that made life easy for the rest of us. Finally, after about 90 minutes of hiking relatively flat terrain, we started going obviously uphill. For the most part the route remained very obvious, but of course having a GPS track to follow made it very simple, as usual. Two hours after leaving the truck we were out of the forest, skirting the edge of a clearing and finally grunting up a steep grassy slope with dirt bike ruts (not allowed here) before coming upon a surprisingly scenic and extensive rock and boulder garden under Kink Peak’s eastern aspect. Phil continued to break trail as we decided to try short cutting the col with Fallen a bit, accessing the south ridge on Kink above the col to climber’s right. For the most part this worked OK but probably wasn’t worth the extra effort. The boulder garden provided some nice pics though. Topping out on the ridge we were treated to a cold breeze but some pretty darn nice views to the west.
While I was waiting for Phil to hurry up and kick steps for me (!) up to the south ridge of Kink, I found myself intrigued by the great view of Fallen Peak to the south, sharing a col with Kink. I yelled up to Phil that we should probably ascend it afterwards and he readily agreed. Phil is like that. It’s pretty much guaranteed that any time I make a suggestion that involves more distance and height gain he is all in. That kind of sucks, because then I have follow through on my own suggestion and be all in too. Some day that’s gonna get us in trouble… But not this day! This day it got us a second peak.
From just above the col, Phil and Wietse led the way up to the obvious crux above. The crux on Kink is short but interesting. It’s interesting because if you don’t know there’s a moderate to easy route through the intimidating cliff band, you will either do some difficult scrambling or you’ll turn around and go home. The gist of it involved ascending right to the bottom of the band before contouring slightly around to climber’s left and then back right up an obvious short gully. At the top of this short gully was the moderate crux, turning back to climber’s left and steeply up to a rocky (in our case snow covered) bench. The bench led easily along another cliff band running to the west before cutting sharply back east (right) and back up to the south ridge proper. A very interesting “zig-zag-zig” navigation that provided me with some of the best photos of the day. Other than a few no-slide zones (which would have taken us over the lower cliff band), this was pretty easy scrambling terrain with a nice alpine feel thanks to the snow.
I think I underestimated the remaining elevation gain and distance to the summit from the ledge traverse. Because this is the crux, I guess I assumed that it was also close to the summit. It wasn’t. We still had over 1km of distance and 350 vertical meters of height gain after the ledge. Oh well. It was easy enough terrain and our views were awesome, so it still passed fairly quickly. A few interesting spots on the south ridge were easily bypassed, including a bottomless hole just off the ridge crest that looked to have water ice in it. I wonder if there’s a cave down there? Soon we were topping out to some pretty decent front range views of many of the giant 3,000 meter eastern Banff and Ghost Wilderness Area peaks such as Barrier, Puma, Davidson, Astral, Castle Rock, Costigan and others. There was a stiff, cool wind at the summit but nothing horrible and we sat down for a bite to eat and some warm coffee / tea from our thermos’. I was surprised to find two summit registers, one looked to be from a geocaching group.
Since Raf and Wietse were taking a pass on the mighty Fallen Peak “twofer”, Phil and I started down immediately in hopes that we’d catch up with them later. We quickly descended to the crux and carefully down climbed it without issue until we were at the col, gazing up the ~250 vertical meters to the summit of Fallen Peak.