Summit Elevation (m): 2537
Trip Date: Tuesday, June 06, 2019
Round Trip Time (hr): 4
Elevation Gain (m): 1065
Total Trip Distance (km): 14
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2/3 – you fall, you sprain or break something
Difficulty Notes: Easy to moderate scrambling with scree, slabs and other route options to make it harder or easier.
Technical Rating: SC6; RE3
GPS Track: Download
Map: Google Maps
Deadman Pass Peak is one of those mountains that snuck onto my list many years ago when So Nakagawa posted a trip report in 2015 from a trip he did in 2013. When Dave McMurray posted another trip report on the same peak in 2015 it went up the list a bit higher before fading to other, bigger, more remote objectives as these things tend to do. After reading a Facebook post on the scrambling page from someone doing a round trip in 5 hours (trail running), I contacted Phil and suggested doing this as an after work trip instead of “wasting” an entire day on a short objective. The Facebook post made the ascent sound horrible with loose scree but we ignored that. We also ignored Dave’s round trip time of over 8.5 hours and decided that with a bike approach we could match the 5 hours from the runners.
After meeting around noon in De Winton at our preferred Heritage Pointe parking spot we drove the long way to Crowsnest Pass and turned north up the Allison Creek road. The road was in terrible condition – full of potholes and very rough. We drove past the entrance to the staging area at the start of the Deadman Pass Trail but took the next OHV track into the large opening which holds a few pristine campsites. There was a large trailer surrounded by ATV’s sitting at one of the sites.
We could have driven another 500m along the OHV trail to the first bridge but we chose to park and ride the bikes instead since we had them along anyway. Using bikes was a great idea although the approach track had much more elevation change than advertised. We gained / lost almost 100m vertical both ways along the Deadman Pass OHV trail.
After only around 20 minutes on the bikes and over 3.5 km along the OHV trail we came to the obvious ascent slope. We debated about going slightly further to the nose of the south ridge but decided not to. We did cut left much sooner than Dave did and gained the ridge quicker that way. On descent we came down there and it is slightly less annoying than where we went up which was loose and steep. Thanks to the recent Facebook post we were expecting some terrible scree on ascent – especially for the first 500 vertical meters or so. To our great surprise and delight we were treated to enough slab and vegetation to ensure that at least 3/4 of the first ~500m of our ascent was extremely quick and solid! The slabs were definitely moderate as a slip would result in injury – wearing approach shoes helped make this fun and fast.
1.5 hours after leaving the truck we were on the interesting “flat” portion of the south ridge, looking at an intimidating summit slope that seemed very steep and very far away. Our views to Crowsnest Mountain and back towards Tecumseh and Phillips were pretty stellar from the south ridge. Clouds were building quickly to the west however, and we knew we were likely in a bit of a race to beat inclement weather. The south ridge traverse was the highlight of this trip for us. As we approached the final summit slopes they looked more and more reasonable and soon we were traversing obvious sheep trails into the first gully.
Once again the terrain was both loose and solid, depending on route choice. I went straight up the gully on fairly solid ground before cutting left to a solid(ish) ridge for the last 150 vertical meters to the summit. Once again we blazed the route, topping out only 2.5 hours from the truck – much quicker than anticipated! Normally we would have rewarded ourselves with a nice long summit break after all that effort, but the clouds were thickening and coming in very quickly. Mount Erikson was covered in cloud and peaks to the south including Coulthard and McLaren were getting soaked with rain showers.
The descent was surprisingly quick too. We avoided all the slab from our ascent – it was now raining and everything was getting slick – generally staying further west (skiers right) of our ascent lines. The rain really came down as we did the south ridge traverse back to our lower ascent line which we again avoided on skiers right using scree / dirt where possible and avoid slabs as much as possible. The rain let up as we got to the bikes.
We blasted out of the Deadman Pass trail to the truck in around 15 minutes of hard riding, finishing the scramble in 4 hours and 6 minutes. Not that we were racing or anything. On a beautiful summer day I would recommend going a wee bit slower and relishing the terrain and views on this peak, but even in rushing things a bit I really enjoyed it. Deadman Pass Peak is a rare Rockies gem where you get both solid, fast terrain on ascent and loose, quick terrain on the way down.