Trip Date: Friday, July 10 2020
Reference Trip: Wandering up McConnell Creek
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain something.
Difficulty Notes: An easy scramble up south gullies from the NW branch of McConnell Creek.
Technical Rating: SC5; YDS (II)
Map: Google Maps
Phil Richards and I first took note of Boar Station from trips up Cataract Peak in 2017 and Mount McConnell in 2018. In 2019 we traversed its east shoulder while exiting from Chirp Peak and Divide Pass. Reading Rick Collier’s trip report on this elusive and interestingly named summit, it didn’t sound particularly easy or pleasant to access and it never quite made the top of our priority list. Finally in 2020, after seeing it was in condition from Mount White when other options were still snow bound we decided it was time to head up the Red Deer River and check out the McConnell meadows and Boar Station for ourselves. Interstingly despite being a class II ascent (i.e. very easy) Boar Station was only first ascended in 1955 due to its remoteness. It likely derives its name from some sort of Grizzly study in the area.
After a long 41 kilometer, 9 hour approach via Ya Ha Tinda ranch, the Cascade fire road, the Red Deer River trail and the mostly untracked McConnell Creek drainage we finally arrived at our planned west ascent gully at 17:00. It was a gorgeous afternoon but I was tired as heck. When Phil told me we had 900 meters of gain to the summit I nearly passed out. I’ve had some very long trips this year including a 73 km day trip of White and Grouse and a 4000 meter weekend up Gibraltar and Mount Shanks just 5 days prior. In 2019 I ascended 65,000 meters over the whole year. So far in 2020 I’ve already done over 66,000 and many of them over very long distances. Ah well. At 45 I can’t let my body slow down yet! After dropping the overnight packs and packing up our day ones, we set off up the gully balancing our way up the running water and loose rocks, trying to avoid willows.
The south access gully was pretty quick to ascend. Running water meant a refreshing source of energy along the way. (I didn’t carry any water on the vast majority of this trip, including the first 41 kms of approach, choosing to drink directly from the many water sources along the way. #unfilteredisbest) As we gained the impressive west bowl beneath the summit we noticed a nice snow slope that could assist our upward progress. Everything was very foreshortened at this stage making the peak seem smaller than it felt.
We made our way slowly up dinner plate shale and scree to the snow slope before Phil very kindly kicked steps up to the SW ridge. We gained height steadily and despite my tiredness the views behind us towards Bleat Peak and over the SW shoulder to Mount McConnell gave me a good boost. I tried to keep up with speedy Phil as we ground our way ever upward from the same col that Rick accessed 20 years previous from the large south drainage access.
It felt like a long grind but only 2 hours after leaving the heavy packs we were on the very remote summit of Boar Station Peak with incredible evening views over a myriad of peaks, valleys, rivers, lakes and icefields. Most people have likely never heard of 90% of the landmarks we found ourselves photographing. The location of Boar Station lends itself very well to some stunning views of Banff’s and the Clearwater’s most remote and elusive summits.
Shadows were lengthening and we got chilled in the west wind at the lofty summit within about 20 minutes of arrival. Boar Station is higher than indicated on the maps – soaring at least 3050 meters and over 10,000 feet, as many of the named and unnamed peaks in this area do. Descent was very quick thanks to the long snow slope and we even found a better line than the west gully, sticking to light forest to the south and avoiding the willow bash.
We arrived back at our packs around 20:30 and started preparing for the traverse into our planned bivy site. I really enjoyed Boar Station as a holistic experience that was so much more than the simple class II rating would imply. This peak isn’t about the ascent or any sort of tricky or involved scrambling. Boar Station is all about a true wilderness experience of approaching and standing on one of Banff’s most remote peaks with mind blowing views in every direction.