Summit Elevation (m): 2856
Trip Date: Sunday, September 13 2020
Elevation Gain (m): 1100
Round Trip Time (hr): 6
Total Trip Distance (km): 14
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3 – you fall, you break something including possibly, your head
Difficulty Notes: Easy to moderate scrambling with minimal route finding. NOTE: This trip includes two summits.
Technical Rating: SC6; YDS (3rd)
GPS Track: Download
Map: Google Maps
I spent two days in Waterton Lakes National Park with Wietse scrambling two long-sought peaks (Dungarvon, Glendowan) before returning home on Saturday afternoon in thick forest fire smoke courtesy of Washington and California. After missing out on viable summits the two weekends previous, I was determined to go 3 for 3 on this weekend no matter what the smoke was going to do. My first option was a large peak that I’ve been eyeing for many years but the smoke was going to cancel those plans – I wanted views from that summit! Wietse had another option for me – he suggested Lineham Ridge and its higher outlier known as “Picklejar Peak”. When Grant Meyers assured me that these two peaks were great, moderate scrambles I decided that I’d give them a try on Sunday as a solo effort under smokey, cool conditions.
Despite my best efforts to sleep in I was still among the first to park in the Lantern Creek parking spot along hwy 40 at around 07:45 on Sunday morning. As expected, the smoke was already thick in the air as I started hiking from the parking lot wearing gloves and a toque. I quickly caught up to the group in front of me on the good trail and was soon peeling off layers as I quickly warmed up. The trail wasn’t quite as steep as I remembered from our family hike 6 years previous but after a few kms it steepened considerable to the col and west shoulder of Lineham Ridge. The trail to the lakes drops down here, but my route went right up the grassy west ridge above.
I was following a base trail on Gaia at this point and realized pretty quickly that it had the wrong summit labeled as “Lineham Ridge”! The summit labeled as the ridge was actually Picklejar Peak. Lineham Ridge was closer and lower than the one marked on the base map. No matter. I was doing both anyway! The line presumably descended the scree gully from Picklejar which made my routefinding job a wee bit easier. I continued up the ridge to a high point before dropping slightly and starting up the fun stuff. This weekend was quickly becoming a good one for short, excellent scrambles! Both Dungarvon and Glendowan had been fantastic scrambling and Lineham Ridge quickly mirrored that with its own moderate terrain. After finding and ascending a cool grassy “sidewalk” just north of the west ridge I tackled what was likely the crux of the day up a steep, fairly solid slab directly on the ridge crest.
From the crux I remained mostly on the crest of the west ridge to the summit of Lineham Ridge, only dropping off when either forced to (usually on the left) or when the going got too tedious for my liking due to small drop-offs and loose crap. I have to admit that Picklejar Peak looked a long ways off when I finally got to the summit of the ridge, but it had only taken me around 2.5 hours and I had plenty of time in my day. Views were rather dreary – again as expected – but for some reason I didn’t really care. I was doing this scramble for the scrambling more than the views and it hadn’t disappointed so far!
From the summit of Lineham Ridge I descended towards Picklejar Peak on loose, fairly easy and straightforward terrain. At the col I had some interesting views back up Lineham and towards Picklejar. The west ridge of Picklejar Peak was no more than moderate scrambling at most. Just under an hour after leaving Lineham Ridge I was on top of Picklejar Peak, wishing my views towards Highwood Peak, Junction and Pyriform were slightly clearer.
Nugara says that for anyone “wearing approach shoes” the gully descent from Picklejar Peak will suck. I was apprehensive about this section but thankfully Nugara is wrong! After descending the north ridge for a short way the huge descent gully was very obvious to my left, running way down to the valley below. I noticed that the scree didn’t look too bad and once I started down I was delighted how fast and easy it was – at least initially. There’s been quite a bit of traffic on this route since Nugara did it and this has loosened the scree a bit. The scree / rocks in the gully were very loose however, and some of them bounced far down below me as I descended. I was glad nobody was below me in here! The upper valley just under the giant descent gully was a bit slow to navigate due to loose boulders and rocks, but soon I was overlooking the upper Picklejar Lake and some nice fall vegetation. I decided to eat lunch here before hitting the masses that I could barely hear below me. I had a delightful 15-minute nap just above treeline with nothing but a curious ground squirrel to keep me company. I didn’t mind.
As I hiked around the 4 Picklejar Lakes I was surprised by how many others were out on this smoky no-views day. This hike has become one of Kananaskis’ most popular ones, no doubt about it! It was nice to see families and many friends enjoying nature.
Just as on Glendowan, I found myself enjoying the day on Lineham Ridge and Picklejar Peak much more than I should have considering the thick smoke and subsequent lack of views. The reason? The hiking and scrambling was simply very enjoyable. This is another highly recommended “Nugara Scramble” that deserves the attention it obviously gets by the busy summit registers on both peaks. I can only imagine that with clearer air and better views then I had, this would be a pretty darn nice short day trip for scramblers comfortable on moderate terrain.