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Wingnut & Canary Peak

Summit Elevations (m): 2758, 2844
Trip Date: Friday, June 11 2021
Elevation Gain (m): 1000 (from camp), 1400 (from Ram River Trailhead)
Round Trip Time (hr): 7.5 (from camp)
Total Trip Distance (km): 16.5 (from camp)
Reference Trip: 33 Hours up the Ram River
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain something
Difficulty Notes: Easy scrambling made trickier for us with fresh snow and cold, windy weather. There are more direct routes.
Technical Rating: SC5
MapGoogle Maps


After spending much more effort that we were expecting biking and hiking up the Ram River Trail to our delightful camp under Wingnut Peak, Wietse and I were feeling pretty optimistic about the Wingnut / Canary scramble ahead of us for that afternoon and evening. In case you’re wondering, “Wingnut” is the bivouac name for an outlier along the SE ridge from Canary. We didn’t even realize it had a name until researching the trip beforehand. I’ll take a bonus “peak” any day – especially when it involves a long approach like this one. 😉 The sky had cleared out nicely all day and the snow was rapidly melting around us. So far the rivers and streams had been fairly straightforward to cross and we were daring to think that perhaps the weather was done being fickle and would match the predicted models. We were partly right but unfortunately also mostly wrong…

Ram River Peaks Route Map. Note that there are other (better) routes for Canary Peak including from the NW side. If doing Wingnut from the SE there is another gully further north than the one we used that is much shorter with less height gain that would be easy scrambling when dry.

We started hiking NW from our campsite and soon found ourselves crossing the Ram River yet again – obviously it was much smaller over 20km upstream from its downstream merge with Hummingbird Creek and thanks to a warm sun the crossing felt good rather than bone chilling like some of the previous ones. I was surprised to see a gorgeous little cabin sitting in some alpine meadows just NW of the river crossing. The South Ram Patrol Cabin sits in one of the more pristine and lovely landscapes I’ve seen a cabin in before. It looked to be in pretty good condition as we checked it out.

The South Ram Patrol Cabin (L) sits under Wingnut Peak with the Ram River flowing off towards Finch Peak at right.

After walking around the cabin it was time to focus on the peaks looming high over top it. We had choices to make. Originally we had a line heading directly up to Wingnut Peak via a steepish gully just south of it, heading up between two outlier peaks. Thanks to copious amounts of fresh snow and the inability to see the top of the gully we decided to go further around to the south instead, and go over two smaller outlier peaks before tackling Wingnut from the south ridge. Believe it or not there were avalanches and cornice collapses showing from the fresh snowfall and we didn’t want any part of any of that crap on top of the crap we had to deal with.

Wietse starts trekking towards Aries Peak and the SE end of the Canary / Wingnut massif. Wingnut rises at right. We weren’t sure about the upper slopes but could have shortcut our route by a few kms by ascending the obvious valley at right curving up towards the summit.

We had lots of energy as we started up to the south skyline ridge in open burnt forest with zero evidence of snow lower down. A light breeze and some goats kept us company as we rounded the steep slopes and snuck through a low cliff before heading up steep scree to the ridge above. As we rounded onto the south ridge we were surprised yet again by the amount of fresh snow ahead of us and set our expectations accordingly – or so we thought. For some reason my energy levels waned as we hit the snow but thankfully Wietse’s didn’t. For the rest of the day he pulled me along for the most part, including up to the first false summit where we froze our toes by kicking steps in snow up to knee deep! As we crested the first false summit we tried to remain positive about the remaining work ahead. Canary looked very far but even Wingnut didn’t look very close and everything was absolutely plastered in fresh snow.

Views down the Ram River towards Finch Peak at left. Whelk Peak at center, Aries Peak at right.
A snowy ascent to the first of two false summits before Wingnut Peak. Aries, Dodo and even Cheshire showing up at left.

Clouds were starting to form and the wind was downright chilly as we started the long, slow traverse towards Wingnut and Canary peaks. Our bluebird day was obviously not going to happen anymore but we had to dig deep and struggle on at this point. Our feet were soaking wet and our toes were actually starting to throb and go numb from constant exposure to snow. Our shins were getting battered and bruised from the annoying crust that refused to soften despite the sun. Every step was literally painful as the snow collapsed underfoot and then rubbed harshly against our shins on the forward step.

Views over an unnamed lake between Aries (L) and White Rabbit (R) include Dodo and Cheshire Peak.
It’s a bloody long traverse (especially in these conditions), first to Wingnut (R) and then all the way to Canary, barely even visible at center. Continuing around this horseshoe would get you White Rabbit Peak which we thought of but gave up long before we even got near the summit of Canary Peak.

Descending off the 2nd false summit south of Wingnut Peak we realized that the original route would have worked better and much more direct than ours. Oh well – sometimes you err on the side of safety in these conditions. It took us around 2.5 hours finally reach the summit of “Wingnut Peak” – much longer and much more effort than we first thought it would be.

Wietse follows me up Wingnut Peak with the two false summits we traversed in the bg. Whelk at left with Caterpillar, Mamen at left and White Rabbit at right.
Views from Wingnut Peak include (L to R), Hummingbird Peak, Canaria, Onion, Falls Lookout, Finch, Lost Guide, Whelk, Caterpillar, Mamen, Aries, Dormouse, Dodo and Cheshire (R).

Views from Wingnut were pretty good despite the cold wind and we enjoyed them briefly before turning our eyes and feet towards the long traverse to Canary Peak. Based on our slow pace we knew that we were flirting with a much later arrival at camp than planned but were thankful for almost endless daylight hours at this time of the year. We would need all the daylight we could get today.

Wietse makes his way along the summit ridge of Wingnut Peak with the long route to Canary Peak ahead of him. Aries, Dodo, Cheshire, White Rabbit, Canary, Bramwell and Hummingbird (R) visible.

If we thought the trek up over the two false summits and then to Wingnut Peak was endless and painful, the scramble along the SE ridge towards Canary Peak was much, much worse. The winds were cooling as the afternoon waned towards evening and our feet certainly weren’t warming up or drying out in the ankle to knee deep snow either! Loose rocks and boulders hidden under the snow turned our ankles with almost every step. It was a relief to make a step without feeling physical pain because it was so rare. Almost every stride involved either a shin scrape against snow crust, a knee bang against a rock or at the very least an ankle buster on a small boulder. We had to be cautious about huge cornices to our right – it felt like full on winter conditions in runners.

Wietse makes his way slowly along the ridge towards Canary Peak. What this photo doesn’t represent is the cold, wet feet. The howling winds or the clouds that are quickly moving in.

After what seemed an eternity – it was more like 1.5 hours – we found ourselves staring up at the final few bumps to Canary Peak. It was now 17:00 and dark angry clouds were threatening from the west. We ignored those clouds and tried to ignore the ones in our own minds as we struggled to move our toes in frozen shoes and ground our way up towards our final peak of the day. Finally, at 17:40 we made the last few strides to the highest point on the massif and an empty summit register. We were the first to sign it since its placement in 2018 as a geocache. 

Views towards some of the Rockies hardest-to-spot peaks were respectable and I enjoyed naming them for Wietse who hasn’t spent quite as much time catching glimpses of them as I have over the past few years.

Views include (L to R), Bramwell, Kista, Sufi, Hummingbird, Onion, Canaria, Falls Lookout and Finch (R). Hummingbird Creek runs out at center and Canary Creek at right.
Distant views include Murchison (L), Wilson, Cline, White Goat Peaks, Elliott, William Booth (R).
Distant views include (L to R), Kahl, Perren, Fuhrer, Quill, Marmota, Noyes, Hatter, Siffleur, Corona Ridge, Murchison (R).
Views include (L to R), Finch, Lost Guide, Wingnut, Whelk, Caterpillar, Aries, Mamen, Dodo, White Rabbit, Railton and Torpor (R).

It didn’t take long and we realized we were downright COLD. It was amazing how quickly our core temperature dropped when we stopped kicking reluctant steps up endless, shitty snow slopes. It was weird how the cold started in our extremities and moved quickly to our core, first our hands started freezing, then our feet and then actual chills started announcing themselves as full body shivers. Recognizing a potential issue we decided to descend off the high ground as quickly as possible, choosing to exit via a fairly straightforward looking south gully which would take us even further around south slopes than our ascent had been. At this point we just needed to get out of the wind and off snow as quickly as possible. Worst case scenario we’d see some nice landscapes and get to camp a bit later – it really didn’t matter at this point. 

Wietse walks back down the summit ridge of Canary Peak with Lost Guide and Whelk in the distance.
The SE descent gully / bowl between Wingnut and Canary is a good bailout route. We just wanted to get out of the wind and off the snow and loose rock so we bailed!

In a common theme for the day, the south gully descent was a stumble ‘n bumble affair that hurt everything it possibly could on our lower extremities but we did get out of the cold winds and our bodies slowly warmed up as we descended. We ambled through a pretty valley coming off White Rabbit Peak and enjoyed some pretty stunning views of Aries Peak as we exiting back through the burned forest towards the South Ram Patrol Cabin. There was no more talk about ascending Aries. 

Wietse starts our long traverse through the burn back to the South Ram Patrol Cabin and our camp.

We side-hilled through the burnt forest for what seemed like a long time before finally striding back through the meadows to the cabin and back across the Ram River. Camp never looked so good as we finally arrived back in our little stand of trees with our waiting gear. There was no more talk of moving camp further up river – we were exhausted and ready to set up and take a few hours for supper and a little fire before turning in for the night. As much as I’m happy to have done Wingnut and Canary I think it goes without saying that I’d rather we had the dry conditions from a week previous for this trip. Sometimes you have to accept that conditions are crap and you have to decide what to do about it. I’m happy we pushed through and I won’t soon be forgetting this particular outing. These peaks are located in a unique and distant area of the Rockies and are well worth the effort needed to attain them.

Wingnut & Canary Peak
Wingnut Peak rises over the South Ram Patrol Cabin.
Wingnut Peak rises over the South Ram Patrol Cabin.
The South Ram Patrol Cabin.
The South Ram Patrol Cabin.
The South Ram Patrol Cabin.
The South Ram Patrol Cabin.
The South Ram Patrol Cabin.
The South Ram Patrol Cabin.
Hiking through a recent burn on the SE end of Wingnut Peak.
Hiking through a recent burn on the SE end of Wingnut Peak.
Hiking through a recent burn on the SE end of Wingnut Peak.
Hiking through a recent burn on the SE end of Wingnut Peak.
Hiking through a recent burn on the SE end of Wingnut Peak.
Hiking through a recent burn on the SE end of Wingnut Peak.
Whelk Peak.
Whelk Peak.
Crossing a gully on the SE face.
Crossing a gully on the SE face.
Views back down the gully towards Whelk Peak.
Views back down the gully towards Whelk Peak.
Views down the Ram River past Finch Peak (L).
Views down the Ram River past Finch Peak (L).
Whelk Peak.
Whelk Peak.
Dodo with Cheshire just to the right.
Dodo with Cheshire just to the right.
Wietse breaks trail up the SE slopes of Wingnut Peak.
Wietse breaks trail up the SE slopes of Wingnut Peak.
Aries Peak.
Aries Peak.
Dodo and Cheshire Peak.
Dodo and Cheshire Peak.
Scree to the first false of two false summits before Wingnut Peak.
Scree to the first false of two false summits before Wingnut Peak.
Scree to the first false of two false summits before Wingnut Peak.
Scree to the first false of two false summits before Wingnut Peak.
Whelk Peak.
Whelk Peak.
Cheshire Peak.
Cheshire Peak.
Aries (L), Dodo, Cheshire and White Rabbit (R).
Aries (L), Dodo, Cheshire and White Rabbit (R).
Almost at the first of two false summits.
Almost at the first of two false summits.
Views back to Finch (L), Whelk, Caterpillar, Mamen, Aries, Dodo and Cheshire (R).
Views back to Finch (L), Whelk, Caterpillar, Mamen, Aries, Dodo and Cheshire (R).
Aries (L), Dodo, Cheshire, White Rabbit, Canary and Wingnut Peak (R).
Aries (L), Dodo, Cheshire, White Rabbit, Canary and Wingnut Peak (R).
Views back to Whelk Peak.
Views back to Whelk Peak.
Views ahead to Wingnut (R) and Canary (L) Peak.
Views ahead to Wingnut (R) and Canary (L) Peak.
Wingnut (L), Finch, Whelk, Caterpillar, Mamen and Aries (R).
Wingnut (L), Finch, Whelk, Caterpillar, Mamen and Aries (R).
Dodo and Cheshire Peak.
Dodo and Cheshire Peak.
Mamen Peak over Aries Peak.
Mamen Peak over Aries Peak.
Wietse hikes up to the summit of Wingnut Peak on fresh snow.
Wietse hikes up to the summit of Wingnut Peak on fresh snow.
Mamen Peak.
Mamen Peak.
Caterpillar Peak.
Caterpillar Peak.
Whelk Peak.
Whelk Peak.
Whelk (L), Caterpillar, Mamen, Aries, Dormouse, Dodo, Cheshire, Hatter and White Rabbit Peak (R).
Whelk (L), Caterpillar, Mamen, Aries, Dormouse, Dodo, Cheshire, Hatter and White Rabbit Peak (R).
Finch Peak lies just to the east of Wingnut.
Finch Peak lies just to the east of Wingnut.
Falls Lookout.
Falls Lookout.
The long, slow, snowy traverse to the summit of Canary Peak.
The long, slow, snowy traverse to the summit of Canary Peak.
It's a long traverse to Canary Peak, especially in windy, cold, snowy June conditions!
It's a long traverse to Canary Peak, especially in windy, cold, snowy June conditions!
It's a long traverse to Canary Peak, especially in windy, cold, snowy June conditions!
It's a long traverse to Canary Peak, especially in windy, cold, snowy June conditions!
Wietse ascends another false summit to Canary Peak.
Wietse ascends another false summit to Canary Peak.
Wietse traverses to the summit of Canary Peak.
Wietse traverses to the summit of Canary Peak.
Views over Wingnut Peak (C) include Finch (L) and Whelk Peak (R).
Views over Wingnut Peak (C) include Finch (L) and Whelk Peak (R).
The final ascent to Canary Peak.
The final ascent to Canary Peak.
The final ascent to Canary Peak.
The final ascent to Canary Peak.
First to sign in ~3 years.
First to sign in ~3 years.
Torpor (L), Kintla, Sufi, Hummingbird, Onion, Falls Lookout, Canaria and Finch (R).
Torpor (L), Kintla, Sufi, Hummingbird, Onion, Falls Lookout, Canaria and Finch (R).
Finch (L), Wingnut, Whelk,  Aries, Caterpillar, Dormouse, Dodo, White Rabbit, Railton, Torpor (R).
Finch (L), Wingnut, Whelk, Aries, Caterpillar, Dormouse, Dodo, White Rabbit, Railton, Torpor (R).
Lost Guide Peak.
Lost Guide Peak.
Caterpillar Peak rises over Aries Peak.
Caterpillar Peak rises over Aries Peak.
Caterpillar (L), Mamen, Dormouse, Dodo and Cheshire Peak (R).
Caterpillar (L), Mamen, Dormouse, Dodo and Cheshire Peak (R).
Kahl (L), Perren, Fuhrer, Quill, Marmota, Noyes, Hatter, Siffleur, Corona Ridge, Murchison (R).
Kahl (L), Perren, Fuhrer, Quill, Marmota, Noyes, Hatter, Siffleur, Corona Ridge, Murchison (R).
Murchison (L), Wilson, Cline, White Goat Peaks, Elliott, William Booth (R).
Murchison (L), Wilson, Cline, White Goat Peaks, Elliott, William Booth (R).
Hummingbird Peak (L) and Canaria Peak (R) with Sufi (L), Onion (C) and Falls Lookout (R) in the bg.
Hummingbird Peak (L) and Canaria Peak (R) with Sufi (L), Onion (C) and Falls Lookout (R) in the bg.
Marmota Peak.
Marmota Peak.
Siffleur Mountain.
Siffleur Mountain.
Cheshire Peak.
Cheshire Peak.
Elliott Peak over Normandy Peak.
Elliott Peak over Normandy Peak.
Wietse descends to the SE bowl.
Wietse descends to the SE bowl.
Descending the SE bowl between Wingnut and Canary Peak.
Descending the SE bowl between Wingnut and Canary Peak.
Descending the SE bowl between Wingnut and Canary Peak.
Descending the SE bowl between Wingnut and Canary Peak.
Descending the SE bowl between Wingnut and Canary Peak.
Descending the SE bowl between Wingnut and Canary Peak.
Descending the SE bowl between Wingnut and Canary Peak.
Descending the SE bowl between Wingnut and Canary Peak.
Traversing out of the SE bowl back towards Aries Peak.
Traversing out of the SE bowl back towards Aries Peak.
A view back up the SE access valley.
A view back up the SE access valley.
Traversing out of the SE bowl back towards Aries Peak.
Traversing out of the SE bowl back towards Aries Peak.
Exiting back to the South Ram Patrol Cabin via burned slopes.
Exiting back to the South Ram Patrol Cabin via burned slopes.
Views of Whelk (L) and Aries (R) from camp.
Views of Whelk (L) and Aries (R) from camp.
Camp.
Camp.
Camp.
Camp.

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