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Whimper Peak

Summit Elevation (m): 2883
Trip Date
: Saturday, June 11 2022
Elevation Gain (m): 1120 from camp at Trident Lake
Round Trip Time (hr): 6.5 from camp at Trident Lake
Total Distance (km): 12.5 from camp at Trident Lake
Reference Trip
: Adventures at Trident Lake
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2/3 – you fall you sprain something.
Difficulty Notes: A remote but fairly straightforward hike and scramble.
Technical Rating: SC5; RE5
GPS Track: Download
Map: Google Maps


After waking up in light rain and mist at our remote campsite above Trident Lake, Phil and I made preparations to ascend Whimper and possibly Snarl Peak located to the SE directly across from us. It wasn’t ideal to pack up in light rain, but we were expecting morning showers and it was warm which helped mitigate any fears of crazy conditions. Although our summit was in morning clouds, we could see patches of blue overhead as we walked out of camp at around 07:00. As we marched onto the Clearwater Trail leading towards our first river crossing of the day – Martin Creek – Phil came up short and exclaimed, “what the heck is THAT?!”. Phil often says stuff like this and mutters to himself all the time about “stuff” so initially I ignored him. When he started down the trail the wrong way I knew something had to be up so I reluctantly tagged along.

A detailed route map of our camp at Trident Lake with our routes up Whimper and Malloch. Note the three rivers (Martin Creek, Clearwater River, Roaring Creek) forming the three prongs of the “Trident” spear with the Clearwater River downstream of Trident Lake acting as the handle.

That’s when I saw the dead rabbit. It wasn’t the dead rabbit that was the real puzzle, animals die all the time in the real world. It was the dead mouse laying right in front of the rabbit on the trail that was concerning. Neither animal had signs of trauma but both were laying there as if carefully placed only meters from our tents! Very strange, but we had peaks to bag and things to discover so we turned around and marched back up the trail, pondering aloud what the heck could be going on here. Theories ranged from coyotes to wolves to witches to farts but none really satisfied as we continued to debate the issue along the trail to a lively sounding Martin Creek.

 
Martin Creek plunges towards Trident Lake just downstream of the Clearwater Trail crossing.

After a short detour to check out the very scenic Martin Creek on its way down to Trident Lake we arrived at our first crossing of the day. We knew we had three main river crossings just to access the NW slopes of Whimper and we had no idea what to expect. Interestingly, all three form the spears of the “trident” that is Trident Lake with the Clearwater River downstream of the lake being the handle. The Clearwater Trail crosses Martin Creek very close to its source – Martin Lake. As we approached the unbridged crossing it looked pretty darn tame and we breathed our first sigh of relief before plunging into the cool, clear water. Remember – Phil and I don’t generally carry any form of water crossing gear.

 
The Clearwater Trail crosses Martin Creek just downstream of Martin Lake – visible through the gap at right.

We simply hike across anything we encounter in our approach shoes and hiking clothes and today was no different. We had rain pants over our hiking pants but that obviously didn’t help much with waterproofing from below! Soon after the easy crossing we plunged down to our left in light forest, leaving the Clearwater Trail for our 2nd and most concerning river crossing of the day – the Clearwater River. As we approached the inlet of the river to Trident Lake we were encouraged to see it widen and slow down here. Of course it also got deeper! It was kind of neat to find evidence of a very old camp on the shore before scouting our crossing. We decided to simply start wading at the widest point and hope for the best. I’ve never waded a river up to my butt before, but I guess there’s a first for everything… The water was very slow moving or this crossing would have turned us back for sure. As it was, we had to search around a bit in order not to go waist deep but we found a way through.

We are off trail and ready to cross the Clearwater River just before it enters Trident Lake at left under Mount Malloch. Snarl Peak and Whimper Peak at right.
The clouds and rain form a dramatic landscape with the Clearwater River at left and Trident Marshes at right.

We exited onto scenic marsh flats at the south end of Trident Lake just as the rain let up and the sun started peeking through the clouds. Whimper Peak started showing its summit and all was good in the world as we made our way along the interesting landscape towards our 3rd and final river crossing of the morning – Roaring Creek.

Phil enjoys the incredible atmosphere at the back of Trident Lake.

The marsh wasn’t nearly as bog-like as we expected and sooner than later we were tramping our way along a very lively Roaring Creek living up to its name. The creek didn’t look very difficult to cross and it wasn’t. But dang it – it was bloody cold for some reason! Compared to Martin Creek and the Clearwater River our feet felt numb after the short crossing. We were excited to see the falls at the end of the creek and without lingering we started up obvious open slopes just to the north of the creek which promised some nice views of the falls and access to our ascent line.

Sure enough! Just as promised, the shoulder route worked perfectly, granting us great views of the impressive Roaring Creek Falls below and a direct and mostly bushwhack-free access to the NW ascent line I’d spotted from camp the evening before.

Roaring Creek plunges over a waterfall (L) before flowing into Trident Lake (R). Martin Creek valley at distant center.
Phil hikes along Roaring Creek towards our planned route up the lower NW end of Whimper Peak. We’ll follow the obvious line of trees above Phil to the left here to gain the ridge above.

The next few hours were very pleasant hiking and easy scrambling with stunning views slowly opening up in every direction as we ascended. The sneaky line through lower cliffs on the NW end of Whimper could not have worked out better. After ascending light forested slopes we found ourselves on very steep dirt and rocks that reminded me of Hawk Mountain in Jasper National Park.

 
Lovely views back down our ascent from Roaring Creek. Note the rainbow over Martin and Trident Lake at right.

It didn’t take long on this direct route and we were at treeline with our first views up the lovely, wild, Roaring Creek valley. I can’t think of a more remote valley in Banff National Park than Roaring Creek, unless maybe its neighbor to the NW – Martin Creek. I’ve travelled some bloody remote terrain in the park before but this is next level stuff. There is no easy access into this area. There are 3 main access routes;

  1. Via the Red Deer River, bushwhacking up McConnell Creek like Phil and I did in 2020 before cutting up a side valley and hiking to the headwaters of Roaring Creek.
  2. Starting from hwy #93 up the Mosquito Creek Trail, you can ascend steeply over Quartzite Col and through the Clearwater Pass before descending downriver to Trident Lake like Sara McLean did on her solo Martin Creek loop in 2020.
  3. Then there is the Cutoff Creek option which will test your biking and endurance in a unique manner on the bike – this is the route we took on this particular trip.

Obviously there are slight variations of these routes that folks have taken, including the option to hike the headwaters of Martin Creek like Phil and I did in 2020. All of these options involve planning, tenacity and a good sense of adventure and explor8ion. Put it this way – they are much wilder and more remote than “popular” remote hikes such as Recondite Peak or even Mount Alberta’s access route. Rick Collier took 5 days just to approach and tag Mount Malloch from hwy #93 back in 2000 and he was no rookie when it came to wilderness travel or bagging remote peaks!

Incredible views up Roaring Creek to some of Banff’s most remote terrain. Peaks include Smoky Mountain, Marak, Goodair and Little Cataract Peak.

The mid to upper west ridge of Whimper Peak was even drier than we’d dared to hope it would be. This was likely due to the fact that I carried crampons. If you bring gear, you won’t need it. If you leave the extra gear behind, chances are you’ll need it. That’s how nature works right? In any case, we enjoyed mostly solid rock and increasingly wild views as we made our way slowly up the mountain.

Finally, around 4 hours from camp we found ourselves with no more elevation gain ahead and no obvious cairn indicating previous ascents either. There were some rocks just under the summit that could have been the remains of a very old cairn so I’m certainly not claiming an FA on this one. There is a good chance that the 1919 geological team ascended here to garner views of surrounding peaks but I can almost guarantee that very few folks have stood on this particular summit over the past few thousand years. Summit views were great to the east and somewhat muted everywhere else thanks to lingering clouds but the scene was wild and I almost prefered a bit of mystery that the clouds provided.

L to R, Malloch, Caterpillar, Whelk, Wampum, Indian Lookout, Snarl, Lost Guide, Peters, Forbidden, Condor, Bellow, Howl and Smoky.
Incredible views up the Roaring Creek valley include Smoky Mountain (L), Goodair, Drummond, Cataract (in clouds) and Little Cataract.
Great landscape colors in this view over Snarl Peak (L) to Lost Guide, Sentry and Mount Peters.

We briefly considered descending the east face of Whimper to gain the Snarl col but chose to be wise and avoid the steep, unprotected snow slope. There was still the matter of not knowing which summit on Snarl was actually the highpoint but it was becoming more and more obvious the longer we looked at it that the highest point was also going to be the hardest and most technical one to attain. As we started down west slopes and took in the amazing views up Roaring and Martin Creek we chatted about the rest of our day. It was becoming obvious that even though the weather was definitely improving, the day was also slipping by quicker than we’d expected. It turns out that travelling in untracked terrain, crossing unbridged rivers and ascending unknown peaks takes a bit longer than tramping up Prairie Mountain for the 60th time in a year. Who knew?! 😉 

Incredible views up the Roaring Creek valley include Smoky Mountain (L), Goodair, Drummond, Cataract (in clouds) and Little Cataract.
Mount Harris finally starts showing at upper left. The Martin Creek valley at center with Martin Lake showing its incredible colors. The peaks at center and right are unnamed.

After deciding that we would definitely tackle what was increasingly being referred to as the “false summit” of Snarl Peak we looked a rapidly clearing Mount Malloch across the valley and changed our minds yet again. This is what I love about adventures with Phil. He’s always willing to change his mind (even multiple times per hour sometimes) if conditions and possibilities justify it. Our main objective of this trip was always Mount Malloch. Despite the remote possibility of ascending it very early on Sunday morning before tackling the long exit, we knew this was a desperate move. The weather forecast called for a major rain / snow event to move in on Sunday afternoon and we knew the horrors of the Clearwater and North Cutoff Creek Trails when soaking wet. Since we likely wouldn’t even be tagging the true summit of Snarl Peak and since Mount Malloch was no longer in clouds the decision to abandon the lower peak for the highest one was easy. 

 
Phil hikes along Roaring Creek above the falls. Mount Malloch is now free of clouds above him to the left.
The sky is clearing as we hike down Roaring Creek. Mount Harris at upper center and Malloch at distant right.

We descended our ascent line from the west face to the lower NW shoulder before hiking out along Roaring Creek with blue skies overhead and tiny purple Primrose wildflowers under foot. I’ve been dreaming of visiting this area for many years since reading Rick Collier’s trip report on the area and it was sublime to finally be putting footprints next to this beautiful stretch of water. We retraced our approach across the ice cold Roaring Creek before wading ass-deep across the Clearwater River and finding the trail back. A brief stop along Martin Lake on the way back provided a few moments of bliss that almost had us taking a long nap in warm sunshine to the sounds of waves gently lapping the shoreline below. What a heavenly spot! There is no doubt that I’ll be back here to enjoy this pristine landscape again. It’s pull is going to be way too strong to ignore for long.

 
The lovely Martin Lake has to be one of Banff’s most remote large lakes. Mount Harris looms over it at center distance with its unique red cliffs.

A short walk back to camp after crossing Martin Creek ensued, with a quick check on the dead animals nearby. The mouse was now gone but the rabbit remained, staring with empty eyes down the trail and giving us the heebie-jeebies when we thought about the poor thing. After a brief, rejuvenating lunch and bevvie we packed up once again and headed off to another adventure on Mount Malloch.

Whimper Peak
74 photos
Two dead animals show up next to each other on the trail near camp overnight.
Two dead animals show up next to each other on the trail near camp overnight.
A raging Martin Creek just downstream of the hiker crossing.
A raging Martin Creek just downstream of the hiker crossing.
Hiking through Martin Creek.
Hiking through Martin Creek.
Hiking through Martin Creek.
Hiking through Martin Creek.
Hiking the Clearwater Trail before hitting the bush down to the river.
Hiking the Clearwater Trail before hitting the bush down to the river.
A deep crossing of the Clearwater River.
A deep crossing of the Clearwater River.
A deep crossing of the Clearwater River.
A deep crossing of the Clearwater River.
A deep crossing of the Clearwater River.
A deep crossing of the Clearwater River.
The Clearwater River flows into Trident Lake.
The Clearwater River flows into Trident Lake.
Hiking the Trident Lake marsh flats towards Roaring Creek.
Hiking the Trident Lake marsh flats towards Roaring Creek.
Hiking along Roaring Creek.
Hiking along Roaring Creek.
Hiking along Roaring Creek.
Hiking along Roaring Creek.
Phil hikes up the lower NW end of Whimper Peak along Roaring Creek.
Phil hikes up the lower NW end of Whimper Peak along Roaring Creek.
Roaring Creek Falls.
Roaring Creek Falls.
Roaring Creek Falls.
Roaring Creek Falls.
Roaring Creek plunges over the falls before running towards Trident Lake at right.
Roaring Creek plunges over the falls before running towards Trident Lake at right.
Phil hikes along Roaring Creek towards the NW end of Whimper Peak.
Phil hikes along Roaring Creek towards the NW end of Whimper Peak.
Hiking steep NW slopes on Whimper Peak.
Hiking steep NW slopes on Whimper Peak.
We found a sneaky route up the NW side to avoid extra distance up Roaring Creek.
We found a sneaky route up the NW side to avoid extra distance up Roaring Creek.
Views back over Roaring Creek to Martin Lake.
Views back over Roaring Creek to Martin Lake.
A rainbow over Martin Lake.
A rainbow over Martin Lake.
Unnamed peaks at the head of Roaring Creek.
Unnamed peaks at the head of Roaring Creek.
Mount Harris over Clearwater Lake.
Mount Harris over Clearwater Lake.
Martin Lake.
Martin Lake.
Huge walls of rock up Martin Creek.
Huge walls of rock up Martin Creek.
Ascending the west ridge.
Ascending the west ridge.
The Roaring Creek valley at left, Clearwater River at center and Martin Creek at right of center.
The Roaring Creek valley at left, Clearwater River at center and Martin Creek at right of center.
Ascending the west ridge.
Ascending the west ridge.
Ascending the west ridge. Views to Mount Malloch.
Ascending the west ridge. Views to Mount Malloch.
Phil ascends the west ridge of Whimper with Martin Lake in the bg.
Phil ascends the west ridge of Whimper with Martin Lake in the bg.
Martin Lake.
Martin Lake.
Phil ascends the west ridge of Whimper with Martin and Trident Lake in the bg.
Phil ascends the west ridge of Whimper with Martin and Trident Lake in the bg.
Ascending the west ridge.
Ascending the west ridge.
Phil on the summit of Whimper Peak with the Roaring Creek Valley below.
Phil on the summit of Whimper Peak with the Roaring Creek Valley below.
Views over the multiple summits of Snarl Peak.
Views over the multiple summits of Snarl Peak.
Lost Guide, Peters and Forbidden over Snarl Peak.
Lost Guide, Peters and Forbidden over Snarl Peak.
Bellow, Howl and Smoky Mountain (R).
Bellow, Howl and Smoky Mountain (R).
Views up Roaring Creek valley past Smoky Mountain at left to Marak, Goodair and Cataract Peak.
Views up Roaring Creek valley past Smoky Mountain at left to Marak, Goodair and Cataract Peak.
Without snow there is a possible route down the east face to Snarl Peak.
Without snow there is a possible route down the east face to Snarl Peak.
Mount Harris in clouds over Clearwater, Martin and Trident Lake.
Mount Harris in clouds over Clearwater, Martin and Trident Lake.
Mount Malloch in clouds.
Mount Malloch in clouds.
Caterpillar Peak at distant left.
Caterpillar Peak at distant left.
Whelk Peak.
Whelk Peak.
Lost Guide over Snarl Peak.
Lost Guide over Snarl Peak.
Condor Peak in the distance.
Condor Peak in the distance.
Bellow Peak.
Bellow Peak.
Impressive outliers of Dip Slope Mountain west of Whimper.
Impressive outliers of Dip Slope Mountain west of Whimper.
Descending Whimper Peak with wild views up Roaring Creek.
Descending Whimper Peak with wild views up Roaring Creek.
South Tower, Crown, Willingdon and Harris over Clearwater Lake.
South Tower, Crown, Willingdon and Harris over Clearwater Lake.
Views to Cataract Peak's east face.
Views to Cataract Peak's east face.
Martin Lake.
Martin Lake.
Roaring Creek, the Clearwater River and Martin Creek form the spears of the trident.
Roaring Creek, the Clearwater River and Martin Creek form the spears of the trident.
Wild views up Roaring Creek include Smoky (L), Marak, Goodair and Cataract Peak in clouds.
Wild views up Roaring Creek include Smoky (L), Marak, Goodair and Cataract Peak in clouds.
Goodair Peak.
Goodair Peak.
Mount Harris at upper left, all other peaks unnamed.
Mount Harris at upper left, all other peaks unnamed.
Martin Lake is surrounded by many impressive, unnamed peaks.
Martin Lake is surrounded by many impressive, unnamed peaks.
An unnamed peak in the upper stretches of Martin Creek.
An unnamed peak in the upper stretches of Martin Creek.
Descending the NW end of Whimper Peak to Roaring Creek.
Descending the NW end of Whimper Peak to Roaring Creek.
Views back to our ascent slopes from Roaring Creek.
Views back to our ascent slopes from Roaring Creek.
Views along Roaring Creek.
Views along Roaring Creek.
Primrose along Roaring Creek.
Primrose along Roaring Creek.
Hiking above Roaring Creek.
Hiking above Roaring Creek.
Hiking above Roaring Creek.
Hiking above Roaring Creek.
Roaring Creek drains over the falls towards Trident Lake at right.
Roaring Creek drains over the falls towards Trident Lake at right.
Roaring Creek Falls.
Roaring Creek Falls.
The Clearwater River with Malloch, Snarl and Whimper visible.
The Clearwater River with Malloch, Snarl and Whimper visible.
Crossing the Clearwater River upstream of Trident Lake.
Crossing the Clearwater River upstream of Trident Lake.
Lost Guide Peak over Trident Lake.
Lost Guide Peak over Trident Lake.
Mount Harris over Martin Lake.
Mount Harris over Martin Lake.
Mount Harris over Martin Lake.
Mount Harris over Martin Lake.
Crossing Martin Creek.
Crossing Martin Creek.
Crossing Martin Creek.
Crossing Martin Creek.
Martin Creek flows out of Martin Lake at the hiker crossing.
Martin Creek flows out of Martin Lake at the hiker crossing.
A very old fire ring.
A very old fire ring.

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