Summit Elevation (m): 2703
Trip Date: August 12 2022
Elevation Gain (m): 1150
Round Trip Time (hr): 7.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 23
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3/4 – you fall, you are either hurt or worse
Difficulty Notes: The crux is a short, exposed step on the north ridge just under the summit block.
Technical Rating: SC6+; RE3/4
GPS Track: Download
Map: Google Maps
I remember years ago while scrambling Mount Niles with brother Rod, looking at the line of cliffs that formed Mount Ogden and thinking how cool it would be to climb something along there. I even mentioned the ridge as “impressive”. Fast forward many years and I’m spending a cold winter day perusing another of David P Jones’ books – Rockies West. Page 65 mentions a peak called “Wolverine”. A cool name for a cool peak I suppose. There is no mention of the original ascent party or much in the way of beta other than, “head up the NW branch of Sherbrooke Creek to the col and turn left along the ridge”. Yet again the rating is the generic “everything” rating of F 3rd. Considering the beautiful area I made this peak a priority and added it to my list. When researching the route further I found reference to an Auditor Peak on bivouac.com which also didn’t mention first ascensionists. Friday August 12 found me still recovering from a stiff summer cold and rib injury. I decided it was time for a nice hike in Yoho National Park and a stab at Wolverine Peak.
After driving up hwy 1 to the Sherbrooke Lake parking lot I started up the trail in warm morning sunshine. This August has been incredibly warm and sunny and today was no different. Even more surprisingly there was no forest fire smoke in the air. The hike to the lake was more height gain than I remembered but went by quickly on a good trail. I met a group already leaving the lake – they were presumably there for sunrise photos.
Sherbrooke Lake was perfectly calm in early morning shadows as I hiked the rustic trail along its east shores. The trail past the south end of the lake is unofficial and evidence points to the fact that it’s not maintained by Parks Canada. As the trail became tighter to the vegetation I realized how soaked it was! Thanks to the lake the moisture beside it and along the creek was so soaking wet that after a few minutes I was as wet as if I’d jumped in the darn thing.
After passing Sherbrooke Lake I started up what I call the “Niles Meadows Trail” up Sherbrooke Creek. A lovely waterfall plunges down towards the lake as the trail ascends steeply through old forest. It was here that I first came across trees fallen across the trail and more evidence that this section is not maintained. The trail braided around the fallen trees which looked like they’d been there a while. It was a beautiful morning as I continued to ascend in silence. I missed this silence on my family vacation in July! I crossed a wet and willowy meadow before plunging back into an even wetter forest. I was getting a wee bit grumpy with how soaking wet and cold I was but then I remembered I wasn’t at work and my attitude improved a bit. As the trail ascended steeply past another cascade of Sherbrooke Creek I branched off it and started ascending a steep gully to treeline along the NW branch. I was drying off quickly as I exited the forest and took in wonderful views down valley.
My first look at Niles and what I assumed was Wolverine gave me a start. It looked dang exposed along a knife edged ridge high above the valley floor. As with any peak in the Rockies they tend to look impossibly hard from a distance but break down figuratively and literally the closer you get, so I kept moving.
At first I was confused by the terrain ahead of me. There was a col between a couple of unnamed peaks sitting between Niles and Wolverine that seemed out of place with my beta and planned route. As I ascended a helpful patch of snow the route opened up and I realized I needed to crank a sharp left to gain another col between my peak and outlier to the NW of it.
Once I was off the snow the rubble to the col was pretty awful. The fact that it was on slabs made some sections a little tricky. When I finally crested the col my jaw dropped. The north ridge of Wolverine looks pretty darn impressive the first time you lay eyes on it from up close!
I was doubting the “F 3rd” rating as I made my way up the north end of the north ridge of Wolverine Peak. Looking ahead the ridge looked fierce in places with incredible exposure to my left down to meadows below. As I progressed up the ridge the scrambling became better and better and soon I was smiling ear-to-ear and enjoying the heck out of a perfect summer day in the Waputik Range.
Although the ridge was very exposed down one side, the other side consisted of a mix of scree sidewalks and ‘only’ small drops that likely wouldn’t damage a human too much. Scrambling on the ridge was so much fun that I didn’t even consider getting off of it.
As I ascended the ridge I noted how solid the rock was in most places where it needed to be. I still had to be careful on a few of the more exposed sections – this is still the chossy Rockies afterall. Every time I thought the ridge couldn’t get more fun or more exposed it did. My views of the Sherbrooke and Little Yoho valleys on either side were incredible.
As I neared the summit things got a bit more serious. There were no more options to avoid the ridge even if I wanted to. A tricky little down climb made me turn inwards and use some solid(ish) holds to carefully lower myself. A shorter person would likely find this section problematic but it’s not terribly exposed. Immediately after the down climb the ridge steepened before finally slacking off to the summit. There was no cairn that I could see – not even a partial one. I’m sure I was not the first one up this prominent peak in a popular area but I don’t think very many folks have been here over the years.
Summit views were stunning, as expected. There’s a reason this peak was on my priority 1 list and that was for the views. The fact that it was such a great scramble was purely a bonus. I could see the busy Takakkaw Falls parking lot far below on the Yoho Valley side of the ridge. I had the whole upper Niles Meadows to myself on this gorgeous summer day.
There were so many familiar peaks visible from Wolverine, I spent some time on the warm and windless summit remembering many previous trips. I built a cairn but didn’t have a register so simply left it at that. Reluctantly I decided it was time to head back. Descending the ridge was almost as much fun as climbing it had been. I tried detouring onto the scree a few times and to the col lower down but regretted it. It was slow going and not nearly as much fun as the solid ridge was.
From the col I descended back into the land of flowing water, green vegetation and millions of wildflowers. I decided that to switch things up a bit I’d try to exit on the Niles Meadows Trail rather than trace my approach off trail. This was likely not worth it from a timing perspective but it was a neat little detour with some wonderful views.
On descent to Sherbrooke Lake I really noticed how many fallen trees there are over the Niles Meadows Trail. I started counting and lost interest at two dozen, so there’s more than that. Thankfully the soaking wet vegetation from the morning had dried in the intense summer heat that was now full-on.
Walking out along the lakeshore I reflected once again on how privileged I am to enjoy spontaneous trips like this. There are many people in Canada right now yelling at me how I have no more freedoms and how my rights are all gone. There are so many pissed off people and it confuses the hell outta me. I’m sorry but I just can’t see my life in such an angry, distrustful way. I see a beautiful, free country that is flawed because humans are flawed, but this doesn’t make me a prisoner or disadvantaged. The very fact that I can leave my front door, jump into a vehicle that I own, fill it up with gasoline and drive to a random mountain trailhead without restrictions proves just how free I am. The fact that I can hike solo in the beauty of the Canadian Rockies without worrying about bombs falling on my house or a job just makes me one of the very lucky ones on this planet. Call me naive but I can’t feel oppressed or disadvantaged with all these good things in my life. I can only feel extremely grateful and happy to live in such a free and beautiful country. I think if more people spent time hiking in our clean air with our clear views they would be a lot less angry about their lives. But that’s one man’s opinion.
Wolverine Peak is one of the best stiff moderates that I’ve done in the past 5 or 6 years or even longer. A wonderful, scenic approach on a good trail followed by some of the best exposed hands-on scrambling in the area should elevate this peak on any Rockies scrambler’s list.