Aires Peak

Summit Elevation (m): 2682
Trip Date: Saturday, August 27 2022
Elevation Gain (m): 800 (from South Ram River Trail)
Round Trip Time (hr): 2 (from South Ram River Trail)
Total Trip Distance (km): 5.5 (from South Ram River Trail)
Reference Trip: Exploring the Upper Ram River
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain something
Difficulty Notes: Easy scrambling. 
Technical Rating: SC5, RE5
GPS Track: Gaia
MapGoogle Maps

After waking up at 04:00 and hiking down the South Ram River Trail in the dark, Wietse and I were finally ready to tackle the south slopes of Aires Peak at around 07:00 on a very dreary Saturday morning. I say “ready” but I was a bit noncommittal to this ascent for some reason. I had my reasons, of course. One was simply that we’d already had a fantastically successful few days on Dodo, Cheshire and Dormouse peaks despite an inaccurate weather forecast and some spotty rain and gropel storms. Another was the current weather – very cloudy with obvious rain in the near future.

Even the lowly summit of Aires was intermittently in clouds. The last was even more simple. I was tired! I’ve done some big trips already in August 2022 and I haven’t been as healthy as I’d like while doing them. I seem to have a long term cough and cold that refuses to die. (It’s not like I’m exactly resting my body, to be fair.) But the peak was “right there” and so were we, so at this point my whining (mostly) ceased and we started wading the river flats to some willowy slopes leading up the lower south ridge.

Upper Ram River Trip 2022 Route Map

Near the bottom of the willow slope I stumbled on an animal trail which was awesome. Not so awesome was the angle of this lower section of the route – it was damn steep! Being soaking wet from overnight storms didn’t help our grip much and soon we were seriously struggling. The good news was that by the time we finally got onto the south ridge proper we were already a few hundred vertical meters up. From here the route continued to be fairly steep – so steep that I knew it must level off soon since the peak was still very distant. 

Brilliant fall colors are showing on the shallow south ridge of Aires Peak with the summit a LONG way off. An outlier of Whelk Peak at right over the Ram River valley. Finch Peak at center distance.

Finally the angle eased and the hiking because downright pleasant. The alpine grasses were turning into their brilliant Fall coats as I set a fast pace towards the depressingly distant summit. Now that I was up on the south ridge I was determined to beat the obvious storms moving in from the west and north. The upper Whiterabbit Creek valley was holding a pretty good storm that seemed to be moving a wee bit closer every time I glanced over at it. I increased my pace. The views back down over Wietse and the expansive alpine meadows on Aires south aspect were pretty sweet even with the weather moving in.

Threatening weather as Wietse and I work our way up the massive south slopes of Aires Peak. Whelk at left, Dodo at right.

After only around 45 to 50 minutes from the start of the scramble I was already side-hilling around a small bump just SW of the peak. I started the final grind to the summit, determined to beat the rain that was now very close. It seemed to take much longer but only around 1 hour 12 minutes from leaving the Ram River I was on top of Aires Peak, watching clouds and rain move in quickly! Wietse soon joined me and we quickly signed Eph’s register before descending back down to the south ridge.

Summit views include (L to R), Canary, Wingnut, Canaria, Finch and Whelk (R). Whiterabbit Creek at left and the Ram River at right.
The Ram River valley at left leading towards Caterpillar, Indianhead Pass, Ram Glacier and Cheshire. Whiterabbit Creek at right running past Hatter, William Booth all the way to the Ex Coelis peaks.

In a surprise to no one at all, it started dumping rain on us soon after leaving the summit of Aires Peak. Once again on this trip we’d avoided the worst weather while sneaking in an extra summit. Thankfully the steady rain didn’t start until later, we still managed some great views on descent.

Brilliant fall colors are coming out in the alpine as we descend to the south ridge of Aires. Whelk at left, Dodo at right.

Within 2 hours of leaving our overnight packs along the South Ram River Trail we were back at them, proving that Aires really is just an “add on” peak. On hindsight I’m glad that we ascended it – it was the one bright spot on an otherwise very challenging and dreary day. 

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