Andy Good & Chinook Peak

Summit Elevations (m): 2660, 2639
Trip Date: Friday, September 11, 2023
Round Trip Time (hr): 7.5
Elevation Gain (m): 1800
Total Trip Distance (km): 22.5
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3 – you fall, you break something
Difficulty Notes: No major difficulties, some route finding to keep things moderate.
Technical Rating: SC6
GPS Track: Gaia
Map: Google Maps

Four years ago I drove to the Crowsnest Pass and did an easy 3-peak day on Phillipps, Ostracized and Sentry peaks. A year before that I was also in the pass in September, that time on Mount Coulthard and McLaren. Of course I’ve done many other hills and peaks in the area since, especially when Covid shut down major parks forcing us to hike less regulated areas. The last time I was near the pass in 2020 I had a wonderful traverse over Piitaistakis, The Dog, Livingstone South and Morin Peak. I have love / not-so-much-love relationship with this heavily used area of the Alberta Rockies. In some ways you can’t get more opposite to the types of trips I normally find myself on over the past 5 years or so. In other ways, however, this area is ideal for solo day trips from Calgary. I love the drive down hwy 22, I love the easy access to trails and I generally like the trails too. 

I’ve had an idea for a few years now, to replicate a trip that So Nakagawa did years ago when he ascended both Andy Good Peak and Chinook Peak from the Ptolemy Creek and Andy Good Basin trails. Looking at the stats and considering a bike approach, I saw no reason why I shouldn’t easily be able to treat this as a day trip from Calgary and so that’s what I planned. With a few days off at the beginning of September I finally decided to make the trip happen on the very first day of the month.

Andy Good Peak and Chinook Peak Route Map.

The drive was long and familiar but not in a bad way other than the fact that I woke up extremely tired. Crap. I yawned my way all the way down hwy 22 and through the small towns dotting hwy 3 east of the pass before finally turning up the access road running past Island Ridge. I parked at the trailhead for Ptolemy Creek where John from Cochrane was just preparing for his day. After a brief chat I donned my pack and splashed across the creek right from the parking area with bike in tow. Yup. Wet feet literally from the parking lot on this one! The next 50 minutes were spent getting just over 5 kilometers up Ptolemy Creek. In case you didn’t notice that’s VERY SLOW. This 5kms took longer than it normally takes to bike 14kms up the Cascade fire road!

After ditching the bike I hiked down a very steep track back to Ptolemy Creek before crossing it and heading straight back uphill. I was very happy to be off the bike at this point and only got happier about it the higher I hiked. The trail remained bloody steep for a while and the vegetation closed in tightly. This wasn’t really an issue but I did get a little wet from overnight condensation and a very foggy start to the day. Eventually I grunted my way up one last steep hill and found myself at the bottom of the huge SW rubble slopes of Chinook Peak with hazy views up into the Andy Good Basin.

This happens to me more often in the Crowsnest Pass area, but I have to admit that the Andy Good Basin took me by surprise. In a good way. The valley felt more “BC” than I expected, with a cheerful stream running below and soaring rock walls along one side. It was much smaller than I thought it would be and I could already see my first peak and the access col to it. The next hour or so was a delightful hike on a wide ATV track, winding its way to treeline towards the col. I felt very alone in the small valley and it was nice to be here on such a quiet, beautiful day.

As the ATV track ended I wondered if I was in for a bit of a rubble slog to the col. Nope. A highway in the scree quickly became visible running up towards the col. I was surprised as So doesn’t mention it but I found out as I looked back from the SW ridge of Andy Good that this trail continues from the col to the Andy Good Plateau. I easily followed the trail before scrambling up to the col and taking in nice views back over my approach valley.

Lovely morning views back down the Andy Good Basin and my approach route with Chinook Peak rising right of center.

From the col the route was bloody obvious – head up the SW ridge! I found the slabs on the easy side of “moderate” but there is some exposure and route finding so I’m comfortable with the SC6 rating on this one. Mostly I stuck right on the ridge crest except for one sharp crest which I avoided on climber’s right. I really enjoyed the relatively easy and quick ascent and within 3 hours of leaving the truck I was on my first summit.

Views were nice from the top of Andy Good, with clouds to the east and great views of some local Flathead Range peaks. I was surprised there was no summit register in the cairn.

Very nice summit views include (L to R), Coulthard, McGladrey, Pengelly, Ptolemy Plateau, Ptolemy. The valley below at C-L is the Andy Good Creek valley.
Clouds to the east with Crowsnest Mountain peeking above at left over the summit of Mount Parrish.
L to R, Ptolemy, Andy Good Basin, Chinook and Parrish.

After taking in the views, I easily traced my steps back down the SW ridge to the col. I was a little tempted by the gorgeous looking Andy Good Plateau – I knew there were some interesting caves there – but I still had Chinook Peak to ascend so I started down from the col. At this point I was also a little tempted by Mount Parrish but I knew that it was much harder than it appears and talked myself out of that silly idea.

A beautiful late summer day in the Andy Good Basin with fall colors starting to show as I work my way back towards Chinook Peak.

It didn’t take long and I was back on the ATV track, headed back downhill. Originally when I planned this day I was assuming that I’d have to return all the way back under the giant SW rubble slopes of Chinook before ascending it. On approach to Andy Good, however, I noticed to my relief that I could almost certainly shave off 400 meters of re-ascent simply by traversing above the trail and above treeline on relatively straightforward scree and grass slopes. The idea worked even better than expected. I crossed one large gully but other than that it was all pretty easy stuff. I even found a few goat tracks to make things easier.

Within 90 minutes of the Andy Good col I found myself staring up at the upper rubble slopes of Chinook Peak to the “notch” that So also mentions as a key landmark target to the summit.

I know a lot of folks hate hiking and scrambling up loose terrain and I get why but some days I don’t mind it. It’s hard to think about work or any of life’s stresses as you put one foot in front of the other on loose rubble for a few hundred vertical meters. It’s meditative in a way – and the SW slopes of Chinook offer a lot of meditation! Near the notch the terrain steepened considerably and got too loose even for me. I bailed to climber’s right and ascended a series of small ledges with running water making them a little more slick than I preferred. Instead of wandering up ledges before hitting the notch, I simply hiked all the way into it before turning up the upper west summit ridge.

The ridge was more engaging then I expected, although most difficulties were easily avoided on scree and slabs to climber’s right with careful routefinding. When I neared the summit block I traversed under it (climber’s right) before ascending scree and looping back to gain the top.

Views east and south include (L to R), McLaren, Parrish, Coulthard, Andy Good and Ptolemy.
Views over the Crowsnest Pass area include (L to R), Ostracized, Sentry, Phillipps, Tecumseh, Crowsnest, McLaren, Parrish, Coulthard and Andy Good.

After taking in familiar summit views – the clouds had cleared but now smoke was rolling in – I returned along the ridge and took advantage of the huge SW rubble and scree slopes all the way back to the trail.

Views down the huge SW rubble slopes of Chinook down to the trail with Mount Ptolemy rising above.

I returned to my bike, happy to be in shaded forest now that the summer sun was beating down on me. The ride was quick back to the road – much quicker than the approach thank goodness!

Despite the height gain and the two summits I was a little surprised that the day took as long as it did. I wasn’t racing but I certainly wasn’t just sitting around either. I guess between routefinding and loose slopes I must have traveled a bit slower than usual or something. The long bike approach was also a surprise but I was definitely happy to have the bike on return as it was fun and fast riding. I highly recommend combining these two objectives from Ptolemy Creek – they align nicely and end up being a worthwhile day trip from Calgary.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.