Gilligan & Skogan Peak

Summit Elevations (m): 2622, 2662
Trip Date: June 29 2024
Elevation Gain (m): 1400
Round Trip Time (hr): 6.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 20.5
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3 – you fall, you break something unless you fall down east cliffs. Then you die.
Difficulty Notes: Easiest lines are moderate at most.
Technical Rating: SC6-
GPS Track: Gaia
MapGoogle Maps

Way back in 2017 I scrambled a peak that had sat long on my list – Mount McGillivray. That peak ended up being much quicker and easier than expected. Much earlier than that, in 2006 I scrambled the south end of the massif – Mount Lorette. A higher peak than both of those sits squarely in between – ironically it isn’t officially named. Skogan Peak was initially planned from the Mount Lorette end, until the past few years when I came across another, more attractive option. Andrew Nugara utilized a route from Cornelius Rott to combine two unofficial peaks sitting between the official ones and I liked the sounds of it. I don’t like using up my few remaining front range, close-to-Calgary summits but as the dismally snowy early summer of 2024 reluctantly rolled into view I wasn’t left with much choice. After early season injuries, a 2-week canoe trip and family obligations I decided it was high time I bag a new (to me) summit and get summer 2024 peak bagging season officially rolling!

Gilligan & Skogan Peak Route Map. Note the lengthy bike ride and the intervening ridge – especially our highline route back to it from the west bowl beneath Skogan Peak.

As we drove into the front ranges near lac des Arc, we were alarmed at the amount of fresh snow covering the west and north slopes of Mount Collembola, clearly visible from the highway. Dang it! This “summer” has been very reluctant to get going – no doubt about that! It’s been a very frustrating early season for me. Since a wonderful set of snow ascents including Pulpit Peak, Bident Mountain and Spine Peak I could not find the motivation to chase hills and bumps in late season snow or that involved 3+ hours of driving. I couldn’t even golf for the past 7 weeks thanks to an injury. Thank goodness I recently completed a 14-day canoe trip with my daughter in June or I’d be crawling up the walls by now. Stupidly, neither Wietse or I had axes or icers to deal with all the snow. We were here now, so we unloaded the bikes from my truck and started pedaling up the Skogan Pass / Pigeon Mountain trail somewhat apprehensive about conditions at elevation.

I surprised myself by keeping up with Wietse (first time on the bike this year) and after only just over an hour we were already at the bike drop. The trail was busy for 07:00 but it was a long weekend so that wasn’t surprising. Most parties seemed to be either traversing the trail towards Kananaskis Village or hiking Pigeon Mountain. Nobody else seemed interested in bushwhacking up the intervening ridge that we were on, starting up from the bike drop. The bushwhack wasn’t terrible – we’ve had much, much worse over the years. I did get a little grumpy when we started running into snow at only around 2100 meters and got a wee bit more grumpy as we descended the NE side in snow drifts still up to knee deep. WTF?! July long weekend in very front range mountains and we had shoes and pants full of snow. #notimpressed Again – there wasn’t much to do but push on and hope for the best, so that’s what we did.

Thankfully the rock was dry as we started up the lower SW access ridge of Gilligan Peak under the crux that Cornelius mentions. We had hoped to ascend the harder terrain but with snow and ice all over the slabs it simply wasn’t practical or smart. Instead, we traversed into a west gully and kicked steps up a combo of old and fresh (!!) snow to the upper south ridge.

Views north to Pigeon (C) and McGillivray (R).
Views to McGillivray (L), Gilligan and Skogan Peak (R). The crux is above Wietse’s head here, looking snowy.

The ridge was dry and an easy, somewhat exposed traverse led us to the first summit of the day. It had only taken us 3.5 hours to this point and the weather was holding nicely. We were the first signees in the register since almost exactly a year previous. There were multiple ascents in the years right after Cornelius published the route. I’m going to have to call it the “Cornelius’ Effect” now. 🙂 Some folks mentioned long traverses to Gilligan from McGillivray or Heart Mountain which was interesting.

Summit views include (L to R), The Towers, Baldy, Mary Barclay’s, Midnight, Skogan, Kidd, Bogart, Collembola, Lougheed and many more Kananaskis peaks.
Summit views north include (L to R), Lougheed, Rimwall, Wind Ridge, Big Sister, Pigeon, Grotto, Gap, Fable, South Ghost, Goat, Yamnuska, Heart.

Skogan Peak looked fierce all day already – plastered in snow and rising steeply over the approach ridge. We knew from Nugara’s description that it was easier and closer than it appeared. The south ridge just under Gilligan Peak surprised us with some decent exposure. Most of it would have been easily avoided without snow on the west slopes but we stuck right to the dry ridge crest for the most part. I found this section very enjoyable.

Wietse climbs past the window on the traverse to Skogan.

From the first col we moved quickly up the north ridge of Skogan Peak. Where it made sense we traversed easy rubble and slab to a more westerly ridge and steep slopes to the summit. I was surprised how easy the whole traverse and ascent of Skogan was – especially with snow.

Views up the north ridge of Skogan with dramatic cliffs dropping to the east. Twin Towers at left.
Dramatic views up the north ridge of Skogan Peak. Thankfully not as hard as it looks. The snow gully we descended at center – not nearly as steep as it looks here.

It took only around 45-50 minutes to do the entire traverse – definitely worth a 2nd peak if you haven’t done Skogan yet! Skogan provided the best views of the day, not a huge surprise given its height over many surrounding peaks. Heart Mountain looked tiny from this summit as did Yamnuska, Mary Barclay’s and Baldy.

Traversing the upper north ridge of Skogan Peak to the summit with dramatic views east to Barrier Lake.
Summit views include (L to R), Lorette, Fisher, Wedge, Kidd, Ribbon, Bogart, Allan, Collembola, Lougheed, Big Sister, Pigeon, Grotto and Gilligan (R). Our descent route at lower center photo down to the right on snow.
Summit views include (L to R), Skogan, Gilligan, Goat, Yamnuska, Heart, Grant MacEwan, The Towers, Barrier Lake, Baldy, Mary Barclay’s, Lorette and many others.

Originally while ascending Gilligan Peak we assumed the snowy NW bowl under Skogan would be way too steep and dangerous to attempt without axes / icers / crampons. From the summit of Skogan, however, the slope angle eased way off, so we headed down steep slab and scree to the col below. The snow wasn’t quite as supportive as you’d think considering it’s now SUMMER, but it worked as an easy, quick exit. We chose a highline traverse above the west bowl back to the intervening ridge in order to minimize our total height losses and gains which worked out beautifully.

A quick descent of the intervening ridge brought us to our bikes. As we prepared for the quick ride down a pair of hikers approached and said, “Hi Vern”. At first I had no clue who they were and then Mike took his shades off and I realized it was the famous scrambling and skiing pair – Mike and Liz! Ironically I haven’t scrambled with them since almost exactly 7 years earlier on Divide Mountain in 2017 – the peak I did just before McGillivray.

Views out of the west bowl with our traverse line at left above tree line to the intervening ridge. Gilligan at upper right here.
Looking back to the impressive line of cliffs below Gilligan (L) and Skogan (R).

They were heading up Gilligan Peak and were delighted and relieved to hear that it would go easily even with all the fresh snow. No ascents for a year and then 2 in the same day. Strange how that happens! The ride back to the parking lot was a blast – and very quick. Less than 20 minutes after starting out we were already done. This is definitely an approach worth biking, even if you don’t have an eBike like some people. 🙂

I highly recommend this outing for parties looking to ascend some relatively obscure front range peaks close to YYC. Our round trip time of under 6.5 hours is reflective of a steady pace with short breaks, but most folks should be able to complete this trip in 8 hours or so. The bike approach combined with easy access through light forest and a feeling of remoteness considering the location made this a surprisingly enjoyable outing for me. But then again, I was getting kinda desperate.

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