After a great bivy at the lovely Lyall Tarn, Wietse and I awoke at around 06:00 to an extremely windy, cloudy and dark sky beneath the brooding rock walls of Mount Lyall. We both commented on the quality of our sleep – the night was very calm and quite warm for September and we both got over 9 hours of shut-eye. Just as forecast on SpotWX, the wind picked up fiercely in the early morning hours, and by 06:15 we were feeling rain drops outside the tent. Darn it. I seem to be getting a lot of rain on my trips in 2018!! I can only remember packing up a few dry camps this year and I’ve spent a lot of nights under the sky, as usual.
After our ascent of Beehive Mountain, Wietse, Phil and I started a delightful traverse across brightly colored alpine meadows leading under towering cliffs to the west towards the NE shoulder of Mount Lyall. Beehive Mountain had gone much quicker and easier than we expected and despite thick smoke interfering somewhat with our views, we were feeling pretty pumped about our day so far. The temperatures were more mid-summer than late, and the fall colors on the vegetation in the meadows was absolutely stunning.
Once our original plans fell through for the weekend of September 7-9 (thanks to forest fire smoke), Phil Richards, Wietse Bijlsma and I had to think fast on Thursday night to come up with an alternate trip that still satisfied on some level. Smoke from BC forest fires had already been a huge issue since late July this year and we were tiring of trying to avoid it or climbing in it. After several suggestions we settled on a few easy, but lengthy and harder to access, scrambles on the Great Divide in the High Rock Range of South Kananaskis.
I spent 2.5 days over the 2018 September long weekend on a canoe trip with two brothers-in-law (Mike and Calvin) and our sons on the Red Deer River, canoeing from Content Bridge near the Tail Creek Campground to Tolman Bridge, near the Tolman Campground. This is a fairly nontechnical, low consequence river canoe trip that is perfect for families or novice canoeists. Later in the year water levels drop to a point that you should expect to be out of your boat several times per day in order to avoid grounding on the river bottom!
After approaching and scrambling Mount Townsend, I descended its slabby summit block and down the only obvious break through its intimidating cliffs before heading along a sheep track towards Epic Tower. Initially I worried that I might have to gain and lose some elevation on this traverse, but it went much quicker and easier than I expected. Within only about 45 minutes of leaving the summit of Townsend, I was scoping out a route up Epic Tower’s SW scree and slabs to the summit.
The only “peak” remaining along the ridge after scrambling up Mount Townsend, Epic Tower and Mythic Towerwas about as unofficial as a peak can get – “Little Mythic Tower” – so dubbed by Bob Spirko back in July of 2008 while on his scouting trip to find and document the Mythic Towers mentioned by Gillean Daffern in her famous Rockies hiking guide. Some people get all technical and cautious when referring to their “formal peak lists”. Meh. Who has time for such things? I don’t even count my peaks anymore – because in the end who really cares how many I’ve done or even which ones I’ve done?
After the easy to moderate ascents of both Mount Townsend and Epic Tower, I turned my attention towards the much more involved traverse and ascent of Mystic Tower – located further south along the ridge running over impressive east-facing cliffs from Mount Townsend to Mount Fable high over Exshaw Creek below. As I indicated already in my Townsend preamble, I was not about to take Mythic Tower lightly after hearing from Cornelius that it was one of his most difficult ascents. But first I had to get there from Epic Tower and this didn’t look like a very straightforward traverse to me!
My first good look at Mount Townsend was from Cougar Peak earlier in 2018 upon reaching its summit after a fun, early season scramble in mid May with Wietse – and it looked pretty darn impressive! After getting home and doing some research I also became interested in two unofficial peaks next to Townsend along the ridge towards Mount Fable dubbed, “Epic” and “Mythic” towers.
After bailing on my original plans for the weekend thanks to an unstable weather forecast, I was sitting at home in front of my computer with a long face when my wife, Hanneke walked downstairs and said, “why don’t we go for a hike instead”? Indeed. Why not go for a hike instead of moping around the house all day? The weather for Saturday was actually looking pretty decent and despite lingering smoke from BC wildfires, a hike sounded perfect. After some fast thinking (it was already around 09:00 at this point – I’d already done an 8km walk that morning too), we settled on Grizzly Ridge in the Highwood Pass area of Kananaskis as our hiking destination for the day.
After the easy (hot and lengthy) scramble to the summit of Pyriform Mountain and its fly-covered summit cairn, Wietse and I turned our collective attention to the alluring ridge joining it to Junction Mountain. The first part of the traverse was, as expected, fast and pleasurable. This was a good thing, because we were running low on water and were feeling the effects of an incredibly hot and windless summer day up high.
Wietse and I found ourselves with a day off mid-week on August 22, 2018 and decided we should probably take advantage of the perfect weather forecast by standing on a summit somewhere. The real question was which summit should get the nod? The issue wasn’t conditions – everything was pretty much in great condition – the issue was the levels of smoke we’d encounter and the corresponding lack of views or breathing issues we’d have to deal with. After going around in circles several times, we finally settled on an ascent of Pyriform Mountain in the Highwood Range of the Rockies in front range Kananaskis Country.
After a couple of very long and full days spent on a 5th recorded ascent of Mount McConnell, deep in the heart of Banff National Park, Phil Richards and I awoke at 05:00 on Friday morning, August 17 2018 with tired bodies and minds, unsure of our abilities to ascend another peak before exiting. I was feeling much better than I had a right to be, but Phil was clearly not feeling the stoke for another peak on this particular day. His head cold from earlier in the week was back and his body and mind were not impressed with him for even considering it.
Mount McConnell is one of those peaks that got onto my mountain list somehow and just stayed hovering somewhere near the top of it but never seemed to actually get done as the scrambling seasons came and went. Why was it on my list? As one of the most remote and hard to access peaks in Banff National Park with a summit over 10,200 feet high, it is rarely done (ours was only the 5th recorded ascent) and gets the explor8ion juices flowing. Why does it not get done, even though it’s on many Rockies explorers “to-do” lists? Simple – see above. McConnell is freaking remote and freaking hard to approach!
I somehow convinced Hanneke to join me at least to North Molar Pass and we set out on a cloudy, misty morning from the Mosquito Creek parking lot, following another group of 3 hikers. The long jaunt up Mosquito Creek to the campground was made lovelier than usual with cool temperatures and a moody atmosphere. If I’m honest about it, I’m getting a bit bored with the 5.5km stretch to the campground, but chatting with Hann and it being her first time helped with the drudgery that is a flat, rooted, muddy trail along the creek.
Day 6 was the last day of the group trip and the first day of my solo effort. It was a day full of mixed emotions and excitement – most of it good and some of it a bit different than I expected. As with every good adventure worth having, my first solo canoe trip in WCPP started and ended much differently than I antcipated. I’ll pick up with a journal entry from the end of the group trip while waiting to exit the park for the outfitter pickup at the Onnie Lake entry point.
As usual for WCPP over the past few trips, all of our pre-planning kind of went out the window as the end of July 2018 approached, thanks once again to wildfires. In 2016 my plans were thwarted by both a sprained foot and a huge wildfire, this year it was just a whole bunch of forest fires that cut us back to “plan B” planning. Of course, as usual, WCPP “plan B” trips still consist of pristine wilderness, amazing landscapes, endless amounts of fresh Walleye, Pike and Lake Trout, moments of peaceful tranquility and excruciating pain and suffering, so it’s pretty hard to complain too much about them. The main impacts of changing plans last minute was that we ended up with two days that were a bit small and short compared to what we normally do.
After a ~900m descent from our Alcantara / Brussilof bivy, I was feeling pretty bagged for some reason. I think Phil was too. It sure felt good to down the cool pop we had waiting for ourselves in Phil’s SUV! Technically we had two days in front of us still at this point. We knew that Saturday was supposed to be almost 100% cloudy with no rain and Sunday was supposed to improve to sun again. We felt a wee bit burned out after our monster approach and scramble of both Brussilof and Alcantara the day before and we both wanted to turn off our brains and do something a bit easier than our originally planned 1.5 days on Mount Eon. We decided pretty quickly to do the hike into Marvel Pass and check out some of the scrambles around there.
Summit Elevation (m): 3005Trip Date: Friday, July 20, 2018Elevation Gain (m): 2000Round Trip Time (hr): 15Total Trip Distance (km): 15Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2/3 – you fall, you sprain your wrist or break your legDifficulty Notes: The approach is through BC bush with no trails – so there’s that. From alpine meadows the route is either easy or moderate depending on choice. The final few steps to the top are very exposed and loose.GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: SC5; YDS (3rd)Map: what3words There really […]
Summit Elevation (m): 3005Trip Date: Friday, July 20, 2018Elevation Gain (m): 2000Round Trip Time (hr): 15Total Trip Distance (km): 15Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 4 – you fall, you are almost deadDifficulty Notes: A difficult approach through medium BC bush followed by snow climbing, 4th class loose rock and routefinding up ledges and cliffs to the summit.GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: SC7; YDS (4th)Map: what3words Somehow, despite planning a trip into the Lyell Icefield to climb the last of the Lyells (IV) that I have […]
After scrambling Silverhorn Mountain solo on Friday the 13th of July and going to Canmore for supper with Phil and Manda, Hann and myself on Saturday, I wasn’t expecting to be going back yet again for another scramble on Sunday the 15th but the weather was just too nice to sit at home. I was surprised to be excited to go out again, but I found myself really looking forward to Mount Potts for some reason. I think I knew the approach was great and the mountain seemed like a perfect solo objective. Despite Kevin Barton making it sound almost “easy” – I knew from Grant who’d recently done it, that while it might not be technically advanced, the gully was dangerously loose.
Long before Andrew Nugara made Silverhorn Mountain much more popular than previously with his new guidebook, I’d been interested in it after reading Rick Colliers report years beforehand. Funnily enough, before I asked Brandon Boulier about his recent ascent and for a possible GPX track, I didn’t even realize this peak was in Nugara’s guidebook, but it certainly explained its recent popularity for me! Friday the 13th would be a solo outing for me and I was really looking forward to it. There’s nothing quite like enjoying a whole mountain all to yourself.
Summit Elevation (m): 2965Trip Date: Sunday, July 8, 2018Elevation Gain (m): 2400Round Trip Time (hr): 18Total Trip Distance (km): 42Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 4 – you fall, you are almost deadDifficulty Notes: A very long and tiring day including remote BC bushwhacking, routefinding, exposed ridges and steep snow with possible ice.GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: SC7; YDS (4th)Map: what3words On July 8th, 2018, Phil Richards, Eric Coulthard and I spent one of the longer days I’ve had in the Rockies scrambling and route finding […]
As we were ascending Simpson Ridge to the NW of Simpson Peak, we kept looking for possible routes that would save us time and effort in a traverse between the two. The immediate obvious one sucked as it involved losing hundreds of meters of elevation from the ridge before following a steep snow line up to the peak. Since it was 18:00 when we were finally done with the ridge, we no longer had time or energy for this option anyway. That’s when I spotted another potential route that would be much quicker if it worked. In a route-finding theme for the weekend my mountain goat senses were tingling quite accurately for once!
For years now I’ve wondered what the Police Meadows were like. There isn’t very much written about this place online and the few reports I could find that even mentioned it were quite vague. Now that I’ve been there, I seriously considered not doing a report on this area. I had to ask myself if better beta is going to ruin this place? Are hordes and hordes of backpackers now going to follow my GPS track in there, bringing all the trouble that humans bring when too many of us visit the same place? After thinking about it a while, I decided that the type of folks who bother to visit the Police Meadows after reading my description of it, will likely be the same sort of people that do their best to maintain and upkeep special places like this, rather than take advantage of them and do harm.
As of July 2018, Simpson Ridge had been on Phil and my peak hit list for more than a few years already. The main reason was an enticing comment from the indomitable Rick Collier about his second ascent of the mountain in 1996(76 years after the first ascent in 1920!). Reading that there might still be an original 1920 summit register waiting to be rediscovered put our imaginations into overdrive. We didn’t yet know about the naming confusion or the difficult and multiple attempts at the original ascent – and didn’t realize this very interesting part of the mountain’s history until after returning from our trip days later.