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Chronological Explor8ions – The Blog

Trekking along McConnell & Roaring Creeks

This trip lived up to everything I thought it would be. A fantastic backcountry adventure in pristine landscapes, exploring some of the last remaining untouched and largely untraveled wilderness along massive Cambrian Cliffs of the Alberta Rockies along the source streams of two of Banff National Park’s major drainages – the Red Deer River (McConnell Creek) and the Clearwater River (Roaring Creek). Thanks as usual to Dr. Phil, the trip planning guru and to me the routefinding drill master dragging us up peaks along the way. As long as our bodies and life allows, I’m sure we’ll continue to stumble and bumble our way into new corners (for us) of the Rockies somewhere or another – as rare as those corners seem to be getting.

Kilmarnock & O’Rourke, Mount

Some days in the hills turn out far better than expected given the forecast conditions. Other days turn out exactly how you thought they would given the forecast conditions. This day was one of the latter. We knew before getting out of bed that morning that we’d have clouds and thick smoke all day and yet we both still decided to go for it. Was it 100% worth it? Nah. Not if I’m totally honest. On the other hand, I can’t say I hated this outing – it had moments of beauty and fun like any other. In the end I won’t overthink it but I also will try to take the lesson learned that sometimes it’s better to simply stay in bed a little longer and do something else when the forecast promises doom & gloom.

Puma Peak (Palliser)

It was incredible to exit that huge south face of Puma Peak, knowing the route not only went – but went very smoothly. We relished in the success of our day, slowly wandering back to the dried up lake and making our way down alpine meadows to the upper stream. As I rode the familiar 14 kilometers back to the Lake Minnewanka parkway, I meditated on how darn lucky I am to be free to do whatever adventure motivates me, pretty much whenever I can. Life goes by very fast and I am grateful for the Rockies and the sense of exploration they still offer in a modern world with very little true “unknowns” still there. Now I just have to hope my poor body can keep up with my spreadsheet as I continue to seek these adventures out. 😉

Wardle, Mount (Fuhrer Route)

What a great little scramble! Mount Wardle felt much easier than I expected but not in a bad way. The views off the south ridge were incredible and don’t get mentioned (or seen) in trips up the bushier SW ridge. I highly recommend this mountain and this route if you are a capable Rockies scrambler. If you are looking to up your game from moderate to difficult terrain with some route finding, this would be a great objective to try. Exposed, but not too difficult and you should never feel like you’re in danger of dying with a tiny slip – you’re off route if that happens.

Cuthead Peak

Cuthead Peak was a very good outing for many reasons. The campout with a cheery fire and good company, getting out on another obscure peak with Phil and fun, challenging scrambling on the summit block. There are very few reasons why any hardcore Rockies scrambler / backpacker shouldn’t have this one on their list.

Skye Peak (Beauty Creek, Wilcox Lake)

A whopping 9.5 hours later we finally reached hwy #93 and hiked the last 500 meters to an extremely busy Tangle Falls parking lot. There is no way it should take this long for us but we were obviously tired after a massive effort the day before and ended up choosing a pretty silly route. Skye Peak itself is well worth a trip, but learn from our experience and simply ascend south slopes directly from Wilcox Lake or traverse the NW ridge from Tangle Pass if you’d rather do a loop. The views from the summit and south ridge are unique with the hidden Sinkhole Lake and Wilcox Lake visible. This area would make for a stunning fall hike IMHO.

Struan, Wurzburg & Andover (Beauty Creek)

On July 27, 1893 while scouting a new pass to the Athabasca, Rockies explorer Arthur P. Coleman and his brother Lucius, joined by Louis B. Stewart ascended an unnamed peak over 3100 meters rising over the headwaters of Beauty Creek. If one of Canada’s earliest and most prolific Rockies explorer – who traversed these mountains before trains made the whole thing much easier – says a peak as one of the “finest panoramas in the Rockies”, you should probably sit up and take notice. The problem is – what peak is Coleman referring to exactly and how the heck could I get there?! Good questions. I have a source that claims this peak is sitting at GR870–936 and bivouac labels it as “Andover Peak”, named after the town in Massachusetts where another early Rockies explorer, Walter Wilcox received his education. Reading Coleman’s description of the ascent from a camp near the headwaters of the Brazeau River I can’t say for 100% that this is the peak he and his party ascended on that snowy July in 1893 but after standing on its summit I can assure you that it does, indeed, sport one heckuva fine panorama! But of course, I’m once again getting way ahead of myself.

Fuhrer, Mount

Wietse and I had originally planned to ascend Mount Heinrich as part of a two day exploratory excursion up the Siffleur River trail. I use the word “exploratory” intentionally – there was very little beta available to us on this route and almost none that was recent. It seems like most folks avoid this end of the Siffleur Wilderness Area and the day before, while approaching Siffleur Mountain, we found out why! I knew that Heinrich was likely an easy ascent from the Siffleur River and only knew of one recent ascent from the Escarpment River by Sara McLean in 2021. As we ascended the easy and vast south slopes of Siffleur Mountain I kept looking back across the Siffleur River valley to a slightly more dramatic and higher looking peak just south of Heinrich. Mount Fuhrer sounds a bit ominous at first but it’s named for Heinrich’s brother Hans and their family name. I’m not sure why “Mount Hans” wasn’t an option?

Siffleur Mountain

I don’t like to admit it, but there’s a unique thrill to opening a Rick Collier summit register 20 or 30 years after he last closed and placed it in a rock cairn in the middle of nowhere. I’ve had my fair share of these rare occurrences, but I’ve also narrowly missed out on more than a few of them over the years. You know you’ve done something reasonably difficult when nobody else has bothered doing it for 3 decades! I’ve written about the end of true discovery in the Rockies before, but opening a summit register that hasn’t been seen for 30 years makes me think that not everyone has done everything just yet. It’s silly to feel like this in 2023 but sometimes I think I was born 150 years too late. Moment like these fulfill me in ways my desk job never, ever will. 

Elch Peak (Stud, GR851-335)

Descending the braided horse trails down the Ya Ha Tinda meadows in late afternoon lighting brought back many pleasant memories from this special area of the front range Rockies. Every time I think I’m almost finished with it, the landscape drags me back out! I don’t mind. There are certainly worse places to return to and worse memories than these stored in my old noggin. As I followed a horse wagon back along an incredibly dusty Tinda road my thoughts turned to how much more popular this area is now than it was when I first started visiting it almost a decade ago in November 2014. It hasn’t gotten less beautiful as a result – thankfully – but finding a summit as quiet as Elch has certainly gotten harder. I highly recommend combining Elch and HH89 with a camp in upper Scalp Creek. The only downside of this idea is that you will not get to walk the shores of Forbidden Lake like I did, unless you do a much longer loop back along Forbidden and Skeleton Creek to exit.

Screed Peak (GR796–032)

I highly recommend this peak for anyone who’s traveling the area and has a half day on their hands. I bet the views are grand enough to even justify it as a stand alone day trip – but I don’t know for sure.

“HH89” (Totem, GR831-380) Peak

The first thing I noticed while standing on the 2904m summit of the remote and rarely ascended Forbidden Peak was its loftier neighbor lying immediately to the SE. What was this larger unnamed peak and could I ascend it? For some reason the idea obsessed me and for the next week I did some research to find out more. Bivouac gives it a very technical and drab sounding moniker, “HH89” or it could be known by its coordinates, “GR831380”. It turns out someone else named it too, but I wouldn’t find that out until later. I thought the Bivouac name actually suited this peak just perfectly. It’s obscure and meaningless except to the half-dozen or so folks who might know about it.

Cutoff Peak

This will be one of those early summer trips that sticks with me for a while. I highly recommend this area for folks wanting to get out of the busier Banff and Lake Louise areas of the Rockies to experience a different kind of quiet. The kind that you have to earn and the kind that sticks with you long after you arrive home again.

Forbidden Peak

I couldn’t believe I was standing on top of Forbidden Peak – only 7 hours from the truck! Phil’s ascent line couldn’t have worked better, making this peak surprisingly accessible considering how darn remote it is. Thx again Phil! I owe you man.

Trap Peak (Lineham Creek, EH70)

This was one of those days that is pretty much perfect. What more do you need than a relatively unknown route, wonderful bluebird skies, a goat breaking in a track for you to follow to treeline and a fun scramble with great 360 degree views at the top? Not much. I highly recommend this route for competent scramblers looking for something fairly straightforward with a little less popularity than other nearby peaks.

Windsor Mountain (Castle Peak)

I’m not 100% sure when I first spotted either Castle Peak or Windsor Mountain but it must have been early in my scrambling career when I first started traveling hwy 22 to the Castle area north of Waterton National Park. I loved this trip way more than I expected and it should be on every Rockies scrambler’s list for its varied landscapes and incredible views.

Woodland Caribou – 2023 Canoe Trip – Johnson Lake

Another epic journey into the heart of Woodland Caribou Provincial Park in NW Ontario, Canada. This time Hanneke – my partner of 26 years – came along. The trip included all of the standard WCPP experiences from scorching heat to shivering cold. Cute otters and beavers to very un-cute black flies and mosquitoes. Lovely landscapes with sunsets over the boreal forests and blackened burn areas. Easy portages and nightmare ones. And of course, incredible fishing. In the end we both agreed we couldn’t have asked for a better trip and will definitely be back for more!

Abraham, Little

Despite the light bushwhacking and unofficial status of this peak, Little Abraham was a surprise for both Wietse and I. We kept exclaiming on ascent how much fun it was compared with our expectations. This is another great 1/2 day objective in DTC and something that should interest most scramblers.

Tessa Peak & Landslide Ridge

I highly recommend this easy hike to anyone with half a day on their hands and some energy in their pockets. Don’t underestimate the height gain or the angle – this is a bloody steep hike! The views at the top (and even very part way up) are more than worth the heartbeats you will expend on route.

Gates of the David Thompson

Wietse and I took advantage of a dry spring to ascend this small peak between Mount Wilson and Cline that didn’t feel quite as “small” as we were expecting.

Temple, Little

On Monday, April 21 2014 I joined Steven Song for an alpine ski tour up Little Temple in Lake Louise, Banff National Park. On Friday March 31, 2023 I repeated the trip with Wietse Bylsma under very similar conditions – cool and cloudy with questionable ski conditions.

Poltergeist Peak

What a day! Thanks to Jay and Sara for putting up with a “less-than-100-percent” me and thanks to Jay for toughing it out of a nasty little situation in the river. Many folks would have called it a day at that point, but that’s not the way JW is wired. This was a great suggestion for a dry(ish) winter ascent and I’m glad that I was part of it.

Welcome to Explor8ion!

Welcome to explor8ion! I hope that my adventures can inspire you to complete your own – whether they are following my footsteps or creating new ones of your own.

Backcountry Gear for Dummies

There’s a lot to be said on the topic of backcountry gear after 25 years of tripping. I want to stress that these are all just my opinions and my personal experiences – yours will be different and only you can decide where you chose to follow a similar path to mine or forge something that looks quite a bit different. I also have to mention that if you are new to the backcountry it’s better to pack a little bit of extra gear rather than get into trouble with too little. Experience has to be earned, there are no shortcuts for that. In the end we’re all just trying to get away from the stresses of everyday life and into the calm of the wild. However you choose to do that must suit you and must satisfy the very reasons you’re out there in the first place.

Barrier to Gable Mountain Traverse

What a day! I can’t think of a more appropriate or better way to end the main 2022 summer season. This trip has it all and requires the exact set of circumstances that we used to complete it. A very highly recommended trip for parties that can move quickly through typical Rockies terrain with a light pack. Just make sure you’re well-hydrated before leaving that valley floor towards Barrier Mountain!