You know it’s been a long winter when Phil and I go up a treed bump with no summit views after work in April. To be fair it was 13 degrees outside as we parked near the municipal building in the small hamlet of Exshaw. Kids were roaming the streets playing their after school games and the sounds of birds chirping over top of happy kids, playing in the warm afternoon sunshine was very pleasant.
It had been a while since Phil and I had gotten up to anything and when plans for a big backcountry ski day in the Rockies fell apart thanks to an unpredictable weather forecast, we started looking at hiking / scrambling alternatives. At first we settled on a repeat of Midnight Peak with a bit of a traverse for Saturday, April 14.
After skiing to the summit of Mount Field the day before, I was ready to enjoy another perfect winter day on skis before returning back to the drudgery of another work week in the concrete jungle. Since I haven’t been out much on the snow sticks this winter, I was certainly feeling a bit stiff the evening before! On our drive to Mount Field, Wietse had pointed out the East Ridge of Panorama Ridge to me and I thought it was the perfect winter solo ski objective for elevated avalanche conditions – provided I could drag my butt out of bed early enough.
Finally on March 10 of 2018 I managed to ski a peak that’s been on my hit-list for many years. 13 years ago, I’d scrambled Mount Field in Yoho National Park from a weird approach (the Stanley Mitchell Hut) with the infamous Dave Stephens. Since then a lot of my mountain friends had skied the peak from the opposite side and highly recommended it to me. Of course, because I’m a peakbagger I don’t normally like to repeat summits, but if the mode and route of the peak being bagged is completely different, it can be worth a second trip. In this case it was certainly worth it.
I was getting a bit antsy after spending too much time in the concrete jungle for the past few weeks and decided, against my better judgment, to join Phil on a dubious snowshoe ascent of the mighty Kent Ridge, South Peak on Sunday, January 21, 2018. The trip promised to be more tolerable thanks to the addition of a few more people to assist with trail-breaking – Robin and Ryan agreed to join us for some reason or another. I didn’t even know where this minor peak was, to be honest, until Phil mentioned Bob had done it. After some deliberation, however, we decided to follow a more southerly route than Bob’s, mostly due to the avalanche rating of ‘considerable’.
Quartz Hill has been on my radar ever since I first skied the Sunshine Meadows way back in 2007 with a large group trip up Twin Cairns. Well, almost exactly a decade later and I was back for my first real attempt. I briefly considered scrambling up the ridge while backpacking along the NE face of it on my way towards Howard Douglas Lake and Citadel Pass back in the fall of 2016 but a closure forced me to reconsider that idea.
I have a bit of a thing for meteors for some reason, and I’ve tried capturing photos of them before. The last time I made any real effort was a bit of a bust. I lugged camping gear to the top of Vent’s Ridge back in May of 2014 to attempt to capture a purported 1,000 meteors per hour from the rare Camelopardalid meteor shower.
Already on the ascent to the south ridge of Kink Peak, my eyes were turning towards the surprisingly impressive form of Fallen Peak (Sheep Meadow Mountain). Phil, predictably, agreed with me to make it our second objective of the day. After a great ascent of Kink Peak, we found ourselves looking up at the ~250 vertical meter ascent, trying to pick the best line. We decided to stick right on the ridge as long as possible since it was almost snow-free. This plan worked even better than expected.
I wasn’t totally feeling it when Dr. Phil contacted me regarding a possible scramble for the Remembrance Day weekend, 2017. The weather looked pretty good for a front range peak and even promised light winds for once, so eventually he wore me down with his incessant texting and I agreed to slog up something just to make him happy. Ok, ok, I was kind of in the mood for a nice day out and with the wx looking so lovely, it was hard to say no despite my SAD disposition. After the usual flurry of invites were sent, it was Wietse, Raf, Dave, Phil and I who were joining forces on the front range Kink Peak.
After grunting my way up Serendipity Peak, I didn’t linger long in the fierce winds at the summit but turned my attention quickly towards a distant looking Patterson’s Peak. Actually, my first glance towards Patterson’s made it appear much closer than I was expecting. It’s not until I actually started descending to the Pyriform S5 / Patterson’s col that I realized it was further than I first guess. Typical.
After several weekends in a row of very low motivation, I finally felt the call of the mountains again as the last weekend of October 2017 approached. My apathy the weeks previous had been mostly due to typical fall conditions – hurricane force winds in the front ranges, despite warm temperatures. I’ve done a lot of front range hikes and scrambles in these conditions and they’re never as fun as you imagine they’ll be when planning them. It’s like peak bagging in Waterton. The peaks are always more enjoyable afterwards, when looking at the photos without the wind trying to blow you off the peak!
With the upcoming Thanksgiving long weekend and some unexpected days off work beforehand, I was looking to take advantage of a pretty nice wx with a scramble or two before the snow starts to pile up in earnest around the Rockies. Lucky for me, I received an invite from Cornelius and Trevor inviting me for a jaunt up the relatively obscure front range mountain, “Castle Rock”.
After approaching and ascending Cyclone Mountain the day before, Phil and I woke up to a frosty but clear morning on Friday, September 29 2017. After Phil took a few hours to collect soil samples from Douglas Creek, we packed up our camp and headed back along the trail towards the core Red Deer Lakes area in the Skoki backcountry of Banff National Park. Our destinations for this glorious fall day were Pipestone Mountain and Merlin Lake. These two things are not very close together, in case you were wondering.
Over the years, Dr. Phil and I had been eyeing up a couple of easy ascents, rising over the Red Deer Lakes in the Skoki backcountry of Banff National Park and on the western edge of the Drummond Icefield. When we finally scrambled up Mount Drummond in late September, 2015, our interest in Cyclone Mountain and Pipestone Mountain increased. In late September 2017, it was finally time to go check them out a bit closer. Rick Collier details a trip that he and Mardy Roberts did back in June of ’92 where they traversed from Pipestone to Cyclone Mountain as a day trip.
On Wednesday, September 27 2017 I was joined by Trevor Boyce for an easy hike and traverse of Odlum Ridge, deep in Kananaskis Country just east of the Continental Divide and south of Highwood Pass. Our plan was to take advantage of the great weather with views of larches and aesthetic mountains in the background. We were not disappointed! Why such a tame objective? First of all, this was our first time out together. Trevor is the person responsible for getting Cornelius Rott into scrambling. After recently scrambling Lougheed I with Cornelius, I was keen to meet the guy who’d gotten him so interested in our favorite pastime.
Summit Elevation (m): 2820Trip Date: Monday, September 25, 2017Elevation Gain (m): 1700Round Trip Time (hr): 7.5Total Trip Distance (km): 15Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 1 – you fall, you are sillyDifficulty Notes: No difficulties other than having the motivation to slog to the summit after presumably already scrambling nearby Mount Howard Douglas.GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: OT3; YDS (Hiking)Map: what3words After a delightful easy / moderate scramble up Mount Howard Douglas, it was time to add a second peak to my day. Why? Don’t ask. […]
As I started my annual week off in late September 2017, I didn’t know what I was in the mood for. The weather wasn’t fabulous, but it wasn’t horrible either. Being solo, I didn’t really feel like a huge day – not to mention Phil Richards and I had some pretty big plans for later in the week and I didn’t want to ruin those with too big a day already on Monday. Of course, being September, I wanted larches to be part of the landscape. I’ve often looked at Mount Howard Douglas, either while skiing at the world class Sunshine Village resort, or from various trips nearby such as The Monarch, Ramparts, Healy Pass or Twin Cairns.
After a long outing the week before to the Egypt Lakes area and a somewhat gloomy weather forecast, I decided to play it safe on Saturday, September 23 2017 with a nice fall hike on the western edge of the Lake O’Hara region in Yoho National Park. Wietse decided to join me on this venture. I found Consummation Peak while perusing the ViewRanger Landscape maps in areas that I knew had larches. There was only one trip report online for this minor summit and it seemed to be exactly what I was looking for – something fairly low (not in the clouds) and easy (there was fresh snow).
After completing the long approach trek up Healy Pass and then Whistling Pass and the subsequent ascent of Lesser Pharaoh Peak (don’t forget about “Tiny” Pharaoh), Phil and I grunted our way back up Whistling Pass and set our now-tiring bodies towards Scarab Lake and the diminutive and unofficial Sugarloaf Mountain. I haven’t been able to find out where “Sugarloaf” comes from, but it’s on enough references to be official enough for me to bag and claim it. We noticed quite a few people on the main Pharaoh Peak above us as we passed under it on our way back to the Scarab Lake turnoff.
With larch season comes great responsibility for the Rockies hikers, scramblers and photographers. The responsibility comes from having two weekends (at most) to take advantage of the very limited and short-lived phenomenon of what’s commonly called,
On Sunday, September 10th I joined Cornelius Rott for a jaunt up a Kananaskis peak that’s been on my to-do list for many years now – Mount Lougheed I. 2017 has been all about getting out and trying Rockies adventures that have been on my mind for years and never got around to for some or another reason. Originally Phil was going to join us for another (longer) objective, but plans changed so I asked Cornelius if he was interested in Lougheed. As we’d never done a trip together before, you might be surprised that we choose a difficult Nugara scramble for our first outing. I wasn’t worried because in looking at his web site you realize pretty quickly
On Saturday, September 02, 2017 I completed one of the most dangerous mountain ascents of my life and was only the 8th recorded ascent of a peak that is very distinct and recognizable and highly visible from a major highway corridor (#93) and yet not very well known in the climbing or scrambling community. I was joined on this dubious adventure by Wietse and Phil. OXO peak has been on Wietse’s radar for several years. I remember discussing it with him for at least 3 or 4 years, since he first saw a Rocky Mountain Rambler’s trip report on it in 2013.
Despite the odds that seemed to be stacked against us, and lingering doubts, Ben and I finally completed our Sisyphean Odyssey to the summit of Mount King Edward on a beautifully clear and pleasant summer day on August 28, 2017. After three attempts, driving a total of approximately 36 hours, hiking 105km and climbing over 6,500m of elevation in pursuit of this peak, it was supremely rewarding to finally stand on the top. Ferenc Jasco joined us in our quest and was a valuable contributor to our eventual success. As any follower of this blog will know by now, Mount King Edward has been a thorn in my side for a few years now.