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Category : Activity

Shoulder Peak (Black Ridge)

Immediately after completing the trip I felt flustered with it. I thought it was messy and not really worth it. Going through my photos and video a few days later I realized that actually this was a wonderful adventure. Not all expeditions work out as neat and efficiently as planned. Our “bike until you cry” mantra was bound to bite us eventually and this was one of those times. Who cares? That’s what it’s all about. Nobody actually thinks plodding up and down all these piles of scree is worth anything do they? It’s all about getting out and experiencing another day of unknown trails, valleys, creeks and beautiful landscapes in the Canadian Rockies. If that takes a little blood, sweat and tears every once in a while it only makes the results that much more satisfying.

Davidson, Mount

I highly encourage this outing for folks who don’t mind backcountry biking and a sense of adventure. It doesn’t get much better than this, honestly. The riding is MUCH easier than other front range accesses such as the Cutoff Creek / Clearwater River and the Ram River approaches are. I would say this is a perfect test excursion for those other areas. If you love this, you’re ready for the other, even more remote rivers and headwater valleys that the front range Rockies have hidden from the average traveler.

Jewell Peak (Twin Towers)

While nabbing Skogan Peak the weekend before, Wietse told me about a route he’d heard of for the unofficial “Twin Towers” or as I prefer, “Jewell Peak”. He’d followed it a few weeks previous and shared the track with me. Two things interested me about this route as opposed to the more commonly used traverse from Grant MacEwan Peak. First – it utilizes a bike approach which always gets my interest. Second – it avoids a difficult down climb or tedious by-pass from Grant MacEwan Peak. A third – albeit minor – bonus was that I didn’t have to tag Heart and Grant MacEwan again. I highly recommend this route for people who don’t want to bother with the more convoluted Heart Mountain / Grant MacEwan traverse or prefer a bike approach to walking. I do NOT recommend it for anyone with a fear of light streamwhacking or medium sized black bears.

Gilligan & Skogan Peak

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.

Îyâ Mnathka (Mount John Laurie, Yamnuska)

When I set out to repeat Yamnuska two decades after my last visit, I wasn’t sure what to expect. As I wandered into the busy parking lot I realized that I shouldn’t have waited so long! I plan to add this easy-to-access peak to a more frequent group of so-called, “training peaks” which includes easy front range objectives such as Prairie, Baldy, Wasootch, Ha Ling and Yam. We live so close to these gems, why not get out some summer evening and get some training in while enjoying fun scrambling, good trails and incredible scenery? A highly recommended peak for aspiring scramblers properly equipped.

Spine Peak

This was another wonderful day in the hills, spending time under a brilliant blue sky with incredible views in every direction. I highly recommend this peak as a winter / spring objective with the usual caution that you will be spending a lot of time in avalanche terrain and should come prepared for that. The last two weekends have been a little different than I’m used to, traveling in a much larger group than I normally do and experiencing all the pluses and minuses that this entails. I had a great time meeting new folks with tons of mountain experience and hope to get out with any of them again some day.

Bident Mountain

In 2007 I made my first attempt at Bident Mountain, looming high over Consolation Pass and Lakes in Banff National Park. Bident sits lower than its neighbor to the west, Quadra Mountain and higher than its neighbor to the east, Mount Bell. It took almost 17 years, but finally on April 13 2024 I stood on both summits of Bident, tackling them from a completely different direction by a completely different method. Instead of a rock ascent, this one would be on snow.

Pulpit Peak

After years of planning a late summer ascent of Pulpit Peak, I slowly switched my plans to a winter ascent instead. On March 24, 2024 Wietse and I managed to make this happen on a glorious bluebird spring day in the Rockies.

Ochre Spring Peak – Ski Tour

Despite the very poor ski conditions on most of the route, we still enjoyed the workout and the few short minutes of bliss on the upper mountain. A day spent at elevation with views of some of the Rockies most incredible peaks is never a waste of time. Still worth getting outta bed early for.

Goat Mountain (Jura Creek)

I greatly enjoyed the Goat Mountain scramble route from Jura Creek. What’s not to like for the typical Rockies scrambler? It’s an hour from YYC and there’s zero bushwhacking via a scenic canyon and creek approach. After that there’s good, fun, moderate slab scrambling followed by an interesting, sneaky route to more moderate slab and ridge scrambling to the summit. There’s absolutely no reason to mess about with exposed 5th class scrambling or ropes on this peak if you don’t want to. I took my time the whole day and only took 6.5 hours, so it even gets you home easily on time for supper. This was a very solid A+ way to end my 2023 scrambling season on a high note and make me look forward to 2024.

Cross & South Ghost Peak

I returned to the empty parking lot 11 hours after leaving it – just as the sun continued setting to the west. I really enjoyed this trip. It had just the right amount of distance, route finding and varied terrain to be interesting without being “too interesting”. It was the perfect way to possibly end my 2023 scrambling season before snowfall renders anything other than easy bumps done for the year. I agree with Cornelius that it feels like a long way out there when you’re standing all by yourself on the summit of South Ghost Peak but on this particular day that was exactly what I was looking for. I highly recommend this trip for experienced and fit parties – just remember your headlamp if you’re planning it for late season like I did.

Gibbon Pass Peak (Vista, Arnica, Twin Lakes)

I enjoyed this hike quite a bit. It’s very similar to something like Healy Pass / Egypt Lakes or the Skoki Lakes area but much shorter. I’ll admit that I was a wee bit disappointed in the lack of larches almost the entire way until just below Gibbon Pass but this isn’t unlike many other larch marches in the Rockies. If you are a fit hiker and don’t mind a 25km day with over 1600 meters of gain, than this trip is definitely for you. I would time it a week better than I did to catch the larches at their prime but this is always a bit of a “hit-and-miss” game.

“Vista Peak” (Arnica)

Yes, Vista Peak is unofficial, lowly and unremarkable in almost every way. BUT. Its location made it worthwhile for the boundary commission over 100 years ago and it should make it worthwhile to you as well. With a trail leading up through the worst of the bush and an easy route with stunning views from there and from the top, I think it should be on most Rockies hikers and scramblers hit lists.

Allenby, Mount (True & False)

Mount Allenby is a trip I won’t soon be forgetting. I can’t recommend the south ridge as a scramble due to its disturbingly loose and exposed nature. I’ve noticed a trend on Social Media where folks with limited technical climbing experience are confidently giving 5th class ratings to their scramble routes. I won’t do that, but I’ve been up enough mountains to know what’s safe and what isn’t. Mount Allenby’s south ridge is not a safe place to be, no matter what technical rating you might attach to it. When holds are falling into the abyss underneath you and moves are made downwards to avoid pulling critical holds off the mountain as you ascend it, this is cannot be called safe terrain. I certainly used some of my luck coins on this trip. The hike up Bryant Creek and into the upper Mercer Creek valley with its larch forest was beautiful and exactly what I needed out of one of my last trips of the year before snow starts falling in the Rockies.

Prairie Mountain for Dummies (NEW EDITION!)

After hundreds of laps on Prairie Mountain, I wanted to write a short article on the do’s and don’ts and tips and tricks for folks who might be headed to this small peak for the first time. This is called a “dummies guide” rather than a “beginners guide” for a reason. As an endless user of the mountain and various of its trails, I have some advice for those who might not realize they are behaving in ways that degrade the experience of myself and the hundreds of other hikers who come after them. The advice all comes down to one thing. Please. Don’t be a dummy.

Onion, The (Summer Route)

It was nice to see so many folks out enjoying a beautiful late summer day. Bow Lake has gotten more and more popular as a summer destination – likely overflow from a way-too-busy Lake Louise area. It deserves the attention but for those who want a little more peace and quiet with a lot more views, The Onion is a great escape.

Takakkaw Peak

Takakkaw Peak is like many other peak in Yoho National Park. It’s incredibly scenic with far reaching views over glaciers and snow fields to other, very scenic peaks. As someone who has ascended almost every named peak in the park I can assure you that this one is well worth the effort to attain but oddly in this case it’s not really about the peak itself. Sure! It’s always nice to stand on another high point and remember so many other trips to all the high points surrounding you, but in this case Takakkaw Peak is about more than the top. The Angel’s Staircase Falls are incredible in their own right and as Liz warns – they add a significant number of minutes to your day due to terrain and scenery that begs to be gawked at constantly. The views of Takakkaw Creek and Lake from the south end of the south ridge are well worth a slight detour and cost more minutes. The scenery over the Balfour and Daly Glacier is the icing on the cake, as are the views of the Iceline Trail and Little Yoho Valley from a vantage that is fairly unique to the area. Put it this way – we were very surprised by the amount of time this “small peak” took us, despite Liz’s warning that it would happen. This is a trip to take your time on and let the magical landscape that few others can get to soak into your soul to linger a while.

Profound Peak (Simpson) & Mount Osgood

Despite tagging both summits, Profound and Osgood will not go down as my favorite ascents of 2023, simply due to my silly routefinding mistakes on both peaks. Some days are like that – I just wasn’t on top of my game for whatever reason.

Mount Antevs (Anteus)

Mount Antevs was a lovely afternoon ascent with no pressure to go quick under a perfect late summer sky. I was expecting it to be the easiest peak of the weekend based on Rick’s assessment and it was.

Abstruse Peak (Mount Perren)

Abstruse Peak is like many other big, remote peaks I’ve done this year. The ascent was almost anticlimactic compared to the getting to the base of it but the views and the remoteness more than make up for the simple route to its lofty summit. At only 47 meters shy of the magical 3353m mark it is the highest peak I’ve ascended in quite a while.

In the Footsteps of Sergeant Kowalski (Laughing Bears Creek)

Laughing Bears Creek will always stand out in my mind as a quintessential Rockies backcountry adventure. I’ve been planning and dreaming of it for so many years, it had the potential to disappoint but instead it exceeded even my best ideas of what it might be. It will stand out as one of my favorite trips of all time and certainly a highlight of 2023.

Zeke’s & Whistling Rock Peak (Schiesser’s Apex)

Doug Lutz recently scrambled the entire north ridge of Whistling Rock Peak and reported back a straightforward descent down west slabs to valley bottom. I knew I had to give that route a try since there was no way I was going to follow him all the way along that north ridge. Since Zeke’s Peak is right there it made sense to combine them. Devan Peterson put up a track for Zeke’s on Strava and confirmed it was F 3rd but quite exposed. I was intrigued and excited to try them sooner than later. I strongly recommend this trip for confident scramblers with a good head for heights and exposure and sure footing. Try to pick a warm, windless day and enjoy the fun routes and great views.

Andy Good & Chinook Peak

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.

Goodair, Mount (Snort, Roaring Ridge)

Standing on yet another remote peak with yet another likely 3rd ascent also felt pretty darn good. In a time where folks like Devan are doing routes that I can only dream of and tagging 10 peaks in 4 days (!!!!) to our 2 in 3, I realize that the era of 2nd, 3rd and 4th recorded ascents is very quickly ending. And I don’t mind – there always has to be an end to things. The next generation always brings new light and new challenges to old ideas, making what we did on Smoky and Goodair look like nothing more than a simple afternoon stroll in the park – which I guess it literally was in the end. Folks like Rick Collier, Glen Boles, William Putnam, John Martin, Jason Thompson, Graeme Pole, Tony and Gil Daffern and Alistair des Moulins and so many others got to enjoy the last of the 1st and 2nd recorded ascents of many of the Rockies front range peaks and folks like Phil and myself got to follow in their footsteps 20 years later. Now the ascents will start accumulating faster and faster with more beta, more lightweight gear, more fitness and more interest from a younger, more energetic and bolder generation of explorers. And I say to them, “enjoy and have at it”!

Smoky Mountain (Roaring Creek)

Smoky Mountain is likely one of the easiest peaks I’ve ascended in the area other than maybe Whimper Peak, which felt much bigger since we didn’t camp 350 meters below its summit the night before. What makes Smoky Mountain such a rare gem is simply the process of getting onto its easy south rubble ledge. In our case that involved a 48 kilometer, 11.5 hour approach with over 1200 meters of height gain with overnight packs. Once you’ve managed to work through that ‘little’ problem, there are no more difficulties other than a few hundred additional vertical meters and some loose rubble to get to the top. Easy peasy.