Another great adventure up the Cascade fire road! There were many highlights to put this trip into a top category. Wildlife galore, including deer, dogs, elk, bison and grizzlies. Warm temperatures and clear skies. Not too much snow and easy scrambling conditions on a rarely ascended peak with views forever. A wonderful campsite at a brilliant backcountry lake that hardly anyone has heard about. Hours and hours of pleasant hiking with a good friend and a (relatively) healthy body. What’s not to love about all that? Indeed.
The south ridge descent offered full-on views up the Roaring Creek valley over the tiny falls to giants such as Mount Drummond and Cataract Peak. The deep green of the valley with brown and shades of gray in the rocky slopes above to blue skies and white clouds made for vistas that only happen a few times in a year. Watching Phil hike back along the giant scree slopes with Clearwater Lake and Mount Hector and Cataract looming over it all was a highlight moment of the entire trip for me. We are incredibly lucky to enjoy such wild, pristine and accessible places in a world that is very quickly becoming the very opposite of these things.
Finally, around 4 hours from camp we found ourselves with no more elevation gain ahead and no obvious cairn indicating previous ascents either. There were some rocks just under the summit that could have been the remains of a very old cairn so I’m certainly not claiming an FA on this one. There is a good chance that the 1919 geological team ascended here to garner views of surrounding peaks but I can almost guarantee that very few folks have stood on this particular summit over the past few thousand years. Summit views were great to the east and somewhat muted everywhere else thanks to lingering clouds but the scene was wild and I almost prefered a bit of mystery that the clouds provided.
I can’t stress enough how difficult biking up the series of OHV, horse trails and roads from Cutoff Creek up the Clearwater River is. I know everyone can do everything but this is next level suffering – especially with an overnight pack on your back. You might wonder about using paniers instead of a pack, but good luck hoisting your bike onto your shoulders with this option. Or bushwhacking. Put it this way – this trip is among the hardest on this site and there’s a few doozies available to choose from! Don’t get me wrong. The bike ride is a spectacular, wild approach along pristine valleys, soaring peaks and vast alpine meadows brimming with wildflowers. It is also, however, a tough, painful grind along rough horse trails, muddy OHV tracks and unbridged water crossings. My GoPro smoothes out the bumps but I think you can get a good sense of the effort by watching the movie I put together on our explor8ion.
My round trip time of 7.5 hours surprised me on this trip as I never felt rushed or like I was pushing hard. A combination of great conditions and interesting scrambling and climbing kept me moving all day. The views from these front range peaks always take me by surprise – they’re better than you’d expect. I highly recommend my route considering the other options and what they seem to entail. I think I found a combination of routes for these two peaks that utilize their best features without getting too dangerous. Just bring your brain bucket and don’t forget ax and ‘pons if there’s any snow still laying about!
Standing on Sufi Peak a week ago, I was struck by the amount of fresh snow still sitting on peaks to the west. Heck! Nevermind other peaks, I had plenty enough snow to endure on Sufi – a very front range summit that should be among the first to melt off every year along the Rockies front ranges. Originally my plan was to stay overnight and attempt either Canaria or Finch Peak with a bike approach up Canary Creek but they both had so much snow I didn’t trust that I’d be able to bike very far, making the trip more work than I was in the mood for. Only days later I was already trying to recruit other suckers – er, I mean friends – to return to the Upper Clearwater / Ram PLUZ for some quality suffering. Er, I mean fun. Alas, I didn’t do a great job of selling it and after working out on Prairie Mountain Friday (1 lap), Saturday (3 laps) and Sunday (2 laps), I was ready for something a little different on the holiday Monday. Despite feeling off all day I still managed a 9.5 hour round trip without feeling rushed. I highly recommend this loop in any of its many various forms as an early or late season trip. Views are excellent and the hiking easy. What more do you need to get you off the proverbial couch?
Despite driving 7 hours to hike for under 6, I enjoyed my day out to the Hummingbird Creek area. As usual for this time of year it was very quiet and I enjoyed spending a few extra hours at Ram Falls taking in the views and the atmosphere of the Rockies front ranges. Getting lucky with snow conditions and nearly running into a giant Grizzly on the bike will ensure this small trip stays in the memory banks a bit longer than usual.
Swooping down the Peyto Glacier with views of giant snow covered peaks – every one of them a familiar sight – I reflected how freaking lucky we are to live where we live and have the fitness and health to enjoy this sport.
It felt really good to ski out along Hector Lake in t-shirts under a blue sky with a gentle, cool breeze at our backs. I cannot stress enough how much more pleasurable this day on Hector Lake felt in comparison to my previous 5 crossings. I never felt rushed all day and the conditions were so good that I didn’t feel my usual exhaustion at the return lake crossing either. And this was all while in the middle of a 25+ hour fast too! I guess conditions really do affect mood and energy more than we think sometimes. Turquoise Peak will sit among my favorite ski tours of winter 2021/22 for a great many reasons.
I enjoyed this early season hike mostly thanks to the great weather we had. Less snow would have been preferred but you take what you get at this time of year. It was nice to see some of the more remote peaks in the eastern Banff range as well and remember some good trips on them over the past few years.
As the 3rd weekend of April 2022 approached I was more than a little keen to bag another peak on skis before the season of snow sticks comes to an end for another year. The Preacher was a highlight ski trip that carried me through a month of no-adventure weekends but a rib injury courtesy of a family ski trip to Sunshine knocked me out longer than I was happy with. Finally as the 4-day Easter long weekend approached, I felt ready to test the injury. I started with double laps on Prairie Mountain for Friday and Saturday before deciding it was time to push the injury a bit further. I contacted Sara Mclean and she was in for a Sunday ascent of Storm Mountain.
Holy buzzoly. Cripes on a cracker. Hot damn. How in the heck do I manage to forget the feelings of despair, misery and plain physical suffering involved in these length ski tours across the frozen middle of f’ing nowhere?! I must have a busted brain or something. Any normal humanoid would maybe try it once and thenceforth swear it off for the rest of their life but not me. For some unknown and unfathomable reason I continue to come back again and again to the same threshold of pain and misery. And I keep thinking, “it won’t be that bad”. And yet, it’s always that bad – or even worse! I must admit that I do enjoy pushing my mind and body to the edge. There’s a strange energy lurking at the edge of human endurance and the only way to experience it is to get there and the only way to get there is to suffer your way over to it. I’ve only managed to push myself to this place at the edge of conscious, controllable thought a few times in the mountains but it’s always left an impression that the trip was worth every moment of pain it demanded. The Preacher may not be the tallest, the most prominent or the most challenging peak in the world but it’ll always stand out in my memory as one of the good ones. Thanks to Sara and Wietse for greatly assisting me in making this one happen!
The chick-a-boom ski traverse is a classic for a reason. The views and positions along the entire route are stunning on a clear day like we enjoyed. We all said we’d definitely repeat it some day. My advice is leave early for this tour if you want to be at the front of the pack or leave slightly later if you want to follow. Just beware of the south facing exit from Boom col and manage risks appropriately.
It took me 8 years but on the 2nd weekend of February 2022 I finally managed to ski a peak that’s been on my list ever since 2014 when I climbed its neighbors, Mount Collie and Ayesha. I knew Chapel Peak as “Collesha” for many years before reading David Jones Rockies West (pg. 55) where the more proper sounding (still unofficial) name comes from.
Sitting at the bottom of the run in warm sunshine enjoying a coffee and chatting with friends reminded me why I love winter so much. Sometimes, while sitting in my home office in the concrete jungle I crave the sounds of chirping birds and warm sunshine on my neck. But when I get time to spend outdoors on a beautiful winter day like we had on Saturday I have a hard time remembering why I ever thought I hated the season of frozen rain and cold air.
It was most excellent to feel sun and wind on our faces in the alpine again, without feeling like we were standing at one of the earth’s poles in a hurricane of frozen air. I needed a day like this and am super stoked about finally getting into the alpine on a clear, warm(ish) winter day again.
“Hiking directly into the brilliant morning sun was blinding but the views to our left over the Ya Ha Tinda ranch helped assuage any discomfort from either our planets life-star or the opposing bitterly cold breath caressing exposed skin with biting kisses from distant lands to the west.”
Jap Mountain won’t go down as a major objective in anyone’s books but as a late season objective in a gorgeous area of the front ranges it delivered exactly what I needed this particular Remembrance Day.
As I wandered back along first the small Headwall Lakes trail and then the much larger Snowdrift trail to the Chester Lake parking lot I reflected on all my 2021 scrambles and trips and the ideas that I’m considering regarding explor8ion and lifting all of the restrictions I put in place last year. For me it’s come to a point where being grumpy and upset about others using, or even overusing and/or oversharing (whatever that means) the landscape gets more tiring and depressing than the actions themselves.
I enjoyed Highwood Peak about as much as I expected to. It’s not the world’s most attractive mountain and definitely not the easiest or most straightforward to approach either. Unlike a peak such as Haiduk, which is also quite an involved approach, Highwood doesn’t have larches either. But it’s close to Calgary, has a great approach trail that includes 4 lakes, is a quick trip and has great views to the Divide including giants like Harrison and Abruzzi. I recommend this as a late season objective when larger and more mid-range peaks might be out of scramble condition.
I loved this hike even more than I thought I would. Sure! It’s overused and over photographed and definitely overshared but that doesn’t change the fact that I had a wonderful time with my daughter enjoying some of the best views of my year from this lowly objective. And that’s what it all comes down to in the end isn’t it? Sharing nature and fresh air while exercising with loved ones and being amazed over and over with stunning views of wild landscapes in all directions. The fact that thousands of others have shared this experience shouldn’t lessen it but should encourage us to seek out new experiences rather than going back to the same ones over and over. I won’t be back to Smutwood in the fall any time soon but I sure am thankful for this particular trip.
As you can hopefully tell by this report, it was a fantastic day in the hills that turned out even better than I’d hoped. Originally when planning this trip I’d been worried about the lowly stature of the peaks involved but I should have realized that it’s a very rare day that Waterton doesn’t serve up enough beauty to fully satisfy. As I close out the peaks in this little corner of paradise I can’t help but think that I will continue to find excuses other than summits to make the 3 hour drive from Calgary.
I was surprised to return to the truck within 5.5 hours of leaving it – I never felt rushed all day and yet this was a very short outing to a relatively untraveled 3000m+ peak. I highly recommend Headwall Peak to the scrambling community. It is the perfect fall outing but would be good any time of year as long as the SE face is snowfree and dry.
As you can probably tell from the amount of photos and superlatives in this report, I great enjoyed the convoluted ramble from hwy 93, up Hawk Creek and over to Haiduk Peak. This route might not seem very straightforward – and it’s not – but considering that it avoids almost all bushwhacking and allows you to enjoy the only remaining larch forests in Verdant Creek it is 100% worth the hassle. And can you really call it a hassle when your day involves a good trail, fresh water and air, bursting fall colors, blue skies, swirling clouds, fresh snow and distant views of hidden giants? I call that a win every day of the week and especially on a Tuesday.
I loved this traverse. The only thing that would have made it slightly better would have been clearer skies and a drier route. The mix of challenging terrain and conditions, great views over low-lying clouds and wild landscape scenery in every direction is what I look for in a scramble and on that front this day delivered in spades. A highly recommended trip for fit parties with enough scrambling experience to tackle some stiff moderate sections of very loose Rockies treasure.
What a day! Originally I was planning a 6-7 hour fairly straightforward jaunt but I ended up with some serious route finding, difficult and exposed terrain and three summits instead of two. I was stymied by cliffs twice, managing to route find around them once and forced to backtrack the second time. Failure in the mountains is a good thing as long as you come back in good health, so I consider my failed descend of the south ridge of Dundy to be a good thing. You’re simply not trying hard enough if you succeed at everything you try IMHO.