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.
I really enjoyed this three or four peak outing despite the lack of a good approach trail and the thick smoke on Cone Mountain. It always surprises me how many fairly prominent peaks continue to stand on their own for many years between ascent parties (recorded anyway). This trip summarizes what I love about the Alberta Rockies – accessible but remote. Over a very popular trail system but rarely ascended. Views to die for, acres of wildflowers and cascading waterfalls hidden by high rock walls on all sides. Lakes and tarns that are only visible from nearby or from space only add to the attraction.
Obviously dry conditions and knowing there’s a trail and roughly where to find it is key to keeping Mount Oliver to a reasonable day trip. I really enjoyed this front range scramble (apparently the highest front range peak in Banff) and would highly recommend it to anyone looking to get off the beaten path and onto a much more rudimentary one. The highlights of the trip for me weren’t even the mountain but rather the upper stretches of North Burnt Timber Creek, the sidewalk east ridge and the remote and very quiet nature of the area.
Prow Mountain and Greater Prow took much longer than expected but were involved and fun. Things get boring pretty fast when there’s no challenge left and both of these peaks proved to have plenty to offer in the “challenge” department. As did Skeleton Creek but that’s for Phil to explain… 😉
Mount Tyrrell was a bit more involved on the approach than either of us expected but to be fair it was 30 degrees and we were tired. The east face route was wonderful and good fun and the views were awesome.
I enjoyed the ascent of Apparition Mountain very much. The early evening lighting, the sneaky route through the cliffs and the exposed ridge walk near the summit block all added up to more engagement than I expected when planning this scramble. At less than 2.5 hours round trip from a camp at Spectral Lakes it’s an obvious no-brainer for anyone brave enough to stay overnight in such a ghost themed area!
I highly recommend Revenant Mountain for competent scramblers. The mountain itself is almost easy after the somewhat involved approach to the Spectral Lakes. The east face is complex but the route opens up once you’re on it, guiding you forward and up to the south ridge. The scrambling is engaging enough to keep you distracted from all the work you’ve done to get there. A favorite for me and a very nice feather in my scrambling cap – one I’ve been looking forward to for a very long time.
I highly recommend this trip for those who like some adventure with their cornflakes and I use that word literally here. You might not get all the peaks on day 1 or even day 3 but you are guaranteed to have some adventure while trying!
The very fact that we looked at all the shitty snow and gray cloud on day one and said, “sure – we can handle this” is the thing that will make this particular trip extra special in the memory banks. Travelling over 72 kilometers in just over 1.5 days including 3 peaks in less-than-ideal conditions leaves an impression. I’m not saying it’s all a unicorns and fresh roses impression, but it’s a wild ride that won’t fade as quickly as some others I have stored in there somewhere! As of my writing this a week later my toes are still recovering from the harsh beating but the rest of me wants to go back up the Ram River sooner than later.
The Bighorn Backcountry from Tinda to David Thompson Country is a very special place. There are open valleys with grasses gently swaying in the winds coming off the high ranges to the west. There are bubbling brooks and gushing streams. There are waterfalls and little tarns, sparkling like gems in the vast landscape. There are open ridges, small hills and towering peaks. We are privileged beyond telling to be able to enjoy such a pristine, beautiful and wild area.
What can I say about this area in summary? Well, to make a long story short – it’s worth the fight to access it but you will have to earn its charms one way or the other.
There aren’t very many places on Earth where named summits have almost 30 year gaps in their ascents – especially in a national park and along pretty good trail systems. I feel extremely privileged to have the health and time to enjoy such a wide variety of clean and beautiful landscapes in our amazing Rockies back yard.
It was hard not to enjoy life as we sat in silence and listened to the night life start up around us in the forest. Reflecting back on our special trip up Panther Mountain as I fell asleep was just about the perfect way to end a perfect summer day.
This trip will go down in my books as a top 1 or 2 – at least for a long while. It was a real adventure, seeking out a new route into one of Banff’s most remote and untraveled valleys. What more could we want?
An epic 3-day backpacking, hiking and scrambling trips from Ya Ha Tinda up the Red Deer River and McConnell Creek valleys.
A 3.5 day journey into the heart of Banff National Park triangulated by the Pipestone, Clearwater and Siffleur Rivers.
Finally, after 1.5 hours of steep hiking we topped out on a high point on the southwest ridge with the summit of Wapiti still looking a long way off and distressingly snowy.
Where do I even start with this report? I guess I’ll just start at the beginning and see where this story goes as I access my overloaded memory banks…
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!
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.Technical Rating: SC7; RE4/5GPS Track: DownloadMap: 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 a very […]
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.
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.
After spending a glorious day at the Lake of the Horns, KC and I awoke to yet another day of brilliant sunshine on the last day of our 5 day backpacking trip along the southern Highwood peaks on the Great Divide. Our plans for the day would be to take my slightly easier alternate descent down the Lake of the Horns headwall before picking up a horse outfitters trail that was rumored to circle towards our last peak of the trip – The Hill of the Flowers.