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): 42Reference Trip: Police MeadowsQuick ‘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: Google Maps On July 8th, 2018, Phil Richards, Eric Coulthard and I spent one of the longer days I’ve had in the Rockies scrambling and […]
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.
After a few intense days of backpacking and scrambling five summits, Kaycie and I were ready for a relaxing day by a gorgeous and remote backcountry lake. So that’s exactly what we did. When doing research for our trip, I’d relied heavily on Matt Clay’s August, 2015 trip where he and Sandra backpacked into Weary Creek Gap before traversing up and over Mount Muir before being turned back at the Carnarvon Lake chains. I had changed things up, based on his experience, choosing to ascend, rather than descend the chains. Since our original plans called for a much longer trip, I was keen to extend ours by at least a day and came up with an intriguing option to spend a day and night camping at Lake of the Horns (LOTH) from our Weary Creek headwall bivy.
I really enjoyed Mount McPhail and the Weary Creek Gap area. This area certainly deserves the attention of any Alberta Rockies peakbagger or backpacker.
After a nice, relaxing day spent ascending Mount Strachan before chilling at Carnarvon Lake, Kaycie and I woke up early on Monday morning to tackle Mount Muir and our highline traverse to Weary Creek Gap. The idea for this traverse came from a thread that Matt Clay started on ClubTread and from some further research into a longer backpack in the area known as the “Elk Highline”. The basic idea was to take full backpacks up and over Mount Muir and down towards Weary Creek Gap which would be our home for another night and possibly a base camp for an ascent of nearby Mount McPhail.
After dreaming of visiting this area for many years, I have to say that it still exceeded my expectations.
Ever since I first backpacked into the Mount Assiniboine area in early September 2008 from Mount Shark, I’ve wanted to go back in larch season – sometime in the last two weeks of September. I did go back to the area on September 22, 2012 but avoided most of the larches by going in via Settler’s Road and Assiniboine Lake before climbing Mount Assiniboine and Lunette Peak from the Hind Hut and returning via the same route. In 2015 I thought I’d be going back and for some reason or another it didn’t pan out. In 2016 I was absolutely determined to make the hike and scramble trip work out.
On Friday, June 3rd 2016, I found myself in the back of Ben’s SUV, turning off the Trans Canada Highway just past Golden at the Donald weigh station, onto the now familiar road leading to Kinbasket Lake and eventually the Bush and Sullivan River forestry service roads. Our destination this time was the very end of the Bush River FSR followed by a trek into the bivy site for Mount King Edward. Of course, our original intent was to also climb King Edward, but […]
After a spectacular day approaching and ascending Mount Willis we awoke with sunrise to a beautifully clear day on Saturday, September 12 2015, quite eager to ascend the lofty Mount Stewart that we’d been staring at for a good portion of the previous day already. We were pretty sure that Stewart was an easy scramble from photos we’d taken from Cirrus’ summit to the west. The issue with Stewart isn’t the technical difficulties of the climbing; it’s the remoteness of the peak and the access to the easy southwest slopes.
There are a few notable things about the White Goat Wilderness Area as compared to a national or provincial park. In a way, it’s even more restrictive. There are no horses, no motorized vehicles and no air traffic allowed. No fires, hunting or even fishing either. But random camping and backpacking is highly encouraged – provided it’s done responsibly of course. I’d certainly seen mountains in the White Goat before, notably the three summits just north of Mount Cline and the massive summit of Mount Stewart, which I’d last seen from Corona Ridge. (Stewart was actually another choice for the weekend Steve and I did Corona Ridge and Marmota Peak…)
Mount Brazeau has been on my radar for many years already. I wasn’t in a huge rush to do it however, because I knew it was a relatively easy 11,000er and could be done in almost any conditions and in any season, from full-on winter conditions to mid-summer ones. Or could it? Ben and I set out on July 30th 2015 from the Poboktan Creek trailhead to find out how Mount Brazeau and its neighboring peaks would behave in an extremely dry year in the Canadian Rockies. Considering other trip reports from around the same time, we wondered how different our conditions would be. I left Calgary at 04:00 and we found ourselves leaving the cars at a very non-alpine start time of 09:00 (!!) under a very warm and pleasant sun.
I heard a rumor already years ago, that there was a route near the Icefall Lodge that didn’t involve going the normal Icefall Lodge, helicopter or Glacier Lake approaches. Although there is nothing wrong with either of the Icefall Lodge routes (either Tivoli Shoulder or Crampon Col), this other route was rumored to be shorter, have spectacular views and was entirely self-supported. The Glacier Lake approach route never sounded that attractive to me, with talk of route finding, bushwhacking, steep and loose scree and days spent just on the approach. I must admit, however, that after doing this approach for Mount Forbes in late April 2016, my view of it has improved somewhat.
Every once in a while I do a mountain trip that feels like it redefines my approach to climbing, skiing or hiking or whatever activity I happen to be doing at the time. This past weekend I experienced such an event on Mount Alexandra, deep in the heart of the Alexandra River Valley near the headwaters of the Saskatchewan and Columbia Rivers. Here’s some words that come to mind from the past few days; bushwhack, lost, confused, rain, sun, clouds, snow, cold, warm, blue sky, crevasses, snow, ice, rock, streams, lakes, boulders, exposure, waterfalls, mountain goat, exhaustion, blisters, bruises, alders, devil’s club, slabs, fall colors, bear, rough roads.
As part of a father / daughter backpacking trip over the last weekend of summer 2014, I decided it was time to take Kaycie on a real back country adventure instead of front country ‘easy’ stuff. She was game for something a bit more rustic after our bivy on White Buddha back in May. I had my eye on a trip that Rick Collier did as his first overnight solo in 1985. I was fairly confident that nobody had replicated Rick’s trip in the 29 years since he did it and I was intrigued to bivy in a remote area of Banff National Park that I’d never been in before.