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.
Wietse and I had originally planned to ascend Mount Heinrich as part of a two day exploratory excursion up the Siffleur River trail. I use the word “exploratory” intentionally – there was very little beta available to us on this route and almost none that was recent. It seems like most folks avoid this end of the Siffleur Wilderness Area and the day before, while approaching Siffleur Mountain, we found out why! I knew that Heinrich was likely an easy ascent from the Siffleur River and only knew of one recent ascent from the Escarpment River by Sara McLean in 2021. As we ascended the easy and vast south slopes of Siffleur Mountain I kept looking back across the Siffleur River valley to a slightly more dramatic and higher looking peak just south of Heinrich. Mount Fuhrer sounds a bit ominous at first but it’s named for Heinrich’s brother Hans and their family name. I’m not sure why “Mount Hans” wasn’t an option?
I don’t like to admit it, but there’s a unique thrill to opening a Rick Collier summit register 20 or 30 years after he last closed and placed it in a rock cairn in the middle of nowhere. I’ve had my fair share of these rare occurrences, but I’ve also narrowly missed out on more than a few of them over the years. You know you’ve done something reasonably difficult when nobody else has bothered doing it for 3 decades! I’ve written about the end of true discovery in the Rockies before, but opening a summit register that hasn’t been seen for 30 years makes me think that not everyone has done everything just yet. It’s silly to feel like this in 2023 but sometimes I think I was born 150 years too late. Moment like these fulfill me in ways my desk job never, ever will.
I couldn’t believe I was standing on top of Forbidden Peak – only 7 hours from the truck! Phil’s ascent line couldn’t have worked better, making this peak surprisingly accessible considering how darn remote it is. Thx again Phil! I owe you man.
It’s always bittersweet completing a busy trip like this one with all of the experiences still fresh and knowing that I’m closing many chapters of my Rockies adventures simply because I’ve done so many peaks and trips in so many areas of the Alberta Rockies at this stage of my life. People are always encouraging me to go to other ranges like the Purcells or the Columbia mountains but I love the local Rockies and I love all my experiences from Waterton to Jasper. I don’t need to open another massive range of landscapes to enjoy what I do. I love walking familiar valleys, wading through familiar rivers and streams and revisiting old mountain friends with great memories from almost all of them. As I get older I realize that numbers don’t mean anything – nobody cares how many peaks you’ve climbed or how fast you climbed them or even how much fun you had while you did it. The only thing that really matters IMHO is what kind of person you are and whether doing what you do in life makes you a better or worse human to all the other humans. The peace and beauty of the Canadian Rockies has given me countless hours of meditation and reflective opportunities to become the best version of me and that is something I will always cherish and be thankful for.
I’ve been dreaming of scrambling Nasswald Peak for many years now. It felt great to find a beautiful and straightforward route to the south face from the Valley of the Rocks Trail. Despite an easy ramble up the south face the final hundred meters of SE ridge to the summit was very loose and exposed terrain. A perfect fall day for a long sought summit!
As we drove slowly back to the hwy Sara and I agreed that this was one of our more relaxing multi-day outings of 2022, actually it was by far the most relaxing one. With the first day only coming in at 9 hours 1650 meters of ascent and the second at less than 8 hours and only just over 1000 meters ascent we didn’t feel too stressed. I’m sure that for me the ultralightweight backpacking system had a lot to do with it – I decided to test it on a 2 night trip immediately after this one. A highly recommended late summer or fall trip for fit parties wanting to experience some of the Castle Wildernesses more remote peaks and valleys.
Within 2 hours of leaving our overnight packs along the South Ram River Trail we were back at them, proving that Aires really is just an “add on” peak. On hindsight I’m glad that we ascended it – it was the one bright spot on an otherwise very challenging and dreary day.
A rare ascent of a little known, very remote peak named for the Alice in Wonderland theme of the area – Cheshire Peak. A gorgeous approach, sneaky difficult step and hiking at over 3000 meters with views of the most remote and hard to access east faces in Banff National Park make this a highlight day in the mountains in 2022 for me. Dormouse Peak felt like a pretty simple add-on after all that.
It’s a heckuva long way into the front ranges but once you get to the old Headwaters Patrol Cabin a horse track leads up the Dodo valley to easy south ascent slopes. Views from the lofty 3067m peak make the work worthwhile and will have you dreaming of many more adventures in this pristine area of the Alberta Rockies. The mysteries of “Ladder Falls” will have you wondering about going further up valley.
In 2015 I was invited by Eric Coulthard to do a trip into an area I’d never been before – or even really heard of. He suggested we tag a couple of lofty summits in the White Goat Wilderness Area. I’d seen a few of the peaks in this area from nearby summits including Mount Stewart from Mount Coleman (the first trip I’d done with Eric way back in 2009) and Mount Willis which I’d spotted from Corona Ridge earlier in 2015. We had a fantastic trip and ever since I’ve been planning to go back.
In north-central Saskatchewan there is a town called Missinipe which is the base for a paddler’s paradise of rivers and lakes nestled in the gorgeous geology that is the Canadian Shield which is the backbone of Canada and among the oldest surface rock on the planet. Long used by the Native Peoples of Canada and by the fur traders that paddled her waters for trade, the Canadian Shield is characterized by countless square kilometers of 3.96 billion year old Precambrian igneous and metamorphic rock, covered in a thin layer of soil which supports incredible numbers of spruce and trees and water ways. The rivers and lakes are teeming with fish and support wildlife of many types from moose to bear to ducks and birds.
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?
As I tossed and turned in the pitch black night, I found myself wondering (and not for the first time in my life) why I wasn’t home in my comfortable, warm bed next to my beautiful, warm wife!
A 3.5 day journey into the heart of Banff National Park triangulated by the Pipestone, Clearwater and Siffleur Rivers.
After our ascent of Beehive Mountain, Wietse, Phil and I started a delightful traverse across brightly colored alpine meadows leading under towering cliffs to the west towards the NE shoulder of Mount Lyall. Beehive Mountain had gone much quicker and easier than we expected and despite thick smoke interfering somewhat with our views, we were feeling pretty pumped about our day so far. The temperatures were more mid-summer than late, and the fall colors on the vegetation in the meadows was absolutely stunning.
I spent 2.5 days over the 2018 September long weekend on a canoe trip with two brothers-in-law (Mike and Calvin) and our sons on the Red Deer River, canoeing from Content Bridge near the Tail Creek Campground to Tolman Bridge, near the Tolman Campground. This is a fairly nontechnical, low consequence river canoe trip that is perfect for families or novice canoeists. Later in the year water levels drop to a point that you should expect to be out of your boat several times per day in order to avoid grounding on the river bottom!
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!
Day 6 was the last day of the group trip and the first day of my solo effort. It was a day full of mixed emotions and excitement – most of it good and some of it a bit different than I expected. As with every good adventure worth having, my first solo canoe trip in WCPP started and ended much differently than I antcipated. I’ll pick up with a journal entry from the end of the group trip while waiting to exit the park for the outfitter pickup at the Onnie Lake entry point.
There really wasn’t a choice, was there? After a successful, and fun, ascent of Mount Brussilof we almost had to take advantage of good weather and a shared col to ascend Mount Alcantara’s south ridge.
Somehow, despite planning a trip into the Lyell Icefield to climb the last of the Lyells (IV) that I have left, I ended up in the Mount Assiniboine area yet again this year, with Phil Richards of course!
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 […]
As we were ascending Simpson Ridge to the NW of Simpson Peak, we kept looking for possible routes that would save us time and effort in a traverse between the two. The immediate obvious one sucked as it involved losing hundreds of meters of elevation from the ridge before following a steep snow line up to the peak. Since it was 18:00 when we were finally done with the ridge, we no longer had time or energy for this option anyway. That’s when I spotted another potential route that would be much quicker if it worked. In a route-finding theme for the weekend my mountain goat senses were tingling quite accurately for once!
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.