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.
The sun was hot and the sky was “summer blue” as we drove the dusty, bumpy, rocky road that starts out as an easy 80 km/h drive and gradually slows to a 20 km/h crawl or even less on rougher sections past the first 18km off highway 518. We were in excellent moods as I parked the truck on the sandy parking area off the road at the Onnie Lake entry point. We were a bit surprised to see three vehicles parked there already, but on inspection we noticed they were all from Wisconsin and one of them was pulling a large canoe trailer so they were obviously all part of one large group. With feelings of anticipation and trepidation about how my injured foot would handle things, we prepared for the first portage of the trip – 350m right from the parking lot.
Of course when I started my two week vacation in September, the weather turned for the worse in the Rockies. And when I say “worse”, I mean way worse… First of all was the dump of snow that covered the entire range of the Alberta Rockies from north of Jasper to Waterton Lakes National Park. While a bit of snow isn’t a huge issue, especially in the fall – it definitely limited my choices for peak bagging. I had to dial down my ambitions from lofty 11,000ers to trips that involved more hiking and backpacking. I didn’t mind, to be honest. I was in the mood for more reflective trips anyway – sometimes the intensity of larger peaks can distract from the beauty and peacefulness of the area that you’re traveling through. Not a terrible thing necessarily, but it’s nice to stop and smell the roses every once in a while.
The wind was forecast to be strong all over the Rockies on Sunday, March 29, 2015. The forecasts were right. I woke several times in the Bighorn Campground near Ya Ha Tinda by the sounds of a gusty west wind. When the alarm went off at 04:00 it was still gusting pretty strong but at least the sky over us was clear and the air temperate was quite warm at around 5 degrees Celsius. Our plans for the day were to ascend Warden Rock by an untested (or at least unreported) line on it’s northeast side and summit ridge traverse.
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.
Early on Saturday, September 6th 2014 we awoke to a star-filled sky and made preparations for our climb. There was talk of adding Mushroom Peak into the mix if there was enough time but we didn’t fully expect that this would happen. I’d never heard of anyone combining these three peaks in one day.
Summit Elevation (m): 3087Trip Date: September 1 2014Elevation Gain (m): 1200Round Trip Time (hr): 6Trip Distance (km): 15Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 1 – you fall, you tripped over your own feetDifficulty Notes: No difficulties if dry. No difficulties if wet. By far the hardest part of this mountain is getting up the first 200 vertical meters of it and driving to the trailhead.Technical Rating: OT3; YDS (Hiking)GPS Track: DownloadMap: Google Maps Because we’re suckers for punishment, we decided it would be a good idea […]
I was back with the boyz from Edmonton for the September 2014 long weekend. Ben, Eric and Steven made the drive to Okotoks on Friday evening and had an interesting snooze in the McDonald’s parking lot there. Sounds fun! NOT. Our plan was to scramble one of the easiest 11,000ers, Mount Harrison. While we were in the area we planned to also summit Mount Folk and Smith Peak. It’s probably a good thing we were all too busy to do any additional planning or Splendid Peak would probably have been in the cards too. I have to stop hanging out with young guys. It’s killing me! WAY too much energy. They need to get full time jobs, kids and families so they know what they’re putting me through!
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.
Summit Elevation (m): 3084Elevation Gain (m): 1800Round Trip Time (hr): 24Total Trip Distance (km): 28Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3/4 – you fall, you break something or worseDifficulty Notes: Steep, loose southwest gully to a loose, low 5th scramble up the summit block. Ice or snow would complicate things greatly.Technical Rating: SC7; YDS (4th)GPS Track: DownloadMap: Google Maps After descending the glacier and loose scree of King George’s upper mountain, we realized that with a whole afternoon still ahead of us and perfect weather, we should attempt […]
The first ascent of King George was in 1919. The second ascent wasn’t until 52 years later in 1970! I’m sure this mostly has to do with the demanding and remote approach rather than the climb itself. There are enough possible routes and interesting lines on this mountain that I’m sure if the approach was easier and more accessible there would be many more ascents than there is today. Pretty much the only people climbing King George are either the type who really like big, remote terrain or are chasing the 11,000ers of the Canadian Rockies.
Early in January 2014, a group of us started throwing around the idea of another canoe trip into Woodland Caribou Provincial Park (WCPP) near Red Lake in North-Central Ontario against the Manitoba border. We’ve done many trips into the southern part of the park, accessing it from Garner Lake, Wallace Lake and even from the southwest, through the Eagle-Snowshoe Nature Reserve. This trip would be no different, considering a time constraint of around 5.5 days. Due to holiday / family schedules, I think the only way we will ever experience the northern part of WCPP will be via a one way North-South fly-in canoe trip or a much longer excursion in a loop from the south.
On the longest day of 2014 Ben, Steven and I hiked into the Aster Lake region to attempt the 11,000er in the region, Mount Joffre. We’ve been planning this one since May, so it started out as a ski trip and ended up as a snowshoe trip due to the lateness of the attempt. Snowshoes just might be the way to go for this one as it couldn’t have gone any better than what we experienced.
I’ve been planning to take my daughter, Kaycie up a mountain to bivy over night on the summit for a while now. The perfect opportunity seemed to arise on Friday, May 23 when rumors of a spectacular meteor event started circulating social media and the news cycle. The Camelopardalid meteor shower was a rare astronomical event – a once in a lifetime opportunity to witness a potential of up to 1000 meteors / hour!! (As a comparison, the common Perseids have a rate of around 100 / hour.)
Just before Christmas 2013, our family did a 3 day, 2 night snowshoe trip into the Elk Lakes ACC hut in Elk Lakes Provincial Park, BC. In August 2012 I took the kids on a backpacking trip to the hut but we’d never visited in the winter before. The route is fairly obvious for snowshoers.
Every fall I try to get away for a solo trip to the mountains before work gets crazy for the fall and winter months. In 2012 I spent time finishing up the Nugara scrambles in the Castle Wilderness in southern Alberta but for 2013 I planned something a bit different than a peak bagging excursion. I’ve wanted to see Mount Robson up close and explore around Robson Provincial Park for years already and 2013 was going to be that year for me.
After a successful summit bid on Catacombs Mountain we woke up on Saturday with lots of energy to tackle our next objective – crossing two passes before attempting to summit Fortress Mountain via her southwest slopes. UPDATE 2015: The bridge across the Athabasca River, near the Athabasca Crossing campground collapsed in 2014 and there are no plans to replace it. Rumor has it that the Athabasca River can be crossing roughly 1km upstream of the old bridge location but I haven’t verified this yet. This renders accessing the Fortress Lake area very difficult on foot.
Eric is great at planning aggressive and remote mountain adventures. He spends hours on his web site, planning and scheming up new approaches, routes and summits to bag. This trip was no different. Using photos of Catacombs from other peaks, he scouted out a route up the south flank of the mountain that looked to be scrambling to the summit glacier cap. From there it would be a bit of an unknown to travel on the glacier to the summit – we had no idea if the glacier would be passable from our top-out point above the south face.
Our plan was to summit not only Willingdon, but also Crown Peak and Southeast Tower – two outliers of the main summit and impressive peaks on their own. Crown Peak is known to be very close to another 11,000er and I wanted to check my altimeter to see how close it could be. Because we were planning on the two additional summits, it made strategic sense to ascend the south ridge route on Willingdon, rather than the normal west ridge route.
After enjoying a spectacular summit on Mount Willingdon it was time to head over to two sub peaks (and separate peaks) to the south east of the main summit. These peaks both have unofficial names – Crown Peak and South Tower and should be considered somewhat official, considering that they are some work to attain and well over 100m vertical separates them from each other. What makes them very interesting is that they both measured over 11,000 feet on my GPS with Crown Peak coming in almost 40 feet over! On my calibrated altimeter watch only Crown stayed in the 11,000er club with South Tower falling just short. In the end – who cares? But the views from the summits make both these peaks worth the effort and they even have some short scrambling sections and route finding.
I’ve had plans for years involving a trip into the Devon Lakes area near the Siffleur River Valley and the head of the Clearwater River in eastern Banff National Park. My plans involved summits such as Dip Slope, Three Brothers, Clearwater and of course the 11,000er in the region, Willingdon. Originally the plan was to go in the fall when all the brilliant color was at full height but when an opportunity came up to go with the 3 amigos from Edmonton (Ben, Eric and Steven), I couldn’t say no.
After ascending Mount Kitchener in the morning, we casually packed up camp and started heading back out, around the west side of Snow Dome. It was another gorgeous day with warm (almost too warm) sun and very little wind. Last year we had exactly the same conditions around the same time of the year – early May. We followed the standard tracks and then cut higher on the west side of Snow Dome before dropping the big packs and re-gearing with just the necessary glacier travel gear. It felt good to ski up with virtually no weight and we quickly made our way up to the broad summit area.
The day after our exciting ascent of West Twin and attempt at South Twin (including a crevasse incident) we were in the mood for a slightly easier approach and summit. Since TJ, JW and I were ‘only’ looking for one more day on the Twins, we’d set up our camp much closer to the exit on the ice fields and on the southwest side of Kitchener instead of going the extra 5km closer to the Twins / Stuts area. This was fine for our group but didn’t work out for the other group of Anton, Ian and Kev. I think if they were closer they could have at least gone for the Stutfield Peaks and still managed a few more of the northern ice field summits. As it was, they were feeling to tired on Sunday to go all the way back to the Stuts.
After successfully summiting West Twin we were excited to finally nab the final of the four Twin peaks on the far north end of the Columbia Icefields. JW was still pretty tired from kicking steps up the south face of West Twin so our group decided to let the “Dad” group break trail up South Twin. We stayed in the valley bottom for a bit longer while watching the other team inch their way on skis up to a rocky outcrop on South Twin’s northwest ridge, about half the elevation to the summit ridge.