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.GPS Track Download – Approach to South Bivy: Download GPX FileGPS Track Download – Princess Mary from South Bivy: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: SC7; YDS (4th)Map: Google Maps After descending the glacier and loose scree of King George’s upper mountain, we realized that with a […]
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.
In 2012 I made my first attempts at peaks on the massive playground of rock, snow and ice that’s known as the Columbia Icefield. The first attempt was an ill-fated try for the namesake peak, Mount Columbia itself, in February. It was my first major winter camping trip and I learned a lot about winter camping and traveling on the icefield itself. I made a lot of mistakes on that trip and on hindsight I’m lucky that nothing tragic happened (more on that later). We approached via the Saskatchewan Glacier on this trip.
I’ve been dreaming of the Matterhorn of the Rockies since I first laid eyes on her while on a hiking trip to the area in 2008. I never actually thought I’d be climbing its NE ridge but it was fun to imagine! Towering over everything in its vicinity and visible from almost every prominent peak in south Banff and Kananaskis , Mount Assiniboine is a big, beautiful mountain that has inspired climbers from all over the world to test its charms.
Wow. That 3 letter word pretty much sums up this trip. Don’t bother reading further unless you’re interested in more detail. Wow. There – I just said it again. This was one of those trips that’ll stick with me for the rest of my life – or at least while I have a reasonably intact memory. Eric Coulthard is one of those people who dreams up trips while looking at his extensive online library of photos and possible routes. While climbing Mount Fryatt a couple of weekends ago with him, he suggested that he might be giving Mount Amery and some other peaks in the area a shot this fall.
On August 25/26 I joined Kevin Barton and Eric Coulthard for a trip up Mount Fryatt in Jasper National Park. This mountain has been on my radar for a number of years due to its remoteness and the beautiful bivy site that was rumored to exist under the SW face. When Raf climbed Fryatt back in 2009 I was quite disappointed that I couldn’t join him. I waited patiently for three years and made my ascent in perfect conditions. Sometimes I get the sense that I’m rushing to complete peaks – this trip proved once again that it’s the journey that counts – not the summit.
Sometimes in life you get a chance to do something that you’ve always wanted to do but scares you a little at the same time and you have a choice to make. Is it one of those moments that you jump in or jump out? Monday May 7 2012 I was presented with such a chance. Since our failed attempt at Mount Columbia in February, Ferenc and I had been planning a repeat 2 day trip to get redemption. Our plan was to wait for optimal conditions in May before our next attempt. TJ was also keen on Columbia so I agreed to keep him in the loop.
A group of us had originally planned a trip up to the Asulkan Hut in Rogers Pass for the weekend of April 19-23rd. Due to poor conditions the objective was changed at the last hour to Peyto Hut on the Wapta Ice field instead. Some of us could only make it for Friday night while a group went in on Thursday already and left on Sunday. Wietse, Scott, Kelly and Robin all headed in on Thursday. They initially had intentions of climbing Mount Habel after getting to the Peyto hut but the warmth of the hut combined with deteriorating conditions led them to drink beer and eat good food instead!
The first week of February 2012 was looking pretty promising for weather and avalanche conditions in the Alberta Rockies. Since Hanneke wasn’t on call for the weekend of the 4th I decided to send out the “who’s in?” emails to start organizing at least one day of backcountry skiing – hopefully involving a summit of some kind.
Mount Des Poilus has been on my radar for quite some time. Originally it was always a ski objective but lately I’d also been looking at it as a possible summer peak. After reading Andrew Nugara’s one day ascent of Yoho Peak and a separate (impressive!!) one day climb of Mount Des Poilus I had the brilliant idea to combine the two with a bivy to eliminate two long day trips and a repeat of the somewhat tedious approach. When Raf indicated that he was also interested in Des Poilus as a summer trip, I told him of my plan to spend 1.5 days near the Des Poilus glacier and combining Yoho and Des Poilus into one trip. He loved the idea. On August 13 & 14 2011 we were joined by Alan Fortune for this little adventure.