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.
On Sunday, August 3 2014, I took my family on a day hike that I’d wanted to do for a long time already – Picklejar Lakes.
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.)
After getting up at 05:00 to watch the men’s gold medal victory in Olympic Hockey I was contemplating what do to for the rest of the day. Hanneke was in Europe, the kids were engaged in activities ranging from sleeping in to animating computer games and I was itching to get outside for a bit. The sun was starting to come out when I settled on an easy snowshoe trip from Bob’s Spirko’s site – Foran Grade and Windy Point Ridge in Sheep River Provincial Park.
After completing Mesa Butte (when we were turned around due to heavy snow on McNab!) Steven and I decided we should go back to McNab to see if the weather had improved. It had. There were literally dozens of people parked around the winter gate and lower down in the day use parking lot for Sandy McNab! The sun was shining, kids were sledding and folks were roasting wieners and marshmallows over cheery fires in the designated picnic spots.
After skiing a rather long day on Spoon Needle, Steven Song and I agreed that we should do a shorter day on Sunday, February 16. We settled on Mount McNab – a very simple snowshoe which should have me back home by around noon and agreed to meet at the parking area around 08:30. As I drove towards the winter gate and the McNabb camping area, the weather slowly deteriorated from brilliant morning sunshine to full-on blizzard! I was following one set of tracks, which I was sure was Steven. Sure enough! As the snow storm almost blinded me, a car came from the other direction and slowed. It was Steven.
After snowshoeing Coyote Hills the day before, Raf and I decided that Junction Hill looked too tempting to leave it alone for long. We both returned on Sunday, January 19 to see what it’s summit would offer for views. Ironically we took different routes and drove separately – never even running into each other en route! This was not the intention. When Raf told me that Kev and him were going to attempt Junction Hill on Sunday, I assumed he meant Kev Barton. I agreed to meet at the trailhead since it’s easier for me to bomb down hwy 2 and go past High River and Longview from that direction than go through Calgary. When Kev Papke called me at 08:30 as I was driving past High River already, I realized that I should have asked which Kev. Oh well. (Kev Papke and I can usually carpool together.)
On Saturday, January 18 2014 I was joined by a gaggle of friends for a snowshoe trip under an extremely warm, winter sun. Due to high avalanche risks all over the Rockies (all the way to the coast actually), we decided on a relatively low angle and hopefully snow free ascent. We scored on one of our objectives at least. Due to a mix-up with some of Marko’s friends, Raf, Wietse, Andrea and I ended up breaking trail to the summit with Marko, Amelie and company following. We decided that this was our anniversary present for Marko and Amelie since they just got engaged.
You know it’s not a very interesting trip when it takes me a few weeks to write it and the main photo is from the drive to the trailhead… Honestly, there isn’t much to recommend the snowshoe trip up the North Ridge of Mount Buller, other than a decent view from the top and some good sweating (and swearing?!) on the way up. I drove up the Spray Lakes road under a gorgeous sunrise but from there the day went downhill. I couldn’t find any old tracks up the north ridge and ended up in knee deep, unconsolidated crap for two hours before realizing there was an old track about 100 meters to my right!
After skiing up Healy Pass Peak the day before, I decided to take the family on a snowshoeing trip on Sunday, December 15 in preparation for our trek to the Elk Lakes ACC hut in one week. Bob Spirko indicates that the elevation gain is only around 300 meters on Gypsum Ridge so I figured this was a good candidate to bag a peak and get the family out. I also liked the fact that we’d be in the trees because the day was shaping up to be fairly cloudy and windy – but warm.
With an impending snow storm and cold weather ahead, I decided to take advantage of a warm start to December with a snowshoe up to the Mount Kidd fire lookout and possibly a high point further up the ridge. I decided to call that high point, Mount Kidd Junior in the taste of naming every bump in the Rockies a “junior” of some other peak. You can laugh all you want, but I earned this summit.
After enjoying a wonderful day on Missinglink Mountain the day before, I found out that the new ring road around the east side of Calgary was completed. This meant a very quick and easy way for me to get down south now (avoiding Deerfoot Trail) and I wanted to try it out. I decided to head back down to the Sheep River area for another shot at a front-range summit, this time Mount Hoffman. The Stoney Trail freeway worked wonderfully and in about an hour from the NE edge of Calgary I was driving past the Kananaskis sign already!
On Friday, November 22 2013 I decided to mosey my way down to Sheep River Provincial Park for a shot at a front range peak that had caught my interest when Bob Spirko did it a few years previous. It’s been a while since I was down this way and I forgot how striking the peaks in the Sheep River area are – especially on the drive into the park. The weather was a chilly -14 in Calgary but by the time I got to the parking area along the road it was only -2 in a very warm sunshine!
In order to ascend Mumm Peak, I was going to first ascend the Mumm Basin trail from the Robson Pass campground. This would get me above tree line on a good trail and by ascending it from the Robson Pass CG I would end up right under the easy “dragon back” leading to the snow slopes accessing the summit ridge. On the way back down I would continue on the Mumm Basin trail back to The Cave and Toboggan Falls before going back down to the Berg Lake campground.
In order to get to Titkana Peak (my objective for the day), I first had to hike to the Snowbird Meadows and perhaps Snowbird Pass. Considering the number of people that must do this hike each year, I was quite surprised to discover how few trip reports are out there on this relatively easy peak. I think part of the problem for most folks is how far the hike to Snowbird Pass is (over 20km return) and as it turns out – how much bloody work it is! The views from the pass and the approach are so good already that I think most people are content to turn back at the pass rather than continue up Titkana.
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.
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.
Friday July 05 2013 was a perfect day to escape Calgary (Stampede parade day…) so a group us did what we always try to do when we ‘escape’ – namely bag a peak! Steven, Wietse, Dave and I would join Kevin, Kelly and Scott along hwy 93 in Kootenay National Park and ascend something there. On the drive up we debated about the original destination – Mount Wardle. We weren’t too enthused about a possible 1000 vertical meter bushwhack and subsequently made a decision to tackle the much more pleasant Numa Mountain instead.
On Saturday, June 15, 2013 I took my family up King Creek Ridge for a pleasant hike in beautiful spring weather. We followed a good trail right from the parking lot and had no issues other than the tiny moderate scrambling step just before the true summit of the ridge which Hanneke didn’t bother with and Niko didn’t really appreciate (but he did it!!).
Admittedly, after standing on the summits of 3 11,000ers only a few days previous, “Parker Ridge” does seem a bit lame. But there’s a reason for this objective. The original intent was to climb Mount Athabasca via the AA col on Friday, May 10 2013 with Wietse, Scott, Kelly and myself. We planned an overnight stay at the Rampart Creek Hostel and met there on Thursday evening. Patrick Delaney, a guide with Yamnuska Mountain Adventures was also at the hostel with a client and we spent some time chatting. Patrick was concerned about the “big melt” that was going on and cautioned our group to be super-careful. We took his advice to heart and decided to get up at 02:30 and try to take advantage of colder morning temps to meet our objective safely.
On Sunday, November 18 2012 I joined Bill Kerr, Dave Salahub and Kevin Papke on a snow slog up an unnamed peak to the south of Isola. Dave decided to call the peak “S.O. Isola or Monola” in order to satisfy Kev’s requirement of an ‘official’ summit. (Since then the peak has been named a more fitting name, Monola, due to its location between Isola and Monad Peaks.) Monola isn’t particularly difficult. We managed to cross the river in our 4×4’s on the blue bridge and drove all the way up the approach road on 4-6″ of fresh snow. We even drove a couple hundred meters down the ATV trail until the track dropped down – we stopped on top of this drop. On hindsight when you get to the obvious clearing it’s best to stop rather than follow the narrow track into the trees beyond.
A day after scrambling up Little Arethusa at the Highwood Pass, I was back for more – this time as a solo scramble. I really wanted to take advantage of the warm weather before winter really hit and I found myself with another free day so I ‘forced’ myself out of bed and into the car for the long drive back to the Rockies and Highwood Pass. Due to a lingering cold / flu I didn’t want to do any big objective so I settled on Highwood Ridge across from Little Arethusa and directly above the Highwood Pass parking lot. What I didn’t count on was copious amounts of fresh snow compared to the day previous! There must have been almost 6 inches of fresh powder – enough that I almost didn’t dare drive into the parking lot with my car.
During the shoulder seasons in the Rockies, as a peak bagger you have two choices. You can either sit and home and whine about not getting out or you can try to make the most of it by bagging smaller objectives that you wouldn’t bother with normally. Wietse and I have been choosing door #2 for the past few weekends and this one was no different. The Highwood Pass closes for traffic on December 1, so most people try to take advantage of early season snowfall and ski areas like the Rae Glacier before the road closes but Wietse and I decided that rather than wreck our ski gear we would try hiking at the pass instead!