Ever since I first biked the Big Elbow loop in the front ranges of Kananaskis Country along the Sheep and Elbow Rivers I was interested in scrambling Threepoint Mountain and Mount Rose. I’m not sure why, but these two peaks kept coming up in conversations. While scrambling Cougar Mountain in 2010, I remember looking over at the two mountains and wondering if they could be done together. On May 31 2015 I scrambled Bluerock Mountain and found myself gazing once again at Rose and Threepoint, wondering about them. When Phil Richards sent me a PM on ClubTread asking if I’d be interesting in giving Threepoint and Rose a go, I couldn’t resist. Our first plan fell through due to my laziness at getting up early, but with the weather looking like it might allow us to sneak in a trip on Saturday, June 13 if we left early enough, we made plans to leave the trailhead at 05:30.
Mount Astley is interesting for a number of reasons. I wasn’t even aware of this peak before I found out that Raf and Eric were planning to ascend it on Sunday, June 7th and invited me along. I did absolutely no research and for some reason Raf convinced me that it was a short day out. I blew off Phil Richards (we were planning Threepoint Mountain) because of a later start on Astley and a feeling of laziness induced by a long drive and ascent of Wildhorse Ridge with my family the day before. Sorry Phil!! 😉
I’ve been a bit obsessed with the Ya Ha Tinda region this year. I’m not sure exactly why, but I’ve been there 4 or 5 times since my first trip in November 2014 up Evangeline Peak / Rum Ridge with Steven and Ben. While hiking Labyrinth Mountain and Mount Minos with Wietse in April, we looked across the Ya Ha Tinda road at a lovely ridge, rising directly over the road with no bushwhacking and no approach and wondered how easy this would be. I remembered looking at the lower slopes every time I drove into the area, wondering the same thing. A friend of ours, Dave Salahub decided to try it out and reported back that it was easy and pleasant. I needed no more prompting and decided that this would be the perfect trip to introduce my family to the Ya Ha Tinda hiking experience.
After a relatively short day on Razors Edge Peak the day before (which was climbed with a migraine), I found myself in the mood for a nice long solo outing on Sunday, May 31 2015. Bluerock Mountain has been on my list of peaks to scramble for many years already, and this particular day seemed like the perfect one to attempt it. I was hoping for snow in the steep crux gully and packed my light crampons and ax just in case.
Every time I drove home from the mountains along the Trans Canada highway, I wondered how easy this little bump would be to ascend. It’s certainly prominent enough to warrant a name, but it doesn’t have an official one as far as I know. Sonny and Raf are two friends who have done it. Raf assured me that it would be a nice short day – something I could do with my family. On Saturday, May 30 2015 the weather forecast was kind of grim. I decided we should drive to Razors Edge and check it out. If the weather held long enough, we could try an ascent. The clouds were low as we drove out from Calgary.
On Saturday, May 23 2015 Raf and I decided we were in the mood for an easy scramble. We settled on Waputik Peak on the border of Banff and Yoho National Parks after Raf assured me that the slopes looked dry already a week ago. I couldn’t believe there was that little snow already near the divide – but he was right. After doing many over night ski trips and big snow ascents in the past month, it felt wonderful to lift a light day pack! The route to Waputik is quite straight forward. Follow an old trail up Bath Creek (it was already overgrown in 2002) until the slopes get easier on the right and follow them to the summit. Sounds easy anyway.
Finally, on May 9, 2015 I managed to summit South Twin Peak on my third attempt of this beautiful mountain. I have some history with the north end of the Columbia Icefield, and with South Twin in particular.
Summit Elevation (m): 3340Elevation Gain (m): 2500 (from parking lot)Round Trip Time (hr): 10 (from high camp)Total Trip Distance (km): 48 (from parking lot)Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain somethingDifficulty Notes: Glacier travel in an extremely remote location and some avalanche risk to the Cromwell / Stutfield NE2 col make this a peak to be taken seriously. No technical difficulties to the summit – beware the cornice!GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: MN7; YDS (I)Map: Google Maps The winter of 2015 […]
Chickadee Peak has been on my radar ever since seeing Raf’s trip report on it. Back when Wietse and I did Boom Mountain, I remember looking at all the skiable terrain further up the Chickadee Valley and wondering if there were any other peaks we could ski in the area. Well, it turns out that there is! As Wietse, Ferenc and I drove to the parking area, Wietse started asking what we’d do if there wasn’t any snow on the approach! We weren’t laughing so hard when we finally parked. There wasn’t a lot of white stuff around anymore… 😉
On Sunday, April 19th we awoke in -15 degrees feeling pretty darn good with ourselves. The previous day we’d skied into our camp beneath Mount Columbia and even managed to ascend the peak before collapsing into our sleeping bags after a long and hard 17 hour day. There was a cloud cap covering Columbia as we struggled out of our warm sleeping bags and slowly started breaking camp. The sky soon cleared completely off – we were going to have a bluebird day on the ice fields. Even though our views would have been clearer on Columbia this day, we were still glad to have climbed the face with some clouds rather than a relentless spring sun heating things up. As we packed camp we made decisions on what to attempt.
Summit Elevation (m): 3747Elevation Gain (m): 2000Round Trip Time (hr): 23Total Trip Distance (km): 41Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3 – you fall, you break somethingDifficulty Notes: Crevasses, avalanches and a remote location in the middle of a large ice field are the main difficulties when climbing Mount Columbia. Don’t underestimate this trip just because it’s not technically that hard!GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: MN8; YDS (II)Map: Google Maps I have been waiting many years to climb Alberta’s highest mountain and the 2nd highest […]
After a very pleasant scramble on Labyrinth Mountain, Wietse and I still had plenty of gas in the tank to go for a second summit. Due to the crossing of the Red Deer River and a shared approach via horse track along Wolf Creek, it makes very good sense to tackle both Labyrinth Mountain and Mount Minos on the same day. I do have some advice if you follow our idea though. Definitely do NOT ascend Minos first. If you ascend Minos first, you will not ascend Labyrinth afterwards. You will be largely unmotivated after Minos, I think!
On Wednesday, April 8 2015, I climbed Mount Athabasca with Ferenc in perfect spring conditions. This left me wanting more in the way of snow ascents, hopefully on skis, for the weekend of April 11/12. Alas, the weather report didn’t bode well for a nice summit on skis. Rather than a suffer-fest in blizzard conditions, I decided another hike in the front ranges was in order. You probably can’t tell, but this year has been all about one area when it comes to hiking / easy scrambling in front ranges – Ya Ha Tinda.
As the first peak of my 40’s, I thought it would be nice to tag an 11000er that’s been on my radar for many years. Mount Athabasca looms over the Columbia Icefields center along highway 93 – otherwise known as the Icefields Parkway. I’m sure it has the most tourist photographs of any 11,000er, except maybe Mount Temple in Lake Louise or Robson to the north. Some people might be surprised that I hadn’t done Athabasca earlier in my climbing career, considering that I already completed many of the more difficult Columbia Icefields summits. The truth is, that I’d been saving Athabasca for the perfect time.
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.
It wasn’t looking good as I sat in the Tim Horton’s in Sundre on Saturday, March 28 2015. It was around 11 in the morning and it was pouring outside! Not just a mist, but a full on down pour. I was waiting for Steven and Ben to arrive from Edmonton before we continued our drive to the Bighorn Campground in the Ya Ha Tinda area of the front ranges. Our original plan was to sleep over on Saturday night, at the free equine campground, before arising early on Sunday and scouting a proposed route up Warden Rock. As the weather maps adjusted themselves on Friday afternoon, I started to get more ambitious and proposed that we scramble Eagle Mountain late on Saturday afternoon / evening, since we’d be in the area anyway. The weather was supposed to clear off around 15:00, which should give us enough time. Ben and Steven agreed to the adjusted plan and we planned to leave the Eagle Lake parking area around 1 or 2pm.
It seems that every time someone posts a trip report about climbing Mount Aberdeen (and Haddo), folks inquire about an easy ascent via the south slopes – the alternate descent route. While this probably seems anathema to most climbers, it makes perfect sense for folks who simply want to enjoy stunning views from the top of a very well placed peak in the heart of the Lake Louise group without all the messing around with ice climbing and usually taking 2 or 3 attempts to get up the darn mountain since everyone seems to under estimate the ‘short’ approach the first time around!
It was finally time. It was time for me to give in. After years of temptation, years of friends cajoling and battering me over the issue and years of resistance, it was finally time for me to ski at Roger’s Pass in the Selkirk mountain range of British Columbia. Steven had already fallen in love with the area and has climbed quite a few of the mountains in and around the pass. Last weekend, while we were settling in for the evening in the cozy Peyto Hut the topic came up again. We should do the Youngs Traverse in Rogers Pass next time the weather and avy conditions were good for a high level, exposed alpine ski traverse. I agreed that it sounded fun.
Finally the weather, our schedules, and back country avalanche conditions lined up over a weekend, allowing Ben, Steven and I to plan a 2 day excursion to the northern end of the Wapta Icefield. I am rapidly closing in on a long-sought summit list of all the Wapta peaks and only one peak remained for me on the hard-to-access northern end – Peyto Peak. As is usual for us, original plans varied from Youngs Peak to Lilliput (I was willing to repeat it for exercise) and finally we settled last minute on the Peyto Hut area. The plan was to leave Calgary around 04:30 and hopefully arrive at Peyto Hut with enough day light for Ben and Steven to bag Mount Baker on Saturday. Sunday we would ascend Peyto Peak before heading out. For the most part, this plan was executed flawlessly.
The weekend of January 17th found me with a mountain itch. The last outing for me was on December 31, when I snowshoed up Rawson Lake Ridge in Kananaskis. A month is a long time between summits for me. The usual suspects (i.e. Ben, Vern and Steven) were busy emailing trip ideas until Friday afternoon. Original plans for an ascent of Center Peak in the Livingstone Range were cancelled, thanks to wind warnings in the area. We settled on a rarely ascended peak in the Don Getty / Ghost River Wilderness Area instead – Phantom Crag also known as Devil’s Fang. We wanted to get some winter rock experience in preparation for some climbs we have planned in 2015.
On December 22, Wietse and Dave did a snowshoe ascent of Rawson Lake Ridge. Wietse kindly let others in our group know that they had laid a snowshoe track up the ridge, which lies just to the north of Rawson Lake, and that we should take advantage of it since it was earned with a lot of sweat (and swearing?!). I was too busy spending time with family over the holidays to get to it earlier, but finally on the last day of 2014 I had a few hours to spend alone in the mountains again.
After looking at our options for the weekend, Ben, Steven and I decided that it made the most sense to try for a hiking or snow shoe trip on Sunday, December 14th. Considering the snow conditions everywhere, we settled on Maze Peak in the Ya Ha Tinda Ranch area of the Rockies, west of Sundre Alberta. Our initial plan consisted of meeting in Sundre on Sunday morning before driving to the trail head. As I was puttering around the house on Saturday afternoon I over heard something about meteor showers in the area for that night. I immediately went on the web and discovered that the Geminid Meteor shower was indeed occurring now, with the most intense shower being the night of December 13th. Ya Ha Tinda is an isolated place with very little light pollution. Since I was planning to be there the next day anyway, I couldn’t think of any reason not to go the night before and try to witness some of these meteors myself. I contacted Ben and Steven about my plan and they agreed to also drive all the way to the (free) Bighorn Campground where we would spend the night meteor and star gazing before ascending Maze Peak on Sunday.
On Saturday, November 22 2014, Wietse and I finally managed to get another trip in together. It’s been a while since we managed to clear our schedules and match objectives so it was nice to get out again. Our destination was two small front range summits in the Bluerock Provincial Park area of Kananaskis west of Turner Valley up the Gorge Creek Road. When I did Missinglink and Dot Mountain exactly one year previous in 2013, the Gorge Creek road was still washed out near the start. It is now filled back in and goes a few more kilometers to a parking area on the west side of the road (you are forced into this parking lot by a barricade across the road).
When I heard there was a major winter storm coming down through Calgary and the Rockies to the west on Sunday, November 9th I decided that as much as I didn’t feel like getting up early on Saturday the 8th – I should probably try to make it a priority before the deep freeze. One last warm fall hike / scramble in 2014! After emailing with Ben and Steven we settled on Evangeline Peak in the Ya Ha Tinda region of the front ranges, west of Sundre, Alberta. I’d never been to this area, while Ben and Steven made a few excursions there in 2013. Sundre is an easy enough drive from Calgary (~1.5 hours) but that’s only about half way, time-wise. After picking up Steven and Ben we drove another hour to the parking lot near the Big Horn Campground. This campground is free to stay at – somewhat rare nowadays.
I wasn’t sure I was in the mood to go out on Sunday, October 19th. I had a pretty bad head cold and some motivational issues on Saturday evening. I slept in ’til around 08:00 on Sunday and awoke feeling pretty good – and the weather was pretty sweet too. I dashed around the house like a mad man and managed to get out the door by 08:25, heading down to the Kananaskis Lakes area hoping to either scramble Rawson Lake Ridge or The Turret, depending how I was feeling and how much snow there was.