After biking, hiking and scrambling for many hours and many kilometers in the past 28 hours or so it was finally time for Phil Richards, Joanna Ford and I to attempt the highlight objective of our so-called “Three Passes” trip.
When we crested Shale Pass we were surprised by the dramatic NE aspect of Chirp Peak with its unique rock formations and many water courses running down its sides into Peters Creek far below.
Finally, after 1.5 hours of steep hiking we topped out on a high point on the southwest ridge with the summit of Wapiti still looking a long way off and distressingly snowy.
After enjoying a nice supper break at our Tomahawk Pass bivy site, Joanna, Phil and I set off up the easy looking western slopes of Tomahawk Mountain.
Where do I even start with this report? I guess I’ll just start at the beginning and see where this story goes as I access my overloaded memory banks…
The last time I scrambled this circuit was over 10 years ago on June 14, 2008 with Wietse. I don’t generally repeat trips and despite not planning this particular trip for this particular day, on hindsight I’m perfectly OK with repeating it – it’s a beauty!
After my adventurous solo outing on Mount Hensley only a few days previous, I wasn’t sure I was entirely prepared for the long bike ‘n scramble Phil and I had planned for Saturday, June 15th. We’d been planning a trip into the Fording River Pass area for a few years already and June seemed like an ideal time for such a venture.
I took my own excellent and logical medical advice and layered more pain on top of existing pain in order to help the original pain fade. It didn’t work – at all, but I did have a heckuva solo adventure when I could have been at work doing boring stuff all day.
I was still hurting quite a bit from my first bike ride of the year on Deadman Pass Peak a few days earlier, but the only way to cure pain is to liberally layer more pain on top so I readily agreed that something with an even longer and much rougher bike approach was the obvious choice (!!).
Deadman Pass Peak is one of those mountains that snuck onto my list many years ago when So Nakagawa posted a trip report in 2015 from a trip he did in 2013. When Dave McMurray posted another trip report on the same peak in 2015 it went up the list a bit higher before fading to other, bigger, more remote objectives as these things tend to do.
It’s been roughly 15 years (!!) since I tackled the main summit of Mount Baldy and 8 since tackling the west summit. I don’t like repeats if there’s other options but on this particular day in June 2019 I decided it had been long enough and it was time for some updated photos and some exercise.
On Saturday, June 1 2019 I was at home getting texts from a bored Wietse who was sitting on the summit of Sulphur waiting for the rest of his hiking group. He indicated that the rumored true summit on the fourth peak clearly looked lower and after seeing his photos I agreed.
As Phil and I drove home from our successful scramble up Mount Berland in Kootenay National Park on Saturday, May 11, my thoughts turned to the following day.
As the weekend approached, Phil Richards and I were getting a wee bit desperate to find a peak that didn’t involve obvious avalanche hazards or post-holing hell.
On March 23, Phil Richards and I hiked up a snowy Sheep Creek and scrambled Winchester Ridge. From the ridge we enjoyed spectacular views over the Dormer River towards Dormer Mountain and started to plan what kind of adventure would get us to its summit.
Even before Cornelius Rott forged a route to the summit of Winchester Ridge, it was on my radar. This has happened with a number of relatively obscure peaks over the past 3 or 4 years as Cornelius is attracted to the same types of objectives as Phil and I and usually manages to nab them before we do.
Astral Peak has been on my radar for many years now, ever since climbing Devils Head in 2012 and looking back over my shoulder as I walked onto its surprisingly spacious summit. The views from this very distinctive and well-known Ghost Wilderness peak provided me with a list of relatively unknown summits to the west including Poltergeist, Astral and Castle Rock Peak.
I very rarely repeat mountains. Very, very rarely. I just don’t see the point. The name of my web site provides insight to the whole point of hiking, scrambling, skiing and climbing for me – exploring new areas. But every once in a while I get an itch to do a repeat for whatever reason. Sometimes it’s just that the mountain is that much fun but usually it’s because I didn’t get great photos or views the first time. Such is the case with Mount Cory.
After the crappiest September on record, I knew we’d likely get some good weather in October. Sure enough! After a pretty bad start, October turned gorgeous and by the third week the forecast was all sunshine. After a series of emails and texts, Wietse and I were the last two standing and started making plans for Saturday. We settled on Chimper Peak.
Phil and I weren’t sure where “RA” Peak actually was! After returning from the summit of Jake Smith Peak, I was feeling a bit more energy than before the short scramble and we decided that since we were in the area, we might as well tag both the west and east “RA” peaks. From the col with Jake Smith Peak, Phil and I regained part of RA Peak’s south ridge before traversing easy SW slopes to the col on smatterings of sheep trails worn into the scree.
From the summit of Three Lakes Ridge we had a choice to make. Despite the gorgeous weather Phil and I were obviously enjoying, it was already past 14:00 hours and we were a long way from the parking lot. We could descend Three Lakes Ridge via west slopes before joining the track back up to Middle Kootenay Pass and decide from there whether or not Middle Kootenay Mountain was a “go”, or we could take advantage of the ridge we were already on and continue towards Jake Smith and Red Argillite peaks. Why was it even a choice?
After approaching the Middlepass Lakes and scrambling up Rainy Ridge it was time to traverse towards the creatively named, “Three Lakes Ridge” – the professional cartographers must have been on holidays when these peaks were monikered. Nugara mentions the traverse between Rainy and Three Lakes Ridge as doable but not highly recommended, especially in the direction we were going to be doing it. How difficult could it be right?
A day after ascending close to 1800 vertical meters and biking / hiking and scrambling almost 30km up and down Mount Coulthard and McLaren in the Crowsnest Pass area, I was back at it with Phil Richards. We were planning a very full day of biking, hiking and peakbagging in the South Rockies within the newly formed Castle Wildland Provincial Park, near the Castle Mountain Ski Resort and just outside the other newly formed park, Castle Provincial Park.
Whenever I looked into the Mount Coulthard scramble, I always ended up wondering why nobody seemed willing to combine it with its easy neighboring peak, Mount McLaren (not to be confused with Mount MacLaren in the High Rock Range further north). I decided it was time someone tried it and posted it as a good idea – provided it was a good one of course. As it turns out – it was a very good idea. Initially, I thought I’d have to start up to the Andy Good / McLaren col from lower down on the North York Creek Road, even lower than the plane crash site.
September 2018 was not the best ending to a hiking and scrambling season that I’ve ever had – not even close. To be blunt, it was pretty crappy and the worst end of season so far for me! September is usually my favorite time of year in the Rockies. The touron hordes go home and even normally busy areas such as Skoki, Lake O’Hara and Assiniboine see less and less visitors and more and more yellowing larches and bright fall colors in the vegetation coating the mountains. The combination of clear blue skies (no more wildfires), snow-capped peaks and bright vegetation is usually what keeps me going for the next 5 months of winter. Not this year.