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.
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.
I really thought I’d be sitting at home all weekend, the week after our long approach and climb on Mount Alexandra. But Hanneke was busy studying and the kids were occupied and the weather forecast was amazing for October so what was I to do?! Naturally I texted Steven as I knew he’d be up for something and sure enough – he was game. We weren’t really in the mood for something too difficult or long. We’ve been chatting for a while about scrambling up Mount Girouard, mostly because whenever we drive home down highway 1 through Banff from the west, we stare directly at Inglismaldie and Girouard. I’ve already done Inglismaldie (and enjoyed it) and Girouard is the highest mountain in the Fairholme range so naturally it was on “the list”. It’s a good thing I didn’t look too closely at the two bits of beta we had from the Ramblers and from Marko / Sonny. Both of these trips were over 12 hours long and the total distance indicated was 22-24km! For some reason I had it in my head that this was an 8 hour day…
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.
I have to admit that I was not feeling ‘it’ on Mushroom Peak. I was ready for some warm soup and a few hours lounging around our excellent bivy site, maybe even reading my e-book for a bit. But there were a few factors that made it sensible to attempt Mushroom while we were half way up it already;
I had the whole week of September 1-7 off, but ended up working a couple of days on Tues / Wed due to bad weather. By Thursday I was ready to resume my break. Steven, Ben and I had plans for Fri-Sun so I had an extra day to do something myself. Originally I had a peak in mind but after thinking about it I decided to hike into the Woolley / Diadem bivy area by myself on Thursday and spend an extra night just chilling and reading or taking photos at one of the best bivy sites in the Rockies.
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 […]
After a full day driving to and summiting Mount Harrison the Saturday previous, we slept in on Sunday before reluctantly rising and surveying the clouds that were now hanging over our little valley. Mount Folk hadn’t looked very difficult the afternoon before, as we trudged slowly past it on our way up Mount Harrison, so we weren’t too concerned about ascending it in the clouds or even rain if it came to that. Thunderstorms would be an issue, but we weren’t expecting any of that sort of fun activity, so we ate a leisurely breakfast before setting off up the same route we’d just completed less than 10 hours previous. Good times. Dang peakbaggers…
Saturday afternoon, once we moved bivy sites from the South Glacier to the east one, Steven came over and expressed some concern at the obvious giant, open ‘schrund splitting the whole south face of the upper glacier on Prince Albert. Initially I dismissed his concerns thinking of how easily we avoided similar issues on King George’s South Glacier. (You can spot these giant holes on the Google image of Prince Albert.) Saturday night was warmer than Friday night had been, and we woke up wondering what conditions would be like on the glacier. There was only one way to find out – go put boots on it.
Summit Elevation (m): 3084Elevation Gain (m): 1800Round Trip Time (hr): 24Total Trip Distance (km): 28Related Trips: Mount King George, Prince GeorgeQuick ‘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 […]
I decided to take advantage of a good weather forecast and a day off work on Friday, August 1 2014 to attempt one of my last remaining peaks along the Wapta Icefield – Portal Peak. I’d heard rumors for years that this was only a ‘scramble’, after hearing initially from Dave Stevens that this was a climb – and not an easy one. I remember looking at it from the summit of neighboring Mount Thompson thinking it didn’t look that easy…
After a perfect day on Mount Joffre I woke up the team at 03:30 on Sunday morning for an attempt at my 400th peak – Mount Marlborough. We packed up camp under a clear, cool sky and soon found ourselves under the approach gully up the north west side of the mountain. The snow was fairly hard, but there was a punchy crust if you went looking for it. We knew that we had to get up and down the steep south face to the upper ridge before the morning sun started to hit it. There was recent avy debris in the upper bowl so we knew that parts of the slope wanted to slide.
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.)
On Saturday, February 15 2014, Steven Song and I completed one of very few ski ascents of “Spoon Needle” in Kananaskis Country, east of the Fortress Ski resort. There was many years when this lowly, but striking, peak saw only 1 ascent per season, but thanks to the internet and both it’s easy nature and prominent appearance from Hwy 40, the peak is gaining in popularity. Alas, since most people choose it as an off season objective, there are almost as many routes as there are ascents.
Any time you see the keywords “ski” and “bushwhack” in the same trip report you should never ever try to repeat it yourself. You’ve been warned! As part of his Opal 35 Project, Kev Barton had his eyes fixed on a winter ascent of either the main peak of “Opoca” or it’s eastern outlier, known locally as “East Opoca” or “Elpoca Creek Hill” by Bob Spirko. Since we were attempting an unknown peak in winter, via a tight approach valley I knew that our odds of summiting were very low, but I didn’t really care. This is the sort of trip that’s done for the adventure, not the summit. We got some adventure all right… On hindsight we made two blunders which cost us the peak.
Most trip reports on Association Peak wax on and on about the length and wasted height gain involved in a relatively low lying and insignificant front range summit. Knowing this, I’ve never been in a hurry to attempt it – there always seems to be better and more exciting options! Well – on Friday, October 25 2013 it was finally my turn to discover the delights of Association Peak and it’s approach. I was joined by Wietse and Bill. Inviting Bill along on any excursion to the mountains is always a good idea – especially if there’s any ambiguity about the route.
Wietse and I decided to take advantage of a nice day on Friday, October 11 just before the long weekend with an easy scramble up Roberta Peak near the Highwood Pass area in Kananaskis Country. The day started off exciting when we saw 4 grizzlies digging for breakfast along highway 40! Thank goodness they weren’t anywhere near our trail head or we may have switched objectives.
After hiking up to Mumm Basin my plan was to ascend Mumm Peak via the dragon’s back that I’d noticed the day before while hiking down from Snowbird Pass and Titkana Peak. I spoke with a park Ranger at the Hargreaves shelter on Wednesday evening and he confirmed that this route would work. He also worried me a bit by mentioning a “5.3 chimney and possibly awkward traverse between the west and east summit with the fresh snow and ice”. A 5.3 chimney?! That didn’t sound like scrambling anymore.
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.
On Friday, September 20 2013, Jon and Tony joined Rod, Wietse and I for a trip down memory lane. Way back in 2005 we had done the Hawkins Horseshoe in Waterton and this year everything aligned so we could finally do another fall scramble together. I grew up about 100 meters from Jon and Tony (we are cousins) back in Carman, Manitoba and it’s always fun to reminisce about our youth. We arrived at the Moraine Lake parking lot just in time to snag a parking spot (09:00 and it was already filling fast). Apparently the next day, Lake Louise officials were closing the parking lot due to crazy traffic and implementing a restricted bus schedule instead.
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.
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.
Mount Murchison has been tempting Raf and I ever since we first got a really good look at her summit from across highway 93 while sipping Starbucks on Mount Sarbach in 2009. Already in 2008 my appetite for this mountain was wet by Andrew Nugara’s trip report of him and his brother’s ascent. Murchison is a huge massif, covering a main mountain with two summits plus 7 other towers which are adjacent to the two main summits. Something else that is fascinating about Murchison is that it’s listed height (3333m) is actually not the true height of her highest (SE) summit.