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Category : Scramble

Commonwealth Ridge

Phil Richards and I decided that Commonwealth Ridge would make a nice first summit of 2016 – and we were right. We started in beautiful predawn light from the Smuts Pass parking area along the Spray Lakes Road in cold temperatures of around -23 degrees. The cold was a bit of a bummer as we were expecting warmer temps – but we warmed up soon enough as we snowshoed towards the ridge on a highway of ski and snowshoe tracks. Initially we were following So Nakagawa’s GPS track, but soon we started questioning this decision and turned back to find a more direct trail up the ridge. Thankfully we found another highway track going in the right direction which I’m sure saved us hours of deep sugar-snow trail breaking which is as much fun as it sounds – i.e. not much!

Galatea, Little

Originally I was planning to attempt skiing Little Galatea, an outlier of the much larger Mount Galatea. After Matt Clay posted that he and Matt Hobbs had recently spent a considerable amount of energy breaking trail through sugar-snow to the upper ridge, I couldn’t resist taking advantage of this on my ‘shoes, and I got to spend another day in the hills with my family out of the deal. Now that I’ve ‘shoed it, I’m glad I didn’t go for it on skis, via the alternate route. The only way to ski LG is via the massive avalanche gully that Nugara recommends ascending and which I think should be avoided by all but very confident and avy-aware skiers / ‘shoers in prime conditions.

Cabin Ridge (Twin Peaks)

After a few weekends at home, I was ready to explore some front range areas again – somewhat of a tradition when the weather turns and it’s not quite ski season yet. After conversing with Wietse for a while, we settled on Cabin Ridge, also known as Twin Peaks. I was too lazy to research the route, so Wietse did some Googling and decided that road 532 through the “Windy Gap” to hwy 40 (gravel) was closed (due to the 2013 floods) and we should take Township Road 104A (Oldman River Road) to hwy 40 instead – driving past the parking area used to ascend Thunder Mountain. We decided to check out Windy Gap ourselves on the return trip, because I had a hard time believing it was still closed from 2013!

Poboktan Mountain

The weather in mid October 2015 was sublime. So sublime, in fact, that with the weekend fast approaching, I found myself invited on a number of trips that would normally be done in the summer – certainly not in the last half of October! Phil and I have been on a bit of a roll the past month, so it seemed appropriate to continue on it that vibe. Poboktan Mountain first came onto my radar while climbing Mount Brazeau with Ben this past August. As the sun was setting on us near the summit of the 11,000er, we got a great glimpse of Poboktan’s twin summits and they looked wonderful. I wondered aloud if Poboktan was a scramble or a climb, but neither Ben nor I knew anything about it at the time. Since then, I’ve also had a great view of the other side of Poboktan from Mount Stewart and Mount Willis.

Nomad, Mount

On Friday, October 09 2015 Phil Richards and I decided that we should do a “pre-turkey” workout. Well, actually only I decided that, since Phil doesn’t eat turkey, but you get the point. Originally the weather was looking perfect. Naturally, as the day approached the weather deteriorated a bit but still looked reasonable enough to make the effort. We downgraded our original plans a bit and settled on Mount Nomad in Kananaskis Country, near the Upper Kananaskis Lake and Mount Indefatigable.

A wild scene involving Mount Douglas and its larch covered lower northern slopes.

Drummond, Mount & Packers Pass Peak

By the end of September 2015 I was getting a wee bit desperate to finally see some fully turned larches. Despite getting out a lot in the middle of the month, especially to Waterton Lakes National Park, I’d yet to run into the full fall golden goodness of larch heaven that I’ve come to crave at the end of each scrambling / hiking season in the Alberta Rockies. As usual for the 2015 season, the weather did not cooperate when I needed it to! The forecast for the weekend of September 25-27 was looking a bit thin. Sunday was the best looking day by far, but as the dates crept closer the forecast grew dimmer until even Sunday was looking like a good shot at cold, cloud and possibly rain or even snow.

Ruby Ridge

After a long day with Phil Richards on a three peak traverse of Vimy Peak, Arras Peak (Vimy Ridge) and GR939323, I wanted an easy, short objective to wind down my two weeks off. Wietse was interested in joining me for the day and eventually we settled on Ruby Ridge. We figured it would take us around 6 hours, which gave us plenty of time to get back to Calgary on time.

Vimy Peak, Mount Arras, Vimy Ridge

I was due for one of these extremely rare days in Waterton Lakes National Park! What days, you ask? Those rare gems where the wind is manageable and “sunny” actually means you see blue sky and the ball of fire sustaining life on our fragile planet! Oh – and of course those days when you have a route planned out that will take 100% advantage of these conditions. In our case Phil Richards and I were planning a grand traverse from Vimy Peak to Arras Peak (Vimy Ridge) to the highest point of Vimy Ridge (GR939323) and back again.

Lakeview Ridge

After a spectacular trip to the White Goat Wilderness with Eric over the weekend, I spent a few rainy, cold days back in Calgary recovering. Unfortunately (for me) the latest weather system dumped a pile of fresh snow on most of the Rockies, once again dashing any hopes of a large ascent for my second week off. Even my dream of going into the Mount Assiniboine area to bag peaks and photograph larches was literally dumped on. Ah well. The Rockies are a big place and one place didn’t seem to be affected by the latest storms, so I headed back there! Waterton Lakes National Park was back on the menu so-to-speak.

Stewart, Mount

After a spectacular day approaching and ascending Mount Willis we awoke with sunrise to a beautifully clear day on Saturday, September 12 2015, quite eager to ascend the lofty Mount Stewart that we’d been staring at for a good portion of the previous day already. We were pretty sure that Stewart was an easy scramble from photos we’d taken from Cirrus’ summit to the west. The issue with Stewart isn’t the technical difficulties of the climbing; it’s the remoteness of the peak and the access to the easy southwest slopes.

Willis, Mount (Nigel Pass, Cataract Pass)

There are a few notable things about the White Goat Wilderness Area as compared to a national or provincial park. In a way, it’s even more restrictive. There are no horses, no motorized vehicles and no air traffic allowed. No fires, hunting or even fishing either. But random camping and backpacking is highly encouraged – provided it’s done responsibly of course. I’d certainly seen mountains in the White Goat before, notably the three summits just north of Mount Cline and the massive summit of Mount Stewart, which I’d last seen from Corona Ridge. (Stewart was actually another choice for the weekend Steve and I did Corona Ridge and Marmota Peak…)

Rowe, Mount (+ Festubert Mountain)

Looking at my choices for peak(s) to do on my second full day in Waterton National Park I thought I was fairly limited, thanks to the closing of the Red Rock Parkway for construction. I settled on Mount Rowe, hoping that it would have similar snow conditions to what I had on Sofa Mountain the day before. Of course I rationalized that even though it was further west, it wasn’t that much further right?! Joining me as we cruised along the Akamina Parkway under a gorgeous morning sunrise was Phil Richards – a recent friend who’d done another long trip with me earlier this year on Rose and Threepoint.

Sofa Mountain

The weather along the Alberta Rockies was quite dreary for my first week off in September 2015. After doing a fairly intense trip with Ben up Evelyn Peak in Jasper National Park, I came home for a day before setting out in the opposite direction to try my luck in the southern Rockies instead. It’s been a long time since I set foot in Waterton National Park – about 6 years to be exact! I wasn’t impressed with the Red Rock Road being closed already (due to construction) but hoped that there’d be enough other objectives to keep me busy. Mostly I was just hoping that the conditions would be decent.

Evelyn Peak

Of course when I started my two week vacation in September, the weather turned for the worse in the Rockies. And when I say “worse”, I mean way worse… First of all was the dump of snow that covered the entire range of the Alberta Rockies from north of Jasper to Waterton Lakes National Park. While a bit of snow isn’t a huge issue, especially in the fall – it definitely limited my choices for peak bagging. I had to dial down my ambitions from lofty 11,000ers to trips that involved more hiking and backpacking. I didn’t mind, to be honest. I was in the mood for more reflective trips anyway – sometimes the intensity of larger peaks can distract from the beauty and peacefulness of the area that you’re traveling through. Not a terrible thing necessarily, but it’s nice to stop and smell the roses every once in a while.

Burns, Mount – East Peak (EEOB)

We debated long and hard about what we should do for Steven’s last trip before he moves to the lower mainland in BC. It would have been fantastic to do something huge like Robson or another 11,000er but alas, the weather, energy levels and time all conspired against us. On hindsight it was entirely fitting that we ended up doing a fairly obscure front range Nugara scramble with Ben, Steven and I getting lucky once again with the weather! Originally we were planning on heading up Gibraltar Mountain, but after realizing in the parking lot that none of us really had the energy to deal with the long approach (10+km) combined with flood damage, Steven suggested the much quicker and nearby East end of Mount Burns (EEOB). I didn’t even know this was a scramble in the area, but Steven has a great memory and remembered reading about it in Nugara’s book.

Red Peak

After a few weekends of general laziness, I was in the mood for some moderate hiking with my family on Saturday, August 29 2015. I was hoping the recent smoky conditions would be calmer than they were over the week previous, but as the day approached we realized that we wouldn’t have the clear views we wanted. Oh well. We still wanted to get the exercise and I wanted to scope out the fall colors that I was sure would be starting in the alpine.

Marmota Peak

After a long day on Corona Ridge where I was dealing with a stomach flu, we awoke at 04:30 surprisingly willing to tackle another long objective in the area – Marmota Peak. After staring at it for hours from our scramble of Corona Ridge, we were excited to see if our chosen route would go. The route was easy enough to spot – a high-line traverse (more side-hilling!!) along ridges and cliffs beneath Spreading Peak before ascending a gully to a ridge abutting the west face of Marmota. From here we’d gain the upper ridge and traverse to the summit – one of two high points at the southern end. Unfortunately it was obvious from Corona Ridge that the cooler looking south peak was lower than the other two, and our GPS units confirmed that it was about 80m lower.

Corona Ridge

As I drove out to meet Steven on Friday, August 7, 2015 I could see that we were probably not going to be climbing our original objective for the next two days. Originally we were planning to do Mount Saskatchewan but even as I drove past the Saskatchewan Crossing junction I could see that Mount Cline was plastered in new snow thanks to the system that came through the previous day. Sure enough! My first glimpse of the mountain showed a lot of new snow above 10,000 feet – way too much to melt off in the next 24 hours or less. When I met Steven at the Big Bend parking area we both agreed that we needed to change plans. After some deliberation and looking at maps, we decided to lug the bivy gear up Totem Creek and check out one or two peaks in the back country of the Siffleur Wilderness Area behind Mount Murchison. Corona Ridge would be our first objective, we hoped to still bag it on day one before bivying and attempting a second peak before coming out the next day.

Opal Ridge South

The weather forecast for Saturday, July 11 2015 wasn’t optimal for scrambling. I knew it wouldn’t be quite as bad as TheWeatherNetwork was predicting, but I don’t mess around with t-storms and so far have never been caught in one high on a mountain, due to a rigid avoidance of them. I scrapped my original plans to go to Yoho and decided at the last minute to do an easy / short peak that’s been on my radar for a few years already – the south peak of Opal Ridge.

Arctomys Peak

Once we descended from Christian Peak and looped back to our traverse tracks from the day before, we decided to give Arctomys Peak a try. I think we all underestimated the amount of effort required to get all the way over to the eastern edge of the Lyell Icefield from the south ridge of Christian Peak, never mind the effort to then descend 400 vertical meters, cross another small icefield and then re-ascend to the summit of Arctomys. Now reverse it all the way back to the Lyell Hut!! Sometimes we are just suckers for punishment.

Icefall Brook Approach to Lyell Hut

I heard a rumor already years ago, that there was a route near the Icefall Lodge that didn’t involve going the normal Icefall Lodge, helicopter or Glacier Lake approaches. Although there is nothing wrong with either of the Icefall Lodge routes (either Tivoli Shoulder or Crampon Col), this other route was rumored to be shorter, have spectacular views and was entirely self-supported. The Glacier Lake approach route never sounded that attractive to me, with talk of route finding, bushwhacking, steep and loose scree and days spent just on the approach. I must admit, however, that after doing this approach for Mount Forbes in late April 2016, my view of it has improved somewhat.

Orphan, The

For Father’s Day and for the longest day of the year, we chose a fairly easy scramble in the Spray Lakes region of Kananaskis. Originally I was hoping to climb North Victoria early on Sunday before coming home to celebrate Father’s Day, but that didn’t work out thanks to a very chaotic weather forecast that kept promising perfect weather and then changing at the last minute! Oh well. June in the Alberta Rockies is known for unpredictable and chaotic weather.

Rose, Mount

After a fairly straightforward route to the summit of Threepoint Mountain it was time to explore. Nugara is pretty sure in his guidebooks that there is “no direct route” from Threepoint over to Mount Rose, it’s shorter neighbor to the south. He’s right, of course. There is no direct scramble route. But when there’s no direct route what do you do? Obviously you scout around a bit and look for an indirect one. The thing with Mount Rose is that while it’s a nice enough little summit, surrounded by some very nice terrain, it’s not really the sort of mountain you want to dedicate a whole day to ascend. Phil and I both remarked more than once that if we didn’t get Rose with Threepoint we wouldn’t be coming back for it any time soon. From the summit of Threepoint, there were a few obvious gullies to try on the ridge splitting south (skier’s left) off the west ridge that Nugara recommends using for an alternate descent. We knew that the long band of cliffs running along this ridge were huge and even overhanging so the odds of these gullies working were slim. We also figured that for sure Nugara would have tried them – although if he did Threepoint in the winter he may not have bothered.

Threepoint Mountain

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.

Astley, Mount

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!!