I’ve been dreaming of scrambling Nasswald Peak for many years now. It felt great to find a beautiful and straightforward route to the south face from the Valley of the Rocks Trail. Despite an easy ramble up the south face the final hundred meters of SE ridge to the summit was very loose and exposed terrain. A perfect fall day for a long sought summit!
As we drove slowly back to the hwy Sara and I agreed that this was one of our more relaxing multi-day outings of 2022, actually it was by far the most relaxing one. With the first day only coming in at 9 hours 1650 meters of ascent and the second at less than 8 hours and only just over 1000 meters ascent we didn’t feel too stressed. I’m sure that for me the ultralightweight backpacking system had a lot to do with it – I decided to test it on a 2 night trip immediately after this one. A highly recommended late summer or fall trip for fit parties wanting to experience some of the Castle Wildernesses more remote peaks and valleys.
Overall this trip went much better than I thought it would despite some unforeseen challenges and the complexity of the terrain. Some of the SC6 sections were at the top end of moderate, hence my “+” overall rating. Many people assume this trip is easy and straightforward because the stats and elevations make it seem like it should be. It’s not. If you treat it as a full day and take your time routefinding you will have a very enjoyable outing. If you tackle these peaks as a backup plan in shitty weather and non-ideal conditions you might start hating your life choices. With good weather, the great views up remote valleys and over Abraham Lake make this a more scenic outing than you might expect – that is certainly what happened in my case. I’m very satisfied with my decision to reverse the usual clockwise direction, ascending 2 of the 3 difficult sections rather than descending them. Rhine Peak is an option for a 4th peak if you are braver than I am, or use a rope on its NE face / gully. A highly recommended route for experienced Rockies scramblers.
Wietse and I were shocked that our total time for this trip was only 11.5 hours with an average pace of 4.2 km/h for the day! Despite being painful we agreed that this is a pretty good outing for hikers and scramblers who don’t mind a long bike approach and a bit of work. Instead of carrying a much heavier overnight pack you can squeeze 2 days into 1, bag three summits and get some pretty sweet views for all your efforts. There is very little (i.e. none) water along the route once you leave the West Castle River lower down, so you should budget your water carefully and think about how much you might need. I highly recommend this trip for larch season – looking back on my photos from Jake Smith Peak I realize how many there are along the ridge between La Coulotte and Scarpe Mountain.
My feet were feeling pretty chewed up as we completed the final hour of fast hiking to the parking lot. Despite more discomfort than I’m used to, from the heat, my feet and my tired mind I find myself reflecting very fondly on this trip only days later while writing this report. Things are never guaranteed to go perfectly in the hills and some trips simply hurt more than others for a variety of reasons. The trick, I find, is to push through the pain and try to enjoy them as much as possible. Now that the pain is receding and the memories of discomfort are fading I realize that this trip was amazing and I want to go back.
Within just over 5 hours of starting our ascent we were back out of Fossil Creek towards the Pipestone River. I was hurting more than I should have been from a 33km, 2100m day. Although that isn’t a small day by any means, most of it was on trail and the off trail part was pretty darn easy and straightforward as far as these things go. I’ve had a lot of big trips lately so I think I was suffering from a form of burnout (mental and physical) and I just had an “off” day in the strong summer sun and heat. I did enjoy Forgotten Peak (my 900th summit if you must know) despite the slight setbacks. The views on route took me by surprise. For some reason I didn’t expect the north end of the Drummond massif to be quite so impressive.
Within 2 hours of leaving our overnight packs along the South Ram River Trail we were back at them, proving that Aires really is just an “add on” peak. On hindsight I’m glad that we ascended it – it was the one bright spot on an otherwise very challenging and dreary day.
A rare ascent of a little known, very remote peak named for the Alice in Wonderland theme of the area – Cheshire Peak. A gorgeous approach, sneaky difficult step and hiking at over 3000 meters with views of the most remote and hard to access east faces in Banff National Park make this a highlight day in the mountains in 2022 for me. Dormouse Peak felt like a pretty simple add-on after all that.
It’s a heckuva long way into the front ranges but once you get to the old Headwaters Patrol Cabin a horse track leads up the Dodo valley to easy south ascent slopes. Views from the lofty 3067m peak make the work worthwhile and will have you dreaming of many more adventures in this pristine area of the Alberta Rockies. The mysteries of “Ladder Falls” will have you wondering about going further up valley.
What can I say about this 3-day trip? I am so lucky to enjoy trips like this in these pristine areas of the Alberta Rockies. Yes, this is an OHV and horse traffic area but once you get off the main drags and into the back valleys this is as pristine a landscape as you’re going to find pretty much anywhere on earth. I will not soon forget walking through alpine meadows at sunrise or under soaring rock gates straight out of a LOTR movie. This is the kind of country that sits deep down in your soul and refuses to leave once you’ve experienced it.
Oval Peak was a quick and easy 5th summit from the north shoulder as Sara and I passed by it on route to the Brazeau River and the South Boundary Trail far below. Views of Afternoon Peak’s north face and over the meadows towards Mount McDonald, Frances and Lonely Peak make this peak a worthwhile objective if you’re in the area anyway. On its own it’s a pretty lengthy march to nowhere for a lowly summit.
Mount McDonald is one of those peaks that once you find out about it, it grabs your attention. Or at least that’s what happened to me. I’m not even sure how or why, but I was perusing bivouac.com one day and came across Rick Collier’s photo trip report from a 2011 excursion into the area with David P. Jones. What caught my attention immediately wasn’t even the peak – it looked a little dreary and very easy. It was the large lake located south of the mountain that really got my explor8ion juices flowing and I immediately started dreaming of visiting this obviously special place at the headwaters of a pretty major drainage.
Many folks would have no idea where Lonely Peak is. I certainly didn’t until I started researching remote peaks up the Job, Coral and McDonald Creek areas of the Alberta Rockies. When planning an ascent of Lonely Peak I only had a 2011 trip report from Rick Collier to go on. By the time Sara and I started up Lonely we’d been up and at it for 9 hours already, exiting the Afternoon plateau and valley, ascending Mount Frances and finding our way into the McDonald Creek valley. Despite being pretty keen peakbaggers, I’ll admit that I wasn’t totally feeling another ascent right away. This changed quickly of course, as it usually does for me!
Sara McLean and I spent a lovely Wednesday morning wandering down the Afternoon Plateau and exiting the high meadows under Afternoon Peak before finally hiking down “Afternoon Creek” and arriving at our planned ascent line to Mount Frances. I’d only seen a report from 2011 by Rick Collier when planning the trip but it didn’t sound difficult. By the time we found ourselves under this diminutive peak it was no longer looking so small and the forecast heat was clearly on – big time. Good thing we were planning to ascend a south facing gully on this one!
Afternoon Peak first came onto my radar after a 2015 ascent of Mount Willis with Eric Coulthard. Seeing the brilliant reddish / purple color of this lofty peak looming over a lovely and unique plateau with dozens of differently colored lakes got me interested in an ascent. In 2016 Liam Harrap ascended the peak, the only person I know who has. Liam kindly shared some beta with me indicating a pretty straightforward ascent. As the years ticked by and I never got back into the White Goat I started to think it might not happen. Then in the brutally long and cold “Covid” winter of 2021/22 I dug into all my sources of mountain information to compile a large list of remaining summits that interested me. Afternoon Peak once again raised its head and I started planning a detailed trip to finally get me up to its lofty, obscure summit.
In 2015 I was invited by Eric Coulthard to do a trip into an area I’d never been before – or even really heard of. He suggested we tag a couple of lofty summits in the White Goat Wilderness Area. I’d seen a few of the peaks in this area from nearby summits including Mount Stewart from Mount Coleman (the first trip I’d done with Eric way back in 2009) and Mount Willis which I’d spotted from Corona Ridge earlier in 2015. We had a fantastic trip and ever since I’ve been planning to go back.
I highly recommend Battleship Peak for those looking for a unique mountain that sees very few visitors. It’s best done as you hike along the GDT but also very worthwhile on its own or as part of a multi day trip in the area. As far as difficulties go I’d say it’s slightly harder than Tornado Mountain and easier than Gould Dome – right in the middle where it also physically sits.
Wolverine Peak is one of the best stiff moderates that I’ve done in the past 5 or 6 years or even longer. A wonderful, scenic approach on a good trail followed by some of the best exposed hands-on scrambling in the area should elevate this peak on any Rockies scrambler’s list.
This was a trip that will not soon be forgotten for all the right reasons and a few of the ‘wrong’ ones. I suggest taking a little more time than we did to enjoy the long trek in and out and pick a season with fewer biting insects than we had at camp. Bonnet and Hickson make a wonderful duo of peaks that deserve much more attention from the summer and fall hiking and scrambling community. Get after ’em!
In 2019, Phil Richards and I made our first foray up Baril Creek to the Fording River Pass area to scramble Mount Armstrong and Bolton. A year later we were back. This time we tagged Baril Peak and debated about adding Mount Cornwell to our day, but a number of factors made that idea unattractive. In keeping with a yearly sufferfest to Fording River Pass I returned to the area with Cornelius Rott again in 2021, ascending Mount Aldridge, Courcelette Peak and Fording Pass Peak. As 2022 rolled into view there was only 1 remaining peak in the area left for me. For some reason known to nobody, I decided to tackle Cornwell only 1 day after scrambling Bearskin Peak with a wicked summer cough and bruised rib. I try to treat injuries as a training opportunity to teach my mind and my body a lesson. Don’t ask. It rarely works but for some reason I like to keep trying.
After a lengthy set of family vacations and over a month away from summer mountain adventures, I returned to Calgary on Monday August 1 with a wicked cold and a bruised left rib. Despite feeling like I got hit by a city bus I was determined to get out and test my fitness against some mountains in my remaining days off. I needed to start with something relatively short and easy so “Bearskin Peak” got the nod.
As someone who’s done most of the peaks in Waterton I can confidently say that you’ll be hard pressed to top this traverse. As a 6-peak circuit it’ll pad your summit stats very nicely but it’s the views, the terrain and the ease of access that makes this trip really stand out for me. On the one hand I’m sad that for the most part scrambling in Waterton is now done for me, but on the other hand I can’t think of a better way to finish.
Another great adventure up the Cascade fire road! There were many highlights to put this trip into a top category. Wildlife galore, including deer, dogs, elk, bison and grizzlies. Warm temperatures and clear skies. Not too much snow and easy scrambling conditions on a rarely ascended peak with views forever. A wonderful campsite at a brilliant backcountry lake that hardly anyone has heard about. Hours and hours of pleasant hiking with a good friend and a (relatively) healthy body. What’s not to love about all that? Indeed.
The south ridge descent offered full-on views up the Roaring Creek valley over the tiny falls to giants such as Mount Drummond and Cataract Peak. The deep green of the valley with brown and shades of gray in the rocky slopes above to blue skies and white clouds made for vistas that only happen a few times in a year. Watching Phil hike back along the giant scree slopes with Clearwater Lake and Mount Hector and Cataract looming over it all was a highlight moment of the entire trip for me. We are incredibly lucky to enjoy such wild, pristine and accessible places in a world that is very quickly becoming the very opposite of these things.
Finally, around 4 hours from camp we found ourselves with no more elevation gain ahead and no obvious cairn indicating previous ascents either. There were some rocks just under the summit that could have been the remains of a very old cairn so I’m certainly not claiming an FA on this one. There is a good chance that the 1919 geological team ascended here to garner views of surrounding peaks but I can almost guarantee that very few folks have stood on this particular summit over the past few thousand years. Summit views were great to the east and somewhat muted everywhere else thanks to lingering clouds but the scene was wild and I almost prefered a bit of mystery that the clouds provided.