After our trip up Mount Morrison and Owl Peak earlier in the week, Phil and I had been thinking (obsessing) about its supposedly easy neighbor to the south – Mount Currie. This might seem strange to some folks, but Phil and I don’t just love peakbagging, we love getting to peaks that are not done very often and are remote and somewhat challenging to access.
As we traversed to the summit of Mount Currie, my eyes were immediately drawn to a distinctive ridge running west of Currie, lower down and guarding Cross Lake (which wasn’t visible from our vantage). This ridge was obviously connected to Mount Currie and it looked to be very reasonable to traverse it before descending past Cross Lake to the historic White Man Pass before following the trail back down to our original ascent line and of course to the bikes at Bryant Creek. Given the historic nature of the pass and the surrounding area, I was immediately excited to add this not-inconsiderable distance and height gain to our (already long) day trip.
After being only the 6th summit party in the last 31 years to stand on Mount Morrison’s summit, Phil and I somewhat reluctantly turned our attention to our next destination – Owl Peak. We were only reluctant because we didn’t see how the day could get any better than it had already been! The weather had been perfect to this point, our route had worked out beautifully and the views were overheating our cameras. How could it get better? We set out to find out.
Ever since skiing Mount Turner (Morrison’s slightly higher neighbor to the north) in April of 2017 my stoke for Mount Morrison had increased ten-fold. When Phil texted me and mentioned that he was going to attempt a long-planned traverse over Mount Morrison to Owl Lake I was intrigued.
Since we were camping in the area over the weekend of June 15, I decided I might as well drag my family up the diminutive Packenham Junior with it’s not-so-diminutive views. The rumors on this outlier of the much higher and more impressive Mount Packenham are true – it’s a steep grind with no trail and sweet views. We parked in the ditch along Hwy #40, just up from about 20 cars that were parked for the obviously MUCH more popular Grizzly Peak just to the north of our destination.
Mount Denny is no exception to the list of summits I’ve desired for many years already. I first heard of it around five years or so ago and since then it’s made it’s way into not only one guidebook, but two. Both Nugara and Kane list it as a ‘moderate’ scramble via its southwest face. When Liz and Mike announced they’d successfully scrambled it in early June, it bumped way up my list and Wietse and I planned an ascent for a nice looking Friday on June 8, 2018.
Saturday, June 2 2018 was looking like a mixed bag of Spring weather. Phil and I decided to play it easy and get out for an “exercise day” – hopefully one with some great views. Phil had put Ochre Spring Peak on our list a while ago already, but I’d never paid it much attention until the Matt’s (Hobbs and Clay) recently posted trip reports on it, demonstrating some pretty sweet views.. Phil agreed that this was likely the best time of year to do it and since it has a very short approach and easy slopes, having snow in the ascent gully would be perfect.
Wietse, Phil, Calvin and I took advantage of yet another great May weather forecast on Sunday, May 27th 2018 to summit a peak that’s been on my list for the past few Alberta spring scrambling seasons thanks to its position on the front ranges of the Rockies near the Crowsnest Pass. For some reason Phil and I ended up canceling several planned excursions here, but alls well that ends well – and we picked the perfect day in the end.
On a very warm Friday, May 25, 2018, I finally got to ascend a front-range peak in the Ghost Wilderness that I’ve had on my radar for many years already – Orient Point. Why has it been on my “to-do” list so long? Simple! I’ve been hearing some pretty great things about it from friends and acquaintances over the years. It started for me, when Kerry Vizbar posted a report on the old RMBooks forum back in 2009. Raf and Sonny tried to follow his route a few years later but ended up on a difficult sounding route up the most westerly south ridge instead.
On Saturday, May 19, 2018, Wietse and I finally completed a nice front range hiking / scrambling loop that I’ve been eyeing up for several years. The loop starts with an pleasant hike / easy scramble up Porcupine Ridge before leading over moderate terrain to a few more summits west of Tiara Peak. From just north of Tiara’s summit the route ascends to Boundary Peak along an undulating Boundary Ridge before finishing off with a nice moderate scramble over Midday and Midnight Peaks.
On Saturday, May 12 2018, Wietse and I managed to summit a peak that’s been on my to-do list for quite a few years now. Over the years, since Bob Spirko first published an easy scrambling route to its summit, Cougar Peak (in the Fairholme Range rather than in the North Highwood) has slowly become a surprisingly popular Spring objective for people like me, eager to bag something more than a front range bump when many other deeper range peaks are still plastered in a mushy white coat of unpredictability.
The weather during the work week (of course) has been gorgeous so far in late April and early May 2018. Sitting in the concrete jungle, looking out at another gorgeous day made me leave the office 20 minutes early, jump in my truck and start driving to the mountains to see what I could hike in the evening. I knew from doing Hell’s Ridge and Etherington Baril Ridge on the weekend, that although there was still snow on the ground in the Eyrie Gap area of the Highwood Range, there wasn’t a copious amount of it.
Saturday, April 28 2018 was forecast to be summer time in Alberta! After a bitterly long and cold winter, April was ending on a high note with several days pushing 25 degrees above zero, even in the mountains. Of course, these temperatures were too warm to safely enjoy the snow pack so I was left wondering what to do on Saturday. Any meaningful scrambles weren’t in shape yet (way too much snow). I’d had Etherington-Baril on the list for awhile already and decided that since I was going to be solo, this was the day to try it.
It had been a while since Phil and I had gotten up to anything and when plans for a big backcountry ski day in the Rockies fell apart thanks to an unpredictable weather forecast, we started looking at hiking / scrambling alternatives. At first we settled on a repeat of Midnight Peak with a bit of a traverse for Saturday, April 14.
Already on the ascent to the south ridge of Kink Peak, my eyes were turning towards the surprisingly impressive form of Fallen Peak (Sheep Meadow Mountain). Phil, predictably, agreed with me to make it our second objective of the day. After a great ascent of Kink Peak, we found ourselves looking up at the ~250 vertical meter ascent, trying to pick the best line. We decided to stick right on the ridge as long as possible since it was almost snow-free. This plan worked even better than expected.
I wasn’t totally feeling it when Dr. Phil contacted me regarding a possible scramble for the Remembrance Day weekend, 2017. The weather looked pretty good for a front range peak and even promised light winds for once, so eventually he wore me down with his incessant texting and I agreed to slog up something just to make him happy. Ok, ok, I was kind of in the mood for a nice day out and with the wx looking so lovely, it was hard to say no despite my SAD disposition. After the usual flurry of invites were sent, it was Wietse, Raf, Dave, Phil and I who were joining forces on the front range Kink Peak.
After grunting my way up Serendipity Peak, I didn’t linger long in the fierce winds at the summit but turned my attention quickly towards a distant looking Patterson’s Peak. Actually, my first glance towards Patterson’s made it appear much closer than I was expecting. It’s not until I actually started descending to the Pyriform S5 / Patterson’s col that I realized it was further than I first guess. Typical.
After several weekends in a row of very low motivation, I finally felt the call of the mountains again as the last weekend of October 2017 approached. My apathy the weeks previous had been mostly due to typical fall conditions – hurricane force winds in the front ranges, despite warm temperatures. I’ve done a lot of front range hikes and scrambles in these conditions and they’re never as fun as you imagine they’ll be when planning them. It’s like peak bagging in Waterton. The peaks are always more enjoyable afterwards, when looking at the photos without the wind trying to blow you off the peak!
With the upcoming Thanksgiving long weekend and some unexpected days off work beforehand, I was looking to take advantage of a pretty nice wx with a scramble or two before the snow starts to pile up in earnest around the Rockies. Lucky for me, I received an invite from Cornelius and Trevor inviting me for a jaunt up the relatively obscure front range mountain, “Castle Rock”.
After approaching and ascending Cyclone Mountain the day before, Phil and I woke up to a frosty but clear morning on Friday, September 29 2017. After Phil took a few hours to collect soil samples from Douglas Creek, we packed up our camp and headed back along the trail towards the core Red Deer Lakes area in the Skoki backcountry of Banff National Park. Our destinations for this glorious fall day were Pipestone Mountain and Merlin Lake. These two things are not very close together, in case you were wondering.
Over the years, Dr. Phil and I had been eyeing up a couple of easy ascents, rising over the Red Deer Lakes in the Skoki backcountry of Banff National Park and on the western edge of the Drummond Icefield. When we finally scrambled up Mount Drummond in late September, 2015, our interest in Cyclone Mountain and Pipestone Mountain increased. In late September 2017, it was finally time to go check them out a bit closer. Rick Collier details a trip that he and Mardy Roberts did back in June of ’92 where they traversed from Pipestone to Cyclone Mountain as a day trip.
As I started my annual week off in late September 2017, I didn’t know what I was in the mood for. The weather wasn’t fabulous, but it wasn’t horrible either. Being solo, I didn’t really feel like a huge day – not to mention Phil Richards and I had some pretty big plans for later in the week and I didn’t want to ruin those with too big a day already on Monday. Of course, being September, I wanted larches to be part of the landscape. I’ve often looked at Mount Howard Douglas, either while skiing at the world class Sunshine Village resort, or from various trips nearby such as The Monarch, Ramparts, Healy Pass or Twin Cairns.
After completing the long approach trek up Healy Pass and then Whistling Pass and the subsequent ascent of Lesser Pharaoh Peak (don’t forget about “Tiny” Pharaoh), Phil and I grunted our way back up Whistling Pass and set our now-tiring bodies towards Scarab Lake and the diminutive and unofficial Sugarloaf Mountain. I haven’t been able to find out where “Sugarloaf” comes from, but it’s on enough references to be official enough for me to bag and claim it. We noticed quite a few people on the main Pharaoh Peak above us as we passed under it on our way back to the Scarab Lake turnoff.
With larch season comes great responsibility for the Rockies hikers, scramblers and photographers. The responsibility comes from having two weekends (at most) to take advantage of the very limited and short-lived phenomenon of what’s commonly called,
On Sunday, September 10th I joined Cornelius Rott for a jaunt up a Kananaskis peak that’s been on my to-do list for many years now – Mount Lougheed I. 2017 has been all about getting out and trying Rockies adventures that have been on my mind for years and never got around to for some or another reason. Originally Phil was going to join us for another (longer) objective, but plans changed so I asked Cornelius if he was interested in Lougheed. As we’d never done a trip together before, you might be surprised that we choose a difficult Nugara scramble for our first outing. I wasn’t worried because in looking at his web site you realize pretty quickly