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.
On Friday, July 12 2013 I was joined by Wietse for an attempt up a relatively unknown peak along the icefields parkway – Bison Peak (see the interesting facts above for a discussion on the naming of this peak). All we had to go on was a terse description by Graeme Pole on Bivouac.com. Well, as it turns out this terse description is pretty much all you need to summit this mountain! The day started out nice enough from the pull out along the parkway (roughly across from Epaulette Lake, just north of Chephren / White Pyramid and south of Bison Creek). It was a cool morning and we were surprised to see fresh snow high up on the surrounding peaks, including our ascent slopes. This wasn’t a huge concern but we knew that part of our route ascended steep cliff bands and this could present a problem if there was too much ice. We shrugged our shoulders and started off.
On Sunday, July 07, 2013 I was joined by Steven and Ben for a long scramble up Resolute Mountain near the White Goat Wilderness north of the North Saskatchewan River valley and up Thompson Creek, just east of Mount Cline. After a pretty long outing on Friday, we apparently thought we were ready for an even longer outing on Sunday! Resolute is not often summitted, if for no other reason than it’s a bloody long day and sits right beside an 11,000er (Cline) so is not seen as a worthy summit. After completing it I can say that it IS worth the long day and the many meters of height gain.
Friday July 05 2013 was a perfect day to escape Calgary (Stampede parade day…) so a group us did what we always try to do when we ‘escape’ – namely bag a peak! Steven, Wietse, Dave and I would join Kevin, Kelly and Scott along hwy 93 in Kootenay National Park and ascend something there. On the drive up we debated about the original destination – Mount Wardle. We weren’t too enthused about a possible 1000 vertical meter bushwhack and subsequently made a decision to tackle the much more pleasant Numa Mountain instead.
On Saturday, June 15, 2013 I took my family up King Creek Ridge for a pleasant hike in beautiful spring weather. We followed a good trail right from the parking lot and had no issues other than the tiny moderate scrambling step just before the true summit of the ridge which Hanneke didn’t bother with and Niko didn’t really appreciate (but he did it!!).
On Saturday, June 8 2013 I was joined by Wietse, Steven, Ben, Mike, Andrea and Raf for a group ascent of little-known and little-ascended Mount Erickson in the Crowsnest Pass. Ironically enough, it was probably the busiest single day ever on the mountain! After going 7 years since 2006 with only 3 ascent parties signing the register, we added all our names plus met Dave Salahub on the summit, doing a solo ascent. And he thought he was going to be all alone… 😉
Spurred on by a recent trip report on ClubTread from Jose and Fabrice, I decided that Armor Peak would be a nice objective for the first day of June 2013. Raff and Wietse agreed and we settled on an 06:30 departure from the Petro Canada on Hwy 1 on Saturday morning. The sky got cloudier the further we drove and by the time we had finally figured out where the trailhead was (haven’t we ALL done this hike already at least once?!) it was almost raining. We were surprised to find the Bow Valley Parkway chalk full of runners too! Apparently the Banff –> Jasper relay race was going on. Good thing we arrived early enough to avoid too much gong show.
On April 26 2013 I joined Steven Song for an ascent of Survey Peak along the icefields parkway at Saskatchewan Crossing. As you can see from the route image below, Survey Peak isn’t rocket science as far as Rockies summits goes. This was intentional on our part, due to completing a pretty big weekend 3 days previous on Wilson and also due to a questionable weather forecast.
Since reading about Josee and Fabrice’s trip up Boom Mountain in February it’s been on my to-do list. I liked the idea of traveling into the Chickadee Valley since I’d never been in there before. Wietse had a rare Friday off on April 11 so we decided to do a nice easy trip up to Healy Pass – possibly bagging “Healy Pass Peak” while we there. I checked the avy ratings on Friday morning and was pleasantly surprised to see that the rating for Banff were actually lower than Kananaskis at “moderate / moderate / low”. I did a classic Vern move and asked Wietse if he’d change his mind to Boom Mountain. After some consideration and quick weather / avy condition scanning on the cell phone while I drove, Wietse kindly agreed to a more aggressive goal.
Summit Elevation (m): 2514Elevation Gain (m): 1100Round Trip Time (hr): 7Total Trip Distance (km): 10Quick ‘n Easy Rating: Class 2 – You fall you sprain somethingDifficulty Notes: Winter ascent includes serious avalanche risks. Learn how to manage these risks and perform avalanche burial rescues before attempting this trip.GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: OT2; YDS (Hiking)Map: Google Maps Ever since skiing up Vermillion with Scott a few years ago, I wanted to go back for Mount Haffner. The Vermillion burn area makes for some great tree skiing in […]
Wietse and I were in the mood to get out of the city on Sunday, October 28 so we did just that. Originally Kev Papke was going to join us for a hike up Red Ridge, across from Mount Sparrowhawk in Kananaskis Country. Kev emailed at 04:50 to say he had a fever so it was back to the two of us. After slogging up James Walker a few weeks ago and freezing my feet off in 12 inches of snow I wasn’t sure if I was in the mood for a repeat performance. I packed my Sorel boots (good to -30) instead of my regular mountaineering boots and hoped for non-technical terrain.
Mount James Walker has been on my radar for a number of years. I wanted to save it for off-season since it’s a pretty easy objective but I also wanted it to be fall and fairly nice weather because the rumor was that it was a perfect objective with fall colors. On Saturday, October 13 2012 I met Wietse in the Sawmill parking lot under a very grey and threatening sky – not quite the nice weather I was looking for.
Summit Elevation (m): 2728Elevation Gain (m): 1800Round Trip Time (hr): 10Total Trip Distance (km): 20Quick ‘n Easy Rating: Class 3 – You fall you break somethingDifficulty Notes: There are some moderate scrambling sections (especially when snow covered) on the ridge traverse from Old Baldy towards Mount McDougall. Note: I got lost twice on this outing which accounts for all the extra height gain.GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: SC6; YDS (3rd)Map: Google Maps On my last week off in the first week of October I decided […]