I first spotted the impressive hulk of Mount Lyautey in 2006 from an ascent of Mount Putnik as part of an engaging and entertaining Northover Ridge backpacking and peakbagging adventure. At the time I was only around 5 years into my scrambling career and wasn’t very familiar with the peaks all around me. Now, over a decade later I’ve been on most of their summits – but as of the morning of August 20th, 2017 I still had not stood on top of Mount Lyautey. In August of 2009 my interest in the mountain was once again sparked by two reported ascents in the span of just a few days – on a peak that had only seen a handful of total ascents since the 90’s!
Ever since I first read about Mount Ogden (likely from Nugara a decade ago), it’s been on my endless to-do list of peaks. Nugara added the peak to his second scrambles book. When Kane added it to his latest book, with a different lower access route than Nugara’s, it only peaked my interest (pun intended). Earlier this year I joined Liz and Mike for a delightful trip up Divide Mountain, which granted me excellent views of Ogden. Based on negative trip reports from Kane’s route via Sherbrooke Lake and a manky avalanche slope, I knew I wanted to utilize Nugara’s approach up the south ridge directly from the Trans Canada Highway.
8.5 hours after leaving the car along highway 93, Phil and I were finally done with Quill Peak and turning our collective attention towards a distant Conical Peak, rising through the smoky skies to the SE of our little perch at the edge of Quill’s access glacier. Conical Peak had been on my radar for many years already – mostly due to a rumored shortcut route over, or near its summit from hwy 93 to the Dolomite Creek valley and Isabella Lake. We were planning to use this shortcut for our Recondite trip in 2013 but decided a trail approach via Helen Creek the was better option – thank goodness for that decision.
I was feeling quite ill the week of August 7th 2017. I’d probably been on one too many long day trips with Dr. Phil – or I was just allergic to work. Probably the latter. Of course, as the weekend approached and looked to be quite clear and warm, we started throwing around plans despite my current illness. After finally settling on a pretty fantastic trip that excited both of us, we were discouraged to find out that despite its relative obscurity, this particular peak was being visited by another party on the very same weekend. We decided we didn’t care (even though we really did) and upheld our plans for a two day trip.
I wasn’t sure if I was in the mood for another peak as the August long weekend came to a close. I’d spent the weekend relaxing with family and was still feeling the effects of some pretty long days in the hills the weeks previous. Thanks to wildfires in BC and especially in the Verdant Creek and Ball Pass areas, the air was also very smoky in much of the Rockies. But I had the Monday off and family stuff was done, so how could I realistically just sit there and not take advantage of another beautiful day in my beloved Rockies? Precisely.
I capped an awesome 9 days off in July 2017, with a long-sought adventure up the distant, obscure and somewhat neglected Cataract Peak, just across the Pipestone River Valley in Banff National Park. This mountain has been on my radar for many years now – mostly because it’s high (almost 11,000 feet) without being so high that it gets more attention (i.e. 11,000 feet). When Ben and Steven did it back in September of 2014 I was fairly bummed that I didn’t get to join them.
From the summit of South Totem Peak, Spreading Peak looked pretty darn sweet. I remembered looking up at Spreading Peak from our long traverse towards Marmota Peak in 2015 and thinking the same thing. A beautiful line of snow highlights the ridge to the summit cap and it looked pretty easy to boot. The issue – as with any peaks in this part of the Siffleur Wilderness – is access. There is no quick or easy way to access the gorgeous summits in this area. Or is there?
After a very successful and somewhat tiring 5 day trip with my daughter in which we traveled approximately 57km and over 4500m of height gain, I was ready to put my feet up for the remainder of my week off. Then Phil texted me… When Phil sends a text, it’s usually some idea for an exhausting day trip involving many kilometers and many hundreds of meters of height gain, usually on an objective that nobody has ever heard of. Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised when we settled on a day trip of South Totem and Spreading Peak in the Murchison Group just east of Totem Creek in Banff National Park.
After a few intense days of backpacking and scrambling five summits, Kaycie and I were ready for a relaxing day by a gorgeous and remote backcountry lake. So that’s exactly what we did. When doing research for our trip, I’d relied heavily on Matt Clay’s August, 2015 trip where he and Sandra backpacked into Weary Creek Gap before traversing up and over Mount Muir before being turned back at the Carnarvon Lake chains. I had changed things up, based on his experience, choosing to ascend, rather than descend the chains. Since our original plans called for a much longer trip, I was keen to extend ours by at least a day and came up with an intriguing option to spend a day and night camping at Lake of the Horns (LOTH) from our Weary Creek headwall bivy.
I really enjoyed Mount McPhail and the Weary Creek Gap area. This area certainly deserves the attention of any Alberta Rockies peakbagger or backpacker.
After a nice, relaxing day spent ascending Mount Strachan before chilling at Carnarvon Lake, Kaycie and I woke up early on Monday morning to tackle Mount Muir and our highline traverse to Weary Creek Gap. The idea for this traverse came from a thread that Matt Clay started on ClubTread and from some further research into a longer backpack in the area known as the “Elk Highline”. The basic idea was to take full backpacks up and over Mount Muir and down towards Weary Creek Gap which would be our home for another night and possibly a base camp for an ascent of nearby Mount McPhail.
I’ve been eyeing Park Mountain before I knew what it’s name was. The first time I hiked up Mount Schaffer I wondered what that nice mountain to the south, across McArthur Lake was and whether or not it was a scramble. Over the years I learned that it was called “Park Mountain” but never did read any detailed online trip reports from anyone who’d done it. Rick Collier briefly mentions that it’s “easy” in his trip report from his climb of Mount Biddle in 1987 and David P. Jones rates the Southeast Ridge as “Facile” (easy) and 3rd class – the same rating he gives Mount Schaffer which is a hike. This little bit of beta was enough to convince me that this was a moderate scramble at most. Just a week before our ascent, I read that a friend, Marko Stavrik was also interested in Park Mountain. I figured it was high time I tried the route for myself.
After first becoming interested in Breaker Mountain in 2013 while perusing Google Earth for ideas, Phil took Rick’s trip report on Bivouac (a 1987 spring ski ascent) and successfully completed an ambitious solo trip up Capricorn Creek to Capricorn Lake in October 2014 to scout the route to the Parapet / Breaker col. Thanks to intermittent snow flurries at Capricorn Lake and an impending snow event he never made it as far as the col. Ever since then, Phil has been trying to find a partner to suffer the approach with him and try to find a scramble route up Breaker. Finally, for reasons still unknown to me, I agreed to his suggestion and we each booked off work for Friday August 5th to make the attempt during a good weather window – a rare thing in summer 2016.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
I’ve been a bit obsessed with the Ya Ha Tinda region this year. I’m not sure exactly why, but I’ve been there 4 or 5 times since my first trip in November 2014 up Evangeline Peak / Rum Ridge with Steven and Ben. While hiking Labyrinth Mountain and Mount Minos with Wietse in April, we looked across the Ya Ha Tinda road at a lovely ridge, rising directly over the road with no bushwhacking and no approach and wondered how easy this would be. I remembered looking at the lower slopes every time I drove into the area, wondering the same thing. A friend of ours, Dave Salahub decided to try it out and reported back that it was easy and pleasant. I needed no more prompting and decided that this would be the perfect trip to introduce my family to the Ya Ha Tinda hiking experience.
After a relatively short day on Razors Edge Peak the day before (which was climbed with a migraine), I found myself in the mood for a nice long solo outing on Sunday, May 31 2015. Bluerock Mountain has been on my list of peaks to scramble for many years already, and this particular day seemed like the perfect one to attempt it. I was hoping for snow in the steep crux gully and packed my light crampons and ax just in case.
Every time I drove home from the mountains along the Trans Canada highway, I wondered how easy this little bump would be to ascend. It’s certainly prominent enough to warrant a name, but it doesn’t have an official one as far as I know. Sonny and Raf are two friends who have done it. Raf assured me that it would be a nice short day – something I could do with my family. On Saturday, May 30 2015 the weather forecast was kind of grim. I decided we should drive to Razors Edge and check it out. If the weather held long enough, we could try an ascent. The clouds were low as we drove out from Calgary.
On Saturday, May 23 2015 Raf and I decided we were in the mood for an easy scramble. We settled on Waputik Peak on the border of Banff and Yoho National Parks after Raf assured me that the slopes looked dry already a week ago. I couldn’t believe there was that little snow already near the divide – but he was right. After doing many over night ski trips and big snow ascents in the past month, it felt wonderful to lift a light day pack! The route to Waputik is quite straight forward. Follow an old trail up Bath Creek (it was already overgrown in 2002) until the slopes get easier on the right and follow them to the summit. Sounds easy anyway.
The wind was forecast to be strong all over the Rockies on Sunday, March 29, 2015. The forecasts were right. I woke several times in the Bighorn Campground near Ya Ha Tinda by the sounds of a gusty west wind. When the alarm went off at 04:00 it was still gusting pretty strong but at least the sky over us was clear and the air temperate was quite warm at around 5 degrees Celsius. Our plans for the day were to ascend Warden Rock by an untested (or at least unreported) line on it’s northeast side and summit ridge traverse.
It wasn’t looking good as I sat in the Tim Horton’s in Sundre on Saturday, March 28 2015. It was around 11 in the morning and it was pouring outside! Not just a mist, but a full on down pour. I was waiting for Steven and Ben to arrive from Edmonton before we continued our drive to the Bighorn Campground in the Ya Ha Tinda area of the front ranges. Our original plan was to sleep over on Saturday night, at the free equine campground, before arising early on Sunday and scouting a proposed route up Warden Rock. As the weather maps adjusted themselves on Friday afternoon, I started to get more ambitious and proposed that we scramble Eagle Mountain late on Saturday afternoon / evening, since we’d be in the area anyway. The weather was supposed to clear off around 15:00, which should give us enough time. Ben and Steven agreed to the adjusted plan and we planned to leave the Eagle Lake parking area around 1 or 2pm.