An easy ramble along a number of front range foothills with some surprising views and a lot of unsurprising non-views.
After braving fairly cold temperatures the last weekend of February 2019, I was ready for some more bravery on the first weekend of March 2019. When I say “ready”, I really mean I was desperate enough to get my ass off the couch and out of the city to suffer -30 temps – frostbite be damned! When I contacted Ali to find out what she was up to, she mentioned Matt Clay was planning something.
Summit Elevation (m): 2485Trip Date: Saturday, October 6, 2018Elevation Gain (m): 650Round Trip Time (hr): 4Total Trip Distance (km): 6.5Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 1 – you fall, you’re stupidDifficulty Notes: No difficulties. Your aunt Edna could do this one blindfolded – assuming you were yelling good directions at her. Some avy hazards with copious amounts of snow in the “right” conditions but none otherwise..GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: OT3; YDS (Hiking)Map: what3words Despite being in the midst of the worst stretch of Fall […]
Summit Elevation (m): 1738Trip Date: Sunday, April 22, 2018Elevation Gain (m): 370Round Trip Time (hr): 2Total Trip Distance (km): 7.2Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 1 – you fall, you’re stupidDifficulty Notes: No difficulties other than finding good conditions that don’t involve endless post holing or severe bushwhacking.GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: OT3; YDS (Hiking)Map: what3words There’s not much to say about Death’s Head, other than it’s name is very dramatic compared to it’s reality. I wanted to spend Earth Day (April 22, 2018) hiking in warm […]
I was getting a bit antsy after spending too much time in the concrete jungle for the past few weeks and decided, against my better judgment, to join Phil on a dubious snowshoe ascent of the mighty Kent Ridge, South Peak on Sunday, January 21, 2018. The trip promised to be more tolerable thanks to the addition of a few more people to assist with trail-breaking – Robin and Ryan agreed to join us for some reason or another. I didn’t even know where this minor peak was, to be honest, until Phil mentioned Bob had done it. After some deliberation, however, we decided to follow a more southerly route than Bob’s, mostly due to the avalanche rating of ‘considerable’.
After two long, exhausting days spent scrambling to the Lyell hut, climbing 4/5 of the Lyells and even Arctomys Peak, we were feeling a bit burned out on Sunday morning, June 28th. The night before, we’d come to the conclusion that getting up early enough to attempt Lyell IV (Walter Peak) was simply not going to happen – and it wouldn’t have mattered on hindsight because the snow was a giant slurpee over night anyway, with no freeze whatsoever.
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.
Friday, June 26 was a lot longer and involved than we originally planned it – a one day record amount of height gain for me at around 11,000 feet in total. It involved the entire approach to the Lyell Hut from the Valenciennes forestry service road and the subsequent ascents of Ernest, Edward and Rudolph peaks – three 11,000ers. We agreed to “sleep in” on Saturday and therefore didn’t get up until 06:00. You know you’re an alpinist when 06:00 is considered sleeping in.
As the first peak of my 40’s, I thought it would be nice to tag an 11000er that’s been on my radar for many years. Mount Athabasca looms over the Columbia Icefields center along highway 93 – otherwise known as the Icefields Parkway. I’m sure it has the most tourist photographs of any 11,000er, except maybe Mount Temple in Lake Louise or Robson to the north. Some people might be surprised that I hadn’t done Athabasca earlier in my climbing career, considering that I already completed many of the more difficult Columbia Icefields summits. The truth is, that I’d been saving Athabasca for the perfect time.
On December 22, Wietse and Dave did a snowshoe ascent of Rawson Lake Ridge. Wietse kindly let others in our group know that they had laid a snowshoe track up the ridge, which lies just to the north of Rawson Lake, and that we should take advantage of it since it was earned with a lot of sweat (and swearing?!). I was too busy spending time with family over the holidays to get to it earlier, but finally on the last day of 2014 I had a few hours to spend alone in the mountains again.
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.
On the longest day of 2014 Ben, Steven and I hiked into the Aster Lake region to attempt the 11,000er in the region, Mount Joffre. We’ve been planning this one since May, so it started out as a ski trip and ended up as a snowshoe trip due to the lateness of the attempt. Snowshoes just might be the way to go for this one as it couldn’t have gone any better than what we experienced.
As another weekend approached, the familiar email chains started to fly once again. Weather reports and routes were scouted and by the time the dust had settled there were 2 options remaining on the table; Mount Joffre or Mount Cirrus. Joffre was higher on the list (being 600 feet higher) but the weather forecasts couldn’t quite agree on how much rain each area was going to get or when it was going to arrive and in what fashion (i.e. snow, t-storms or just a sprinkle). Given our dislike of crappy summit views, especially on peaks with tough approaches, we settled on Cirrus and finalized our plans.
On Saturday, March 22nd 2014 I joined Wietse and Dave for a snowshoe jaunt up Mount Barwell in Kananaskis Country, just off highway 549 past Millarville in the Northfork Provincial Recreation Area – the same area as Mesa Butte. We left Calgary at around 11:30 so it was definitely one of my latest starts for a winter hike. You won’t find too many descriptions of this mountain, mostly because it’s in the heart of the McLean Creek off road vehicle area and as such, not hiked very often. Also, the summit views are rather treed in – the best views seem to be from the hike up and from the further “west summit” mentioned by Gillean Daffern in her book on hiking in Kananaskis.
After completing Mesa Butte (when we were turned around due to heavy snow on McNab!) Steven and I decided we should go back to McNab to see if the weather had improved. It had. There were literally dozens of people parked around the winter gate and lower down in the day use parking lot for Sandy McNab! The sun was shining, kids were sledding and folks were roasting wieners and marshmallows over cheery fires in the designated picnic spots.
After skiing a rather long day on Spoon Needle, Steven Song and I agreed that we should do a shorter day on Sunday, February 16. We settled on Mount McNab – a very simple snowshoe which should have me back home by around noon and agreed to meet at the parking area around 08:30. As I drove towards the winter gate and the McNabb camping area, the weather slowly deteriorated from brilliant morning sunshine to full-on blizzard! I was following one set of tracks, which I was sure was Steven. Sure enough! As the snow storm almost blinded me, a car came from the other direction and slowed. It was Steven.
After snowshoeing Coyote Hills the day before, Raf and I decided that Junction Hill looked too tempting to leave it alone for long. We both returned on Sunday, January 19 to see what it’s summit would offer for views. Ironically we took different routes and drove separately – never even running into each other en route! This was not the intention. When Raf told me that Kev and him were going to attempt Junction Hill on Sunday, I assumed he meant Kev Barton. I agreed to meet at the trailhead since it’s easier for me to bomb down hwy 2 and go past High River and Longview from that direction than go through Calgary. When Kev Papke called me at 08:30 as I was driving past High River already, I realized that I should have asked which Kev. Oh well. (Kev Papke and I can usually carpool together.)
On Saturday, January 18 2014 I was joined by a gaggle of friends for a snowshoe trip under an extremely warm, winter sun. Due to high avalanche risks all over the Rockies (all the way to the coast actually), we decided on a relatively low angle and hopefully snow free ascent. We scored on one of our objectives at least. Due to a mix-up with some of Marko’s friends, Raf, Wietse, Andrea and I ended up breaking trail to the summit with Marko, Amelie and company following. We decided that this was our anniversary present for Marko and Amelie since they just got engaged.
You know it’s not a very interesting trip when it takes me a few weeks to write it and the main photo is from the drive to the trailhead… 🙂 Honestly, there isn’t much to recommend the snowshoe trip up the North Ridge of Mount Buller, other than a decent view from the top and some good sweating (and swearing?!) on the way up. I drove up the Spray Lakes road under a gorgeous sunrise but from there the day went downhill. I couldn’t find any old tracks up the north ridge and ended up in knee deep, unconsolidated crap for two hours before realizing there was an old track about 100 meters to my right!
Just before Christmas 2013, our family did a 3 day, 2 night snowshoe trip into the Elk Lakes ACC hut in Elk Lakes Provincial Park, BC. In August 2012 I took the kids on a backpacking trip to the hut but we’d never visited in the winter before. The route is fairly obvious for snowshoers.
After skiing up Healy Pass Peak the day before, I decided to take the family on a snowshoeing trip on Sunday, December 15 in preparation for our trek to the Elk Lakes ACC hut in one week. Bob Spirko indicates that the elevation gain is only around 300 meters on Gypsum Ridge so I figured this was a good candidate to bag a peak and get the family out. I also liked the fact that we’d be in the trees because the day was shaping up to be fairly cloudy and windy – but warm.
With an impending snow storm and cold weather ahead, I decided to take advantage of a warm start to December with a snowshoe up to the Mount Kidd fire lookout and possibly a high point further up the ridge. I decided to call that high point, Mount Kidd Junior in the taste of naming every bump in the Rockies a “junior” of some other peak. You can laugh all you want, but I earned this summit.
After enjoying a wonderful day on Missinglink Mountain the day before, I found out that the new ring road around the east side of Calgary was completed. This meant a very quick and easy way for me to get down south now (avoiding Deerfoot Trail) and I wanted to try it out. I decided to head back down to the Sheep River area for another shot at a front-range summit, this time Mount Hoffman. The Stoney Trail freeway worked wonderfully and in about an hour from the NE edge of Calgary I was driving past the Kananaskis sign already!
After traversing Parker Ridge earlier in the day, I found myself with plenty of time and a gorgeous spring day still ahead of me on Friday May 10, 2013. Since my snowshoes had done a great job of keeping me on top of the punchy spring snow pack, I decided to try one more ridge ascent before heading home. I didn’t know exactly where “Crystal Ridge” was, but I remembered something about the Crowfoot lookout parking lot from one of Marko’s trip reports so I drove to the lookout and parked there. From the lookout area there was a ridge, just barely visible through the trees, that would be between hwy 93 and the Helen Lake, Cirque Peak area. The trail to Helen Lake curves around this ridge. I thought the ridge looked prominent enough to give it a shot and geared up before heading to the Helen Lake trailhead across the highway.
Admittedly, after standing on the summits of 3 11,000ers only a few days previous, “Parker Ridge” does seem a bit lame. 🙂 But there’s a reason for this objective. The original intent was to climb Mount Athabasca via the AA col on Friday, May 10 2013 with Wietse, Scott, Kelly and myself. We planned an overnight stay at the Rampart Creek Hostel and met there on Thursday evening. Patrick Delaney, a guide with Yamnuska Mountain Adventures was also at the hostel with a client and we spent some time chatting. Patrick was concerned about the “big melt” that was going on and cautioned our group to be super-careful. We took his advice to heart and decided to get up at 02:30 and try to take advantage of colder morning temps to meet our objective safely.