Despite driving 7 hours to hike for under 6, I enjoyed my day out to the Hummingbird Creek area. As usual for this time of year it was very quiet and I enjoyed spending a few extra hours at Ram Falls taking in the views and the atmosphere of the Rockies front ranges. Getting lucky with snow conditions and nearly running into a giant Grizzly on the bike will ensure this small trip stays in the memory banks a bit longer than usual.
Swooping down the Peyto Glacier with views of giant snow covered peaks – every one of them a familiar sight – I reflected how freaking lucky we are to live where we live and have the fitness and health to enjoy this sport.
It felt really good to ski out along Hector Lake in t-shirts under a blue sky with a gentle, cool breeze at our backs. I cannot stress enough how much more pleasurable this day on Hector Lake felt in comparison to my previous 5 crossings. I never felt rushed all day and the conditions were so good that I didn’t feel my usual exhaustion at the return lake crossing either. And this was all while in the middle of a 25+ hour fast too! I guess conditions really do affect mood and energy more than we think sometimes. Turquoise Peak will sit among my favorite ski tours of winter 2021/22 for a great many reasons.
I enjoyed this early season hike mostly thanks to the great weather we had. Less snow would have been preferred but you take what you get at this time of year. It was nice to see some of the more remote peaks in the eastern Banff range as well and remember some good trips on them over the past few years.
As the 3rd weekend of April 2022 approached I was more than a little keen to bag another peak on skis before the season of snow sticks comes to an end for another year. The Preacher was a highlight ski trip that carried me through a month of no-adventure weekends but a rib injury courtesy of a family ski trip to Sunshine knocked me out longer than I was happy with. Finally as the 4-day Easter long weekend approached, I felt ready to test the injury. I started with double laps on Prairie Mountain for Friday and Saturday before deciding it was time to push the injury a bit further. I contacted Sara Mclean and she was in for a Sunday ascent of Storm Mountain.
Holy buzzoly. Cripes on a cracker. Hot damn. How in the heck do I manage to forget the feelings of despair, misery and plain physical suffering involved in these length ski tours across the frozen middle of f’ing nowhere?! I must have a busted brain or something. Any normal humanoid would maybe try it once and thenceforth swear it off for the rest of their life but not me. For some unknown and unfathomable reason I continue to come back again and again to the same threshold of pain and misery. And I keep thinking, “it won’t be that bad”. And yet, it’s always that bad – or even worse! I must admit that I do enjoy pushing my mind and body to the edge. There’s a strange energy lurking at the edge of human endurance and the only way to experience it is to get there and the only way to get there is to suffer your way over to it. I’ve only managed to push myself to this place at the edge of conscious, controllable thought a few times in the mountains but it’s always left an impression that the trip was worth every moment of pain it demanded. The Preacher may not be the tallest, the most prominent or the most challenging peak in the world but it’ll always stand out in my memory as one of the good ones. Thanks to Sara and Wietse for greatly assisting me in making this one happen!
The chick-a-boom ski traverse is a classic for a reason. The views and positions along the entire route are stunning on a clear day like we enjoyed. We all said we’d definitely repeat it some day. My advice is leave early for this tour if you want to be at the front of the pack or leave slightly later if you want to follow. Just beware of the south facing exit from Boom col and manage risks appropriately.
It took me 8 years but on the 2nd weekend of February 2022 I finally managed to ski a peak that’s been on my list ever since 2014 when I climbed its neighbors, Mount Collie and Ayesha. I knew Chapel Peak as “Collesha” for many years before reading David Jones Rockies West (pg. 55) where the more proper sounding (still unofficial) name comes from.
Sitting at the bottom of the run in warm sunshine enjoying a coffee and chatting with friends reminded me why I love winter so much. Sometimes, while sitting in my home office in the concrete jungle I crave the sounds of chirping birds and warm sunshine on my neck. But when I get time to spend outdoors on a beautiful winter day like we had on Saturday I have a hard time remembering why I ever thought I hated the season of frozen rain and cold air.
It was most excellent to feel sun and wind on our faces in the alpine again, without feeling like we were standing at one of the earth’s poles in a hurricane of frozen air. I needed a day like this and am super stoked about finally getting into the alpine on a clear, warm(ish) winter day again.
“Hiking directly into the brilliant morning sun was blinding but the views to our left over the Ya Ha Tinda ranch helped assuage any discomfort from either our planets life-star or the opposing bitterly cold breath caressing exposed skin with biting kisses from distant lands to the west.”
Jap Mountain won’t go down as a major objective in anyone’s books but as a late season objective in a gorgeous area of the front ranges it delivered exactly what I needed this particular Remembrance Day.
As I wandered back along first the small Headwall Lakes trail and then the much larger Snowdrift trail to the Chester Lake parking lot I reflected on all my 2021 scrambles and trips and the ideas that I’m considering regarding explor8ion and lifting all of the restrictions I put in place last year. For me it’s come to a point where being grumpy and upset about others using, or even overusing and/or oversharing (whatever that means) the landscape gets more tiring and depressing than the actions themselves.
I enjoyed Highwood Peak about as much as I expected to. It’s not the world’s most attractive mountain and definitely not the easiest or most straightforward to approach either. Unlike a peak such as Haiduk, which is also quite an involved approach, Highwood doesn’t have larches either. But it’s close to Calgary, has a great approach trail that includes 4 lakes, is a quick trip and has great views to the Divide including giants like Harrison and Abruzzi. I recommend this as a late season objective when larger and more mid-range peaks might be out of scramble condition.
I loved this hike even more than I thought I would. Sure! It’s overused and over photographed and definitely overshared but that doesn’t change the fact that I had a wonderful time with my daughter enjoying some of the best views of my year from this lowly objective. And that’s what it all comes down to in the end isn’t it? Sharing nature and fresh air while exercising with loved ones and being amazed over and over with stunning views of wild landscapes in all directions. The fact that thousands of others have shared this experience shouldn’t lessen it but should encourage us to seek out new experiences rather than going back to the same ones over and over. I won’t be back to Smutwood in the fall any time soon but I sure am thankful for this particular trip.
As you can hopefully tell by this report, it was a fantastic day in the hills that turned out even better than I’d hoped. Originally when planning this trip I’d been worried about the lowly stature of the peaks involved but I should have realized that it’s a very rare day that Waterton doesn’t serve up enough beauty to fully satisfy. As I close out the peaks in this little corner of paradise I can’t help but think that I will continue to find excuses other than summits to make the 3 hour drive from Calgary.
I was surprised to return to the truck within 5.5 hours of leaving it – I never felt rushed all day and yet this was a very short outing to a relatively untraveled 3000m+ peak. I highly recommend Headwall Peak to the scrambling community. It is the perfect fall outing but would be good any time of year as long as the SE face is snowfree and dry.
As you can probably tell from the amount of photos and superlatives in this report, I great enjoyed the convoluted ramble from hwy 93, up Hawk Creek and over to Haiduk Peak. This route might not seem very straightforward – and it’s not – but considering that it avoids almost all bushwhacking and allows you to enjoy the only remaining larch forests in Verdant Creek it is 100% worth the hassle. And can you really call it a hassle when your day involves a good trail, fresh water and air, bursting fall colors, blue skies, swirling clouds, fresh snow and distant views of hidden giants? I call that a win every day of the week and especially on a Tuesday.
I loved this traverse. The only thing that would have made it slightly better would have been clearer skies and a drier route. The mix of challenging terrain and conditions, great views over low-lying clouds and wild landscape scenery in every direction is what I look for in a scramble and on that front this day delivered in spades. A highly recommended trip for fit parties with enough scrambling experience to tackle some stiff moderate sections of very loose Rockies treasure.
What a day! Originally I was planning a 6-7 hour fairly straightforward jaunt but I ended up with some serious route finding, difficult and exposed terrain and three summits instead of two. I was stymied by cliffs twice, managing to route find around them once and forced to backtrack the second time. Failure in the mountains is a good thing as long as you come back in good health, so I consider my failed descend of the south ridge of Dundy to be a good thing. You’re simply not trying hard enough if you succeed at everything you try IMHO.
Despite the unexpected and sometimes unnerving winds that we experienced all day, I quite enjoyed both Mount Scrimger and Etherington. Combining these peaks into a day trip makes perfect sense for fit parties who don’t mind 25km of cycling as part of their day. If I had to pick one peak it would definitely be Mount Scrimger for a more engaging route, better views and the bonus of the NW outlier. Mount Etherington isn’t nearly as tragic as Nugara implies but I have to admit that it’s also not the most pleasant peak I’ve been on this year. Just as with Nugara however, I don’t know how much of my feelings for it are a result of weather conditions or the actual mountain itself. The wind was getting mighty annoying by the time we summited our second peak of the day.
Finally, 8 years after first planning it I managed to knock both Zombie and Otuskwan Peak off my list in one solo day trip. Despite the nasty experience of upper Sheep Creek I recommend my route for anyone interested in these two peaks. It’s a fun, mostly easy scramble with some incredible scenery. If you only need one peak I would recommend Zombie over Otuskwan for a host of reasons including a much better approach, it’s quite a bit higher (better views) and it has nicer landscapes as well. I am very happy to finally have done both of these summits – doing something 8 years after first planning it is very rewarding.
I was hoping to take advantage of one of the nicest, clearest days of August 2021 with a big trip on Sunday the 29th but alas, my body wouldn’t allow it. 🙁 After almost 5 weeks absence from mountains and then a big day with Cornelius on Aldridge and Courcelette the day before, my body was letting me know that if I pushed it too hard I’d regret it for my favorite month of the year – September. I couldn’t simply sit at home either though, so I finally pulled the trigger on a front range peak sitting in my backyard only ~45 minutes from my house.
What a great day! I highly recommend this trip for anyone with strong biking stillz and a desire to suffer a bit. You have the option of adding even more peaks to the day such as Bolton or Armstrong. If you are currently hating on loose rock or scree I would set up camp at one of the gorgeous tarns along this route and take out a good book or a glass of wine and call it a day. 😉
Solstice Peak far exceeded my expectations both on the approach with almost no bushwhacking and on the peak with interesting routefinding and some difficult scrambling to the summit. I’ve said this on a few scrambles so far this year, but Solstice had just enough of everything I look for in a scramble and not too much that I don’t look for.
I really enjoyed this three or four peak outing despite the lack of a good approach trail and the thick smoke on Cone Mountain. It always surprises me how many fairly prominent peaks continue to stand on their own for many years between ascent parties (recorded anyway). This trip summarizes what I love about the Alberta Rockies – accessible but remote. Over a very popular trail system but rarely ascended. Views to die for, acres of wildflowers and cascading waterfalls hidden by high rock walls on all sides. Lakes and tarns that are only visible from nearby or from space only add to the attraction.