Despite tagging both summits, Profound and Osgood will not go down as my favorite ascents of 2023, simply due to my silly routefinding mistakes on both peaks. Some days are like that – I just wasn’t on top of my game for whatever reason.
Mount Antevs was a lovely afternoon ascent with no pressure to go quick under a perfect late summer sky. I was expecting it to be the easiest peak of the weekend based on Rick’s assessment and it was.
Abstruse Peak is like many other big, remote peaks I’ve done this year. The ascent was almost anticlimactic compared to the getting to the base of it but the views and the remoteness more than make up for the simple route to its lofty summit. At only 47 meters shy of the magical 3353m mark it is the highest peak I’ve ascended in quite a while.
Laughing Bears Creek will always stand out in my mind as a quintessential Rockies backcountry adventure. I’ve been planning and dreaming of it for so many years, it had the potential to disappoint but instead it exceeded even my best ideas of what it might be. It will stand out as one of my favorite trips of all time and certainly a highlight of 2023.
This trip lived up to everything I thought it would be. A fantastic backcountry adventure in pristine landscapes, exploring some of the last remaining untouched and largely untraveled wilderness along massive Cambrian Cliffs of the Alberta Rockies along the source streams of two of Banff National Park’s major drainages – the Red Deer River (McConnell Creek) and the Clearwater River (Roaring Creek). Thanks as usual to Dr. Phil, the trip planning guru and to me the routefinding drill master dragging us up peaks along the way. As long as our bodies and life allows, I’m sure we’ll continue to stumble and bumble our way into new corners (for us) of the Rockies somewhere or another – as rare as those corners seem to be getting.
Descending the braided horse trails down the Ya Ha Tinda meadows in late afternoon lighting brought back many pleasant memories from this special area of the front range Rockies. Every time I think I’m almost finished with it, the landscape drags me back out! I don’t mind. There are certainly worse places to return to and worse memories than these stored in my old noggin. As I followed a horse wagon back along an incredibly dusty Tinda road my thoughts turned to how much more popular this area is now than it was when I first started visiting it almost a decade ago in November 2014. It hasn’t gotten less beautiful as a result – thankfully – but finding a summit as quiet as Elch has certainly gotten harder. I highly recommend combining Elch and HH89 with a camp in upper Scalp Creek. The only downside of this idea is that you will not get to walk the shores of Forbidden Lake like I did, unless you do a much longer loop back along Forbidden and Skeleton Creek to exit.
The first thing I noticed while standing on the 2904m summit of the remote and rarely ascended Forbidden Peak was its loftier neighbor lying immediately to the SE. What was this larger unnamed peak and could I ascend it? For some reason the idea obsessed me and for the next week I did some research to find out more. Bivouac gives it a very technical and drab sounding moniker, “HH89” or it could be known by its coordinates, “GR831380”. It turns out someone else named it too, but I wouldn’t find that out until later. I thought the Bivouac name actually suited this peak just perfectly. It’s obscure and meaningless except to the half-dozen or so folks who might know about it.
This will be one of those early summer trips that sticks with me for a while. I highly recommend this area for folks wanting to get out of the busier Banff and Lake Louise areas of the Rockies to experience a different kind of quiet. The kind that you have to earn and the kind that sticks with you long after you arrive home again.
I couldn’t believe I was standing on top of Forbidden Peak – only 7 hours from the truck! Phil’s ascent line couldn’t have worked better, making this peak surprisingly accessible considering how darn remote it is. Thx again Phil! I owe you man.
What a day! I can’t think of a more appropriate or better way to end the main 2022 summer season. This trip has it all and requires the exact set of circumstances that we used to complete it. A very highly recommended trip for parties that can move quickly through typical Rockies terrain with a light pack. Just make sure you’re well-hydrated before leaving that valley floor towards Barrier Mountain!
The south ridge descent offered full-on views up the Roaring Creek valley over the tiny falls to giants such as Mount Drummond and Cataract Peak. The deep green of the valley with brown and shades of gray in the rocky slopes above to blue skies and white clouds made for vistas that only happen a few times in a year. Watching Phil hike back along the giant scree slopes with Clearwater Lake and Mount Hector and Cataract looming over it all was a highlight moment of the entire trip for me. We are incredibly lucky to enjoy such wild, pristine and accessible places in a world that is very quickly becoming the very opposite of these things.
Finally, around 4 hours from camp we found ourselves with no more elevation gain ahead and no obvious cairn indicating previous ascents either. There were some rocks just under the summit that could have been the remains of a very old cairn so I’m certainly not claiming an FA on this one. There is a good chance that the 1919 geological team ascended here to garner views of surrounding peaks but I can almost guarantee that very few folks have stood on this particular summit over the past few thousand years. Summit views were great to the east and somewhat muted everywhere else thanks to lingering clouds but the scene was wild and I almost prefered a bit of mystery that the clouds provided.
I can’t stress enough how difficult biking up the series of OHV, horse trails and roads from Cutoff Creek up the Clearwater River is. I know everyone can do everything but this is next level suffering – especially with an overnight pack on your back. You might wonder about using paniers instead of a pack, but good luck hoisting your bike onto your shoulders with this option. Or bushwhacking. Put it this way – this trip is among the hardest on this site and there’s a few doozies available to choose from! Don’t get me wrong. The bike ride is a spectacular, wild approach along pristine valleys, soaring peaks and vast alpine meadows brimming with wildflowers. It is also, however, a tough, painful grind along rough horse trails, muddy OHV tracks and unbridged water crossings. My GoPro smoothes out the bumps but I think you can get a good sense of the effort by watching the movie I put together on our explor8ion.
Standing on Sufi Peak a week ago, I was struck by the amount of fresh snow still sitting on peaks to the west. Heck! Nevermind other peaks, I had plenty enough snow to endure on Sufi – a very front range summit that should be among the first to melt off every year along the Rockies front ranges. Originally my plan was to stay overnight and attempt either Canaria or Finch Peak with a bike approach up Canary Creek but they both had so much snow I didn’t trust that I’d be able to bike very far, making the trip more work than I was in the mood for. Only days later I was already trying to recruit other suckers – er, I mean friends – to return to the Upper Clearwater / Ram PLUZ for some quality suffering. Er, I mean fun. Alas, I didn’t do a great job of selling it and after working out on Prairie Mountain Friday (1 lap), Saturday (3 laps) and Sunday (2 laps), I was ready for something a little different on the holiday Monday. Despite feeling off all day I still managed a 9.5 hour round trip without feeling rushed. I highly recommend this loop in any of its many various forms as an early or late season trip. Views are excellent and the hiking easy. What more do you need to get you off the proverbial couch?
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.
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.
“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.
Prow Mountain and Greater Prow took much longer than expected but were involved and fun. Things get boring pretty fast when there’s no challenge left and both of these peaks proved to have plenty to offer in the “challenge” department. As did Skeleton Creek but that’s for Phil to explain…
Mount Tyrrell was a bit more involved on the approach than either of us expected but to be fair it was 30 degrees and we were tired. The east face route was wonderful and good fun and the views were awesome.
I enjoyed Idlewilde much more than I thought I would and can easily recommend it as an easy, quiet hike when you only have time for something small and are in the area.
Baseline Mountain isn’t my favorite peak in the area but should be considered for anyone who finds themselves in bad weather after a long drive – it’s still a (small) mountain and likely has decent views on a reasonable day.
The Bighorn Backcountry from Tinda to David Thompson Country is a very special place. There are open valleys with grasses gently swaying in the winds coming off the high ranges to the west. There are bubbling brooks and gushing streams. There are waterfalls and little tarns, sparkling like gems in the vast landscape. There are open ridges, small hills and towering peaks. We are privileged beyond telling to be able to enjoy such a pristine, beautiful and wild area.
I loved the Ram Mountain hike and will likely repeat it again some day with family or friends if I’m in the area. The views are far reaching and the hiking is easy and consistent grade all the way up to the upper mountain.
It’s for good reasons that me and my friends are spending time in the Ram / Clearwater areas. Despite being a long drive, it’s really no longer than most hwy 93 objectives and despite not having glaciers, this area has a remote feel to it and wonderful views over many creeks and rivers.
Without a doubt, Onion Peak was our favorite of the three summits we did this day. With a round trip time of only around 4 hours (with bike approach), this is a half day objective if you do the more direct route rather than Cornelius’ route. The ascent was fun on snow and the views are stunning from the summit, which is the highest in the area (higher than Sufi, Kista and Falls Lookout).