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).
What can I say about this area in summary? Well, to make a long story short – it’s worth the fight to access it but you will have to earn its charms one way or the other.
Sentry Peak is a lovely viewpoint situated in the heart of Banff National Park at its eastern boundary with views of Malloch, Mamen and Wampum Peak.
Lost Guide Peak feels like a special peak to me. To be honest, most of my ascents are special for their own reasons but this particular peak feel much like some other locals that I’ve done such as Condor, Bellow, Howl and Tomahawk.
Scalp Peak and Skeleton Mountain are some of those front range mountains that sat on my list for a while before finally getting direct attention late last year after Wietse and I hiked two nearby peaks – Well Site and Hat Mountain. I highly recommend combining these two peaks into a single trip. The only question left to you is how many days you’ll set aside for it.
Reflecting on the day, we enjoyed some great spring hiking and managed almost 2k vertical and ~27km of hiking – not bad for some front range bumps and hills! This sort of trip isn’t something we like to do all the time but it’s the perfect kind of spring day that gets done a couple of times each year as the ski season slowly transitions to the hiking / scrambling / climbing one.
Limestone Mountain is definitely worth doing but likely not as a sole objective if you’re driving the 2.5-3 hours from Calgary to the trailhead. We were happy to do it as the primary summit – one that actually has great views.
If you choose a warm, windless day make sure you give yourself time to enjoy Ephraim’s summit register goodies and this just might be a top 10 peak after all! It was a perfect mental health day to wander around by myself for a few hours and bag a new peak with familiar great views and atmosphere.
Why would anyone ever bother with those two “peaks”?! Driving 5-6 hours round trip from YYC just to hike up a bump with no clear summit and likely very muted views? Meh.
I’ve managed to do so many gorgeous trips and so many top-of-the list objectives that I think any other peaks from here until 2021 will be bonus material. And that’s a good feeling.