On March 23, Phil Richards and I hiked up a snowy Sheep Creek and scrambled Winchester Ridge. From the ridge we enjoyed spectacular views over the Dormer River towards Dormer Mountain and started to plan what kind of adventure would get us to its summit.
I’ve heard of the Observation Sub Peaks for many years as a pretty tame but highly recommended ski objective along the Icefields Parkway near Bow Summit and Bow Lake in Banff National Park.
Even before Cornelius Rott forged a route to the summit of Winchester Ridge, it was on my radar. This has happened with a number of relatively obscure peaks over the past 3 or 4 years as Cornelius is attracted to the same types of objectives as Phil and I and usually manages to nab them before we do.
On Sunday March 27, 2011 So Nakagawa and I skied to the summit of Crowfoot Mountain and on Saturday March 16 2019 I repeated it with Wietse Bijlsma. I always figured I’d repeat this mountain since it’s relatively easy and a surprisingly short day despite being over 1200 meters of height gain and almost 20 km of distance from the Bow Lake parking lot.
I forget when I first heard of BowCrow Peak but it’s been on my never ending and never shrinking list of Rockies summits for years. Something that was frustrating me was that even though I had a general idea where it was located, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how anyone bagged it!
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.
After missing out on a gorgeous day on Family day, I was absolutely determined to try something (anything!) on the following weekend. The weather forecast wasn’t looking ideal with 2 hours of sun and overcast conditions but I decided to follow Matt and Alison’s ascent tracks up Helena Ridge East no matter what the views might be. This was a bit of a shame because their photos from Monday were spectacular!
Since my last ill-fated trip with Dr. Phil in an ill-advised November 2018 attempt of Stenton Peak with an immediate subsequent follow up failure on an unnamed pile of choss nearby, my mountain mojo has been sitting somewhere between a 0 and a 1 with 10 being the amount of mojo required for peaks like McConnell or Cataract and 8+ being the amount required to get me out of bed at 04:00 on a weekend morning.
Astral Peak has been on my radar for many years now, ever since climbing Devils Head in 2012 and looking back over my shoulder as I walked onto its surprisingly spacious summit. The views from this very distinctive and well-known Ghost Wilderness peak provided me with a list of relatively unknown summits to the west including Poltergeist, Astral and Castle Rock Peak.
I very rarely repeat mountains. Very, very rarely. I just don’t see the point. The name of my web site provides insight to the whole point of hiking, scrambling, skiing and climbing for me – exploring new areas. But every once in a while I get an itch to do a repeat for whatever reason. Sometimes it’s just that the mountain is that much fun but usually it’s because I didn’t get great photos or views the first time. Such is the case with Mount Cory.
After the crappiest September on record, I knew we’d likely get some good weather in October. Sure enough! After a pretty bad start, October turned gorgeous and by the third week the forecast was all sunshine. After a series of emails and texts, Wietse and I were the last two standing and started making plans for Saturday. We settled on Chimper Peak.
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 […]
I was feeling let down by the dismal September weather and with one last day off before going back to work for the winter, I decided to risk the crappy forecast and drive down to the Crowsnest Pass to try my luck with a few last summits on Monday, October 1 2018. My original plan was to scramble Deadman’s Peak and then if I had energy remaining, do the bike ‘n hike of Willoughby Peak. As I drove closer to the pass, I noticed copious amounts of fresh snow since my visit only 5 days earlier when I scrambled Mount Coulthard and McLaren.
Phil and I weren’t sure where “RA” Peak actually was! After returning from the summit of Jake Smith Peak, I was feeling a bit more energy than before the short scramble and we decided that since we were in the area, we might as well tag both the west and east “RA” peaks. From the col with Jake Smith Peak, Phil and I regained part of RA Peak’s south ridge before traversing easy SW slopes to the col on smatterings of sheep trails worn into the scree.
From the summit of Three Lakes Ridge we had a choice to make. Despite the gorgeous weather Phil and I were obviously enjoying, it was already past 14:00 hours and we were a long way from the parking lot. We could descend Three Lakes Ridge via west slopes before joining the track back up to Middle Kootenay Pass and decide from there whether or not Middle Kootenay Mountain was a “go”, or we could take advantage of the ridge we were already on and continue towards Jake Smith and Red Argillite peaks. Why was it even a choice?
After approaching the Middlepass Lakes and scrambling up Rainy Ridge it was time to traverse towards the creatively named, “Three Lakes Ridge” – the professional cartographers must have been on holidays when these peaks were monikered. Nugara mentions the traverse between Rainy and Three Lakes Ridge as doable but not highly recommended, especially in the direction we were going to be doing it. How difficult could it be right?
A day after ascending close to 1800 vertical meters and biking / hiking and scrambling almost 30km up and down Mount Coulthard and McLaren in the Crowsnest Pass area, I was back at it with Phil Richards. We were planning a very full day of biking, hiking and peakbagging in the South Rockies within the newly formed Castle Wildland Provincial Park, near the Castle Mountain Ski Resort and just outside the other newly formed park, Castle Provincial Park.
Whenever I looked into the Mount Coulthard scramble, I always ended up wondering why nobody seemed willing to combine it with its easy neighboring peak, Mount McLaren (not to be confused with Mount MacLaren in the High Rock Range further north). I decided it was time someone tried it and posted it as a good idea – provided it was a good one of course. As it turns out – it was a very good idea. Initially, I thought I’d have to start up to the Andy Good / McLaren col from lower down on the North York Creek Road, even lower than the plane crash site.
September 2018 was not the best ending to a hiking and scrambling season that I’ve ever had – not even close. To be blunt, it was pretty crappy and the worst end of season so far for me! September is usually my favorite time of year in the Rockies. The touron hordes go home and even normally busy areas such as Skoki, Lake O’Hara and Assiniboine see less and less visitors and more and more yellowing larches and bright fall colors in the vegetation coating the mountains. The combination of clear blue skies (no more wildfires), snow-capped peaks and bright vegetation is usually what keeps me going for the next 5 months of winter. Not this year.
After a great bivy at the lovely Lyall Tarn, Wietse and I awoke at around 06:00 to an extremely windy, cloudy and dark sky beneath the brooding rock walls of Mount Lyall. We both commented on the quality of our sleep – the night was very calm and quite warm for September and we both got over 9 hours of shut-eye. Just as forecast on SpotWX, the wind picked up fiercely in the early morning hours, and by 06:15 we were feeling rain drops outside the tent. Darn it. I seem to be getting a lot of rain on my trips in 2018!! I can only remember packing up a few dry camps this year and I’ve spent a lot of nights under the sky, as usual.
After our ascent of Beehive Mountain, Wietse, Phil and I started a delightful traverse across brightly colored alpine meadows leading under towering cliffs to the west towards the NE shoulder of Mount Lyall. Beehive Mountain had gone much quicker and easier than we expected and despite thick smoke interfering somewhat with our views, we were feeling pretty pumped about our day so far. The temperatures were more mid-summer than late, and the fall colors on the vegetation in the meadows was absolutely stunning.
Once our original plans fell through for the weekend of September 7-9 (thanks to forest fire smoke), Phil Richards, Wietse Bijlsma and I had to think fast on Thursday night to come up with an alternate trip that still satisfied on some level. Smoke from BC forest fires had already been a huge issue since late July this year and we were tiring of trying to avoid it or climbing in it. After several suggestions we settled on a few easy, but lengthy and harder to access, scrambles on the Great Divide in the High Rock Range of South Kananaskis.
After approaching and scrambling Mount Townsend, I descended its slabby summit block and down the only obvious break through its intimidating cliffs before heading along a sheep track towards Epic Tower. Initially I worried that I might have to gain and lose some elevation on this traverse, but it went much quicker and easier than I expected. Within only about 45 minutes of leaving the summit of Townsend, I was scoping out a route up Epic Tower’s SW scree and slabs to the summit.
The only “peak” remaining along the ridge after scrambling up Mount Townsend, Epic Tower and Mythic Towerwas about as unofficial as a peak can get – “Little Mythic Tower” – so dubbed by Bob Spirko back in July of 2008 while on his scouting trip to find and document the Mythic Towers mentioned by Gillean Daffern in her famous Rockies hiking guide. Some people get all technical and cautious when referring to their “formal peak lists”. Meh. Who has time for such things? I don’t even count my peaks anymore – because in the end who really cares how many I’ve done or even which ones I’ve done?
After the easy to moderate ascents of both Mount Townsend and Epic Tower, I turned my attention towards the much more involved traverse and ascent of Mythic Tower – located further south along the ridge running over impressive east-facing cliffs from Mount Townsend to Mount Fable high over Exshaw Creek below. As I indicated already in my Townsend preamble, I was not about to take Mythic Tower lightly after hearing from Cornelius that it was one of his most difficult ascents. But first I had to get there from Epic Tower and this didn’t look like a very straightforward traverse to me!