I wasn’t sure if I was in the mood for another peak as the August long weekend came to a close. I’d spent the weekend relaxing with family and was still feeling the effects of some pretty long days in the hills the weeks previous. Thanks to wildfires in BC and especially in the Verdant Creek and Ball Pass areas, the air was also very smoky in much of the Rockies. But I had the Monday off and family stuff was done, so how could I realistically just sit there and not take advantage of another beautiful day in my beloved Rockies? Precisely.
Andrew Nugara had told me about a new peak he was adding to his latest guidebook already in 2016 in exchange for some of my photos in said book. He claimed that the views both on route and on the summit of this peak were some of the best he’d ever had in the Rockies – an opinion us peakbaggers seem to have alarmingly often about every new peak we ascend! 🙂 Of course with that sort of ringing endorsement, I had no choice but to add Molarstone Peak to my summit list and secretly planned to combine it with Cataract Peak.
I capped an awesome 9 days off in July 2017, with a long-sought adventure up the distant, obscure and somewhat neglected Cataract Peak, just across the Pipestone River Valley in Banff National Park. This mountain has been on my radar for many years now – mostly because it’s high (almost 11,000 feet) without being so high that it gets more attention (i.e. 11,000 feet). When Ben and Steven did it back in September of 2014 I was fairly bummed that I didn’t get to join them.
From the summit of South Totem Peak, Spreading Peak looked pretty darn sweet. I remembered looking up at Spreading Peak from our long traverse towards Marmota Peak in 2015 and thinking the same thing. A beautiful line of snow highlights the ridge to the summit cap and it looked pretty easy to boot. The issue – as with any peaks in this part of the Siffleur Wilderness – is access. There is no quick or easy way to access the gorgeous summits in this area. Or is there?
After a very successful and somewhat tiring 5 day trip with my daughter in which we traveled approximately 57km and over 4500m of height gain, I was ready to put my feet up for the remainder of my week off. Then Phil texted me… When Phil sends a text, it’s usually some idea for an exhausting day trip involving many kilometers and many hundreds of meters of height gain, usually on an objective that nobody has ever heard of. Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised when we settled on a day trip of South Totem and Spreading Peak in the Murchison Group just east of Totem Creek in Banff National Park.
After spending a glorious day at the Lake of the Horns, KC and I awoke to yet another day of brilliant sunshine on the last day of our 5 day backpacking trip along the southern Highwood peaks on the Great Divide. Our plans for the day would be to take my slightly easier alternate descent down the Lake of the Horns headwall before picking up a horse outfitters trail that was rumored to circle towards our last peak of the trip – The Hill of the Flowers.
After a few intense days of backpacking and scrambling five summits, Kaycie and I were ready for a relaxing day by a gorgeous and remote backcountry lake. So that’s exactly what we did. When doing research for our trip, I’d relied heavily on Matt Clay’s August, 2015 trip where he and Sandra backpacked into Weary Creek Gap before traversing up and over Mount Muir before being turned back at the Carnarvon Lake chains. I had changed things up, based on his experience, choosing to ascend, rather than descend the chains. Since our original plans called for a much longer trip, I was keen to extend ours by at least a day and came up with an intriguing option to spend a day and night camping at Lake of the Horns (LOTH) from our Weary Creek headwall bivy.
Summit Elevation (m): 2883Elevation Gain (m): 740Round Trip Time (hr): 3Total Trip Distance (km): 4Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 : you fall, you sprain your pinkie fingerDifficulty Notes: No difficulties from Weary Creek Gap. The headwall to the gap / lake is harder than anything on this easy scramble as long as you stick to the easiest route. Note: I did this peak after traversing from Carnarvon Lake to Weary Creek over Mount Muir.GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: SC5; YDS (Hiking)Map: what3words Kaycie […]
After a nice, relaxing day spent ascending Mount Strachan before chilling at Carnarvon Lake, Kaycie and I woke up early on Monday morning to tackle Mount Muir and our highline traverse to Weary Creek Gap. The idea for this traverse came from a thread that Matt Clay started on ClubTread and from some further research into a longer backpack in the area known as the “Elk Highline”. The basic idea was to take full backpacks up and over Mount Muir and down towards Weary Creek Gap which would be our home for another night and possibly a base camp for an ascent of nearby Mount McPhail.
Summit Elevation (m): 2682Elevation Gain (m): 600Round Trip Time (hr): 3.5Total Trip Distance (km): 4Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 : you fall, you sprain your pinkie fingerDifficulty Notes: No difficulties from Carnarvon Lake. The headwall to the lake is far harder than anything on this easy scramble.GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: OT5; YDS (Hiking)Map: what3words After a brutally long day the day previous, Kaycie and I awoke at our bivy on Carnarvon Lake ready for a much more relaxed day. Thanks to knocking off not […]
After approaching Carnarvon Lake via Carnarvon Creek and setting up camp, KC and I completed the easy scramble up nearby Mount MacLaren. We made the decision to traverse under the false peak of MacLaren towards the first peak on the traverse to Mount Shankland. This worked well and soon we were standing at the col between the false summit of MacLaren and Shankland’s first false summit.
Summit Elevation (m): 2850Elevation Gain (m): 1150Round Trip Time (hr): 9Total Trip Distance (km): 11Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2/3 : you fall, you sprain your wrist or break your armDifficulty Notes: The most difficult part is the chained section to Carnarvon Lake. After that the most difficult part is looking at the true summit from the false one. Note: Distance and elevation gain includes an ascent of Mount Shankland and is measured from Carnarvon Lake.GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: SC5; YDS (3rd)Map: what3words After approaching the stunning […]
Elevation Gain (m): 700Trip Date: July 22, 2017Round Trip Time (hr): 7Total Trip Distance (km): 22Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3 – you fall, you break your legDifficulty Notes: The crux just below the lake is a set of chains that ascends upper moderate to low difficult scrambling terrain. The combination of a big pack and the exposure could turn some hikers around.GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: SC6; YDS (3rd)Map: what3words For our father / daughter backpacking trip in the summer of 2017, […]
On Wed or Thu the usual flurry of emails went out regarding plans for the weekend. When the dust settled, Phil Richards and I were left choosing between two lengthy day trips. In the end, Watermelon Peak won out. Most people do Watermelon as part of an overnight bivy at Lake Alice, and while this is a wonderful way to experience this peak and this lovely area, we simply didn’t have the schedule to allow it this time. It was while we were poking around at the route and planning the trip that Phil wryly texted me – “you realize that Bobac is also in the area”.
Summit Elevation (m): 3088Elevation Gain (m): 1650Round Trip Time (hr): 14.5Total Trip Distance (km): 28Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3/4 – you fall, you break your leg or possibly dieDifficulty Notes: The south ridge route that we took involves difficult, loose scrambling with exposure. There are easier routes but they are longer and cannot be done safely with the amount of snow they had when we were there.GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: SC7; YDS (4th)Map: what3words After spending an amazing morning approaching and ascending Watermelon […]
Summit Elevation (m): 2454Elevation Gain (m): 1600Round Trip Time (hr): 7Total Trip Distance (km): 13Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 4 – you fall, you are almost deadDifficulty Notes: Routefinding is key to keeping this scramble reasonable on approach. The final ridge to the summit is difficult, loose and exposed scrambling but pretty short.GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: SC7; YDS (4th)Map: what3words After enjoying a Kane difficult scramble on Divide Mountain with Liz and Mike on Friday, I choose to go solo on a Nugara difficult for Saturday, July 8 […]
Summit Elevation (m): 2409Elevation Gain (m): 1200Round Trip Time (hr): 8Total Trip Distance (km): 15Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 4 – you fall, you are almost deadDifficulty Notes: Named in 1998. The mountain is situated on the Continental Divide. Official name. (from peakfinder.com) NOTE: The height listed as 9400 feet is much too high for this peak which is closer to 7900 feet high.GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: SC7; YDS (4th)Map: what3words On Friday, July 7 2017 I finally managed to get out with a couple of […]
After an easy day on Mount Stelfox, Mike Mitchell and I were pretty excited to find a scramble route up it’s higher northern neighbor – Bright Star Peak. As far as we knew there are no recorded scramble ascents of this peak – as a matter of fact, I don’t know of any online trip reports of anyone getting to the summit although I’m sure some folks have, over the years. As it turns out, there is good reasons for the lack of beta on this peak. We got up early at our bivy along Whitegoat Creek and by 05:00 we were on the familiar approach trail towards Whitegoat Pass. Why bother redoing this trail and not bivy higher? Simple. There’s no easily available water anywhere from Whitegoat Creek to the Pass, or even beyond.
When our plans for climbing Mount Lefroy fell through, Mike and I started looking at other options. After swearing that I was done with David Thompson Country for at least a few months, I found myself planning another trip to the area. Mike was still feeling ill on Saturday, so I solo scrambled Abraham Mountain – a delightful and unexpectedly short day out. Our plans for the Sunday and Monday were to scramble Mount Stelfox, spend Sunday night camping and then attempt to find a scramble route up Bright Star Peak, it’s higher neighbor to the north.
After a recent peak bagging extravaganza in the David Thompson Country area of the Rockies, I’d become somewhat enamored with the free camping, light bushwhacking and magnificent views in the area. When Mike Mitchell and I had to cancel plans to climb Mount Lefroy due to a very high freezing level and Mike not feeling well, we switched objectives to Mount Stelfox and an attempt at Bright Star Peak for Sunday and Monday. I decided that with an excellent weather forecast for Saturday, I might as well do a solo trip and spend another night camping in the area. I had a lot of choices left but my top two or three were either some of the 5 Ex Coelis Group of peaks, Windy Point Ridge or Abraham Mountain.
I had lots of time the afternoon before, after successfully scrambling Whirlpool Ridge, to think about objectives for my third and final day in DTC. I really wanted to try some of the Ex Coelis group but wasn’t sure I was in the mood for solo difficult scrambling. I also wasn’t sure about the weather fx, since I didn’t have cell reception. I finally settled on trying Elliott and Sentinel which interested me after talking to Mike about his trip in August of 2015. There were no published scramble routes up Elliott before Raf and Andrew finally found one on their descent of the mountain in August of 2011 after a very long and difficult ‘scramble’ up a slabby gully on it’s west face.
After coming so close to its summit the day before after a traverse from Tuff Puff, I knew I was coming back immediately to make a second attempt at Whirlpool Ridge’s highest summit the very next day. I enjoyed a delightful (free) camp along hwy 11 the evening before, setting up my mid on the back of my truck for the first time, which worked out great. The only fly in the ointment was repeated gunfire nearby, throughout the evening which kept me up until around 11pm when darkness finally started settling in! The joys of camping outside of a park I suppose.
Summit Elevation (m): 2800Elevation Gain (m): 1700Round Trip Time (hr): 10Total Trip Distance (km): 14Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain somethingDifficulty Notes: No difficulties to the summit of Tuff Puff. Whirly Puff is mostly an off-trail hike if you avoid our ill-advised attempts to Whirlpool. Note: We did an exploratory trip well beyond Tuff Puff to see if we could forge a route up the NE face of Whirlpool Ridge. We couldn’t and we didn’t.GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical […]
After a longish outing on Mount Head a few days previous with a couple of smelly guys (no offense guys), I decided it was time for a nice hike in Waterton Lakes National Park with my wife for a change. She not only looks (a lot) nicer than those other guys, but she smells nicer too. Again – no offense guys. In the fall of 2015 I hiked Lakeview Ridge solo and remember really liking the Horseshoe Basin area.
On Friday, June 09 2017 I managed to summit Mount Head in the Highwood Range of the front range Rockies with Wietse and Kev Papke. Exactly ten years previous, to the day, I scrambled up Mount Head’s southern neighbor, Holy Cross Mountain, also with Wietse. Also, almost ten years to the day, was the first time I became aware of the scrambling on Mount Head when some friends did it and reported back. It was on my radar ever since and just never seemed to get priority until now. This was long before Nugara’s scrambles book added it to yet another list.