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Category : Trip Report

Fortress South Outlier

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. As I wrote in the original article on changes to explor8ion, change is inevitable and I am changing my mind on some of the issues I was thinking about back then.

Highwood Peak

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.

Smutwood Peak

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.

Lone Mountain & Kishinena Peak

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.

Headwall Peak

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. 

Haiduk Peak (+ North Hawk Ridge)

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.

Odlum, Mount (+ Loomis)

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.

Cloudy Ridge (+ “Junior”, “Dundy”)

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.

Scrimger, Mount (+ Etherington)

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.

Zombie & Otuskwan Peak

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.

Forgetmenot Mountain (Ridge, Lookout)

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.

Aldridge, Mount (+ Courcelette, Fording)

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. 😉

Churchill River – Drinking River – McLennan Lake Canoe Trip

In north-central Saskatchewan there is a town called Missinipe which is the base for a paddler’s paradise of rivers and lakes nestled in the gorgeous geology that is the Canadian Shield which is the backbone of Canada and among the oldest surface rock on the planet. Long used by the Native Peoples of Canada and by the fur traders that paddled her waters for trade, the Canadian Shield is characterized by countless square kilometers of 3.96 billion year old Precambrian igneous and metamorphic rock, covered in a thin layer of soil which supports incredible numbers of spruce and trees and water ways. The rivers and lakes are teeming with fish and support wildlife of many types from moose to bear to ducks and birds.

Solstice Peak

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.

Cone Mountain, Turbulent, Fortulent Peaks

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.

Oliver, Mount

Obviously dry conditions and knowing there’s a trail and roughly where to find it is key to keeping Mount Oliver to a reasonable day trip. I really enjoyed this front range scramble (apparently the highest front range peak in Banff) and would highly recommend it to anyone looking to get off the beaten path and onto a much more rudimentary one. The highlights of the trip for me weren’t even the mountain but rather the upper stretches of North Burnt Timber Creek, the sidewalk east ridge and the remote and very quiet nature of the area.

Gould Dome

I had more fun on the route and scrambling on Gould Dome than I thought I would. For anyone looking for a nice short, challenging day out this is a good choice.

Prow Mountain (+ Greater Prow, Forward)

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… 😉

Tyrrell, Mount (Scotch Camp)

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.

Apparition Mountain

I enjoyed the ascent of Apparition Mountain very much. The early evening lighting, the sneaky route through the cliffs and the exposed ridge walk near the summit block all added up to more engagement than I expected when planning this scramble. At less than 2.5 hours round trip from a camp at Spectral Lakes it’s an obvious no-brainer for anyone brave enough to stay overnight in such a ghost themed area!

Revenant Mountain (Steacie)

I highly recommend Revenant Mountain for competent scramblers. The mountain itself is almost easy after the somewhat involved approach to the Spectral Lakes. The east face is complex but the route opens up once you’re on it, guiding you forward and up to the south ridge. The scrambling is engaging enough to keep you distracted from all the work you’ve done to get there. A favorite for me and a very nice feather in my scrambling cap – one I’ve been looking forward to for a very long time.

Ghostly Endeavors on Brocks Peak & Spectral Lakes

I am thoroughly delighted to have finally completed a successful solo adventure into the Spectral Lakes area. I know that people wander up summits and don’t write their names in the registers but as far as recorded ascents go, being the 5th and 4th ascent in 27 years on Revenant and Apparition respectively is a nice feeling. I highly recommend this trip for those who like some adventure with their cornflakes and I use that word literally here. You might not get all the peaks on day 1 or even day 3 but you are guaranteed to have some adventure while trying!

Sira Peak

Despite a terrible bug experience along the Forty Mile Creek trail, I can’t rave about this route on Sira Peak enough. This peak goes into my top 10 easy remote summits for several reasons including the lovely approach trail, incredible fields of flowers, lovely tarns and lofty summit views. The fact that so few people bother with this officially unnamed “V10” summit despite its 3000 meter apex only makes me love it even more. Highly recommended for backpackers who are in the area or fit parties as a relatively straightforward day trip from the Norquay ski resort.

Stoney Peak (Stony)

Stoney Peak is a very worthwhile objective for anyone looking to scramble something a bit more off the beaten Kane and Nugara paths. You’d be hard pressed to find such as distinctive, lofty unnamed peak with such easy access and essentially zero bushwhacking. The only issues with the mountain is how to spell its name and the number of subsequent peaks you’re going to be interested in after viewing them from its lofty summit!

Burns, Mount

Despite early misgivings on tackling such a long day and large, remote objective solo, I ended up loving my Mount Burns trip. Even a dead raven, pesky fawn and nasty little ant couldn’t distract me from getting it done this particular day. Sometimes it doesn’t feel good to go out of your comfort zone but sometimes it’s the kick in the pants you needed. This was just the kick for me!