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Towers, The

After completing a truncated version of the Cautley Traverse (missing Cascade Rock and Wonder Peak), I found myself a bit dissatisfied with the idea of simply heading back to my camp at Lake Magog. I was feeling disappointed with being turned back on Gibraltar Rock as well. It felt like I had over-complicated what should have been an easy traverse and on hindsight, I had indeed done just that! Cascade Rock was easy hiking on the north end of the traverse (not the south), and Wonder Peak could be accessed via a hidden chimney on climber’s right of the seemingly impenetrable cliffs blocking the route from Ely’s Dome.

Ely’s Dome (Cautley Traverse)

After being turned around on a traverse from Mount Cautley to Gibraltar Rock and somehow completely screwing up where Cascade Rock was, I started the traverse south from the summit of Cautley, heading towards Ely’s Dome and what I thought was the traverse from it, to Cascade Rock. Confused yet? Apparently, so was I…

Cautley, Mount (Cautley Traverse)

I woke up on Sunday, September 25 2016 in the Lake Magog Campground and poked my head out of my tent only to be immediately disappointed. This was supposed to be the day of my long-awaited Mount Cautley Traverse – 4 new peaks in one stretch – all located along the same, fairly easy ridge and all with stunning views over the Mount Assiniboine area, including of course, the mighty Matterhorn of the Rockies.

Sunburst Peak (Goat’s Tower)

Ever since scrambling Nub Peak, Wonder Peak, Og Mountain and Cave Mountain back in 2008, I’ve wanted to go back to the Mount Assiniboine area and bag a few other scrambles. It took way longer than expected, but finally in 2016 I managed to get another trip into the area. After a long and tiring approach the day before via Sunshine Meadows and a morning ascent of the lowly Chucks Ridge, I was ready for Sunburst Peak in the afternoon.

Ma Butte

After summiting McGillivray Ridge in better-than-expected weather conditions, Wietse, Dave and I turned our attention to Ma Butte – a nice looking ridge to the west of McGillivray, sitting pretty in front of the impressive Crowsnest Mountain massif. Ma Butte looked intimidating from the southern part of McGillivray but from the summit we could see that the north end of the ridge would be easier – just as Bob indicates in his report. The descent to the McGillivray / Ma Butte col was quick and easy. From there we found ourselves looking up several hundred vertical meters at Ma Butte.

McGillivray Ridge

Wietse, Dave and I were approaching the trail head for Southfork Mountain and Barnaby Ridge when we noticed dark clouds and rain on the windshield. Since nobody felt like hiking or scrambling in the rain, we started searching our minds for easier objectives that could be done in the rain and wouldn’t involve driving too terribly far. I remembered a “back pocket” easy family outing that I’d been planning recently up McGillivray Ridge and Ma Butte. Since the sun looked to be shining over the Crowsnest Pass area, we agreed to try it. By some minor miracle, Dave hadn’t yet been up these obscure, meaningless bumps – his words, not mine – but I agree.

Sparrowhawk Tarns

On a beautiful Saturday in August, my wife Hanneke and I wanted to hike something without huge amounts of other people. After throwing around ideas the day before while driving home from a scramble up The Monarch, Phil had mentioned Sparrowhawk Tarns. This was a great idea and Hann and I were delighted with the trail, the views and the total lack of other people. Even on one of the nicest days of the summer we only saw around 10 other people the whole day on this trail. Highly recommended, especially if you love alpine meadows, tarns and Marmots.

Jimmy Simpson Junior, Mount

I was happy with the outcome of Friday’s scramble up Devil’s Thumb and instantly began planning another objective for Sunday. As the weekend progressed, the weather deteriorated for the Bow Lake area and soon the date slipped to Monday. I didn’t want to go Monday due to the expected hordes of folks returning to Calgary after a long weekend of camping so Kaycie and I agreed that we’d get up at 04:45 and try to be off the mountain by around noon – hopefully beating the mad rush from Banff / Canmore to YYC.

Devil’s Thumb

If you’ve read my Cockscomb Mountain trip report, you should not be surprised that it’s been weeks since my last summit! I jest. Although my mountain mojo was a bit depleted in June / July, this isn’t the real reason I haven’t summitted a mountain in the last 7 weeks. There are two reasons for the break. The first was a three week holiday in July which saw me and my son do an epic 16 day canoe trip in Woodland Caribou Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada, followed by a week camping with family in Nutimik Lake, Manitoba.

Prairie Bluff

After squandering a perfectly good weekend, followed by a disappointing May long weekend, I was more than ready for some time away from the rat race in Calgary by the time the last weekend of May rolled around. Both my kids were also ready for a break and with Hanneke home studying and writing assignments, we decided that a two day trip to the Castle / Crown area was just the ticket for us. The original plan – given a sunny forecast – was to scramble Southfork and possibly Barnaby Ridge on Saturday, followed by something short and easy on Sunday.

Bull Creek Hills

For Mother’s Day 2016, Hanneke wanted to go hiking. That was fine with me! After doing a bit of research I decided the perfect Mother’s Day hike would be Bull Creek Hills in the Highwood Range near Eden Valley in Kananaskis Country just west of Longview. I was right – it was the perfect hike! There is more than one way to reach the summit(s) of Bull Creek Hills. The most popular way seems to be hiking to Grass Pass before heading eastward over some intervening bumps and hills before finally summiting the eastern high point. I’ve been to Grass Pass before, when I descended Gunnery Peak with Wietse and when I ascended Holy Cross, and I’ve read that there can be a lot of horse poo on the trail so I wasn’t keen on doing that route. After some searching around I came upon the illustrious Sonny Bou’s trip report from January 2015 and I liked the direct nature of his route and the fact that it was a loop taking advantage of two prominent ridges. I love ridge hiking.

Thrift Peak & Camp Creek Ridge

Thrift Peak has been on my radar for a while now, it was cemented as an objective while on a drive back from Cabin Ridge (Twin Peaks) with Wietse in November of 2015. I didn’t even realize this was the Livingstone Fire Lookout until doing some research later! There are three approaches to this summit, two of which require a crossing of the Oldman River. One goes up the south ridge from near the gap with Thunder Mountain. The second goes up a fire road from the west. A less well known and less traveled route that does not require a river crossing at all, was discovered by the indefatigable Bob Spirko in April of 2008 when he also ‘discovered’ Camp Creek Ridge. This is a longer route, but potentially involves another summit / ridge which is always nice.

Channel Ridge (+ Wolf Creek Hills)

I still wasn’t feeling 100% on the last weekend of February 2016. I decided that the forecast was too ‘iffy’ to try anything too lofty or remote on Sunday, February 28th so I woke up late and once again drove past Okotoks, through Black Diamond and Turner Valley and continued on to Kananaskis Country. Unlike last week though, this time I followed the Sheep River along highway 546 instead of the Highwood along highway 40. The conditions were remarkably spring-like, especially compared to when I did Foran Grade and Windy Point Ridge in late February 2014.

Cat Creek Hills

After I wasted almost 4 hours of driving the weekend before, I was ‘ready’ to once again make the drive from Calgary, down past Okotoks and Black Diamond to Longview and along the Highwood River into Kananaskis from the south on hwy 40. Unlike the weekend before, this time the weather forecast was 100% chance of sun (instead of 90%?!) so I figured the odds of running into a blizzard at the trailhead was slim. Thankfully, I was right. Truth be told, I’d have much rather been on my skis – seeing as it’s February – but I have a policy that I don’t do back country skiing if the avalanche hazard is ‘considerable’ or ‘high’ so the latest forecasts made my decision to stay off the boards easy.

Commonwealth Ridge

Phil Richards and I decided that Commonwealth Ridge would make a nice first summit of 2016 – and we were right. We started in beautiful predawn light from the Smuts Pass parking area along the Spray Lakes Road in cold temperatures of around -23 degrees. The cold was a bit of a bummer as we were expecting warmer temps – but we warmed up soon enough as we snowshoed towards the ridge on a highway of ski and snowshoe tracks. Initially we were following So Nakagawa’s GPS track, but soon we started questioning this decision and turned back to find a more direct trail up the ridge. Thankfully we found another highway track going in the right direction which I’m sure saved us hours of deep sugar-snow trail breaking which is as much fun as it sounds – i.e. not much!

Galatea, Little

Originally I was planning to attempt skiing Little Galatea, an outlier of the much larger Mount Galatea. After Matt Clay posted that he and Matt Hobbs had recently spent a considerable amount of energy breaking trail through sugar-snow to the upper ridge, I couldn’t resist taking advantage of this on my ‘shoes, and I got to spend another day in the hills with my family out of the deal. Now that I’ve ‘shoed it, I’m glad I didn’t go for it on skis, via the alternate route. The only way to ski LG is via the massive avalanche gully that Nugara recommends ascending and which I think should be avoided by all but very confident and avy-aware skiers / ‘shoers in prime conditions.

Monarch Ramparts, The

Despite a very chilly forecast, Wietse, Bill and I decided that we’d brave the -20 degree temps near Sunshine Village in Banff National Park to give the Monarch Ramparts a go on our skis. Wietse and I had been up Healy Pass Peak almost exactly 2 years previous and at that time we’d gone up the north end of the Monarch Ramparts, but not far enough to claim the summit which lies towards its south end.

Cabin Ridge (Twin Peaks)

After a few weekends at home, I was ready to explore some front range areas again – somewhat of a tradition when the weather turns and it’s not quite ski season yet. After conversing with Wietse for a while, we settled on Cabin Ridge, also known as Twin Peaks. I was too lazy to research the route, so Wietse did some Googling and decided that road 532 through the “Windy Gap” to hwy 40 (gravel) was closed (due to the 2013 floods) and we should take Township Road 104A (Oldman River Road) to hwy 40 instead – driving past the parking area used to ascend Thunder Mountain. We decided to check out Windy Gap ourselves on the return trip, because I had a hard time believing it was still closed from 2013!

Ruby Ridge

After a long day with Phil Richards on a three peak traverse of Vimy Peak, Arras Peak (Vimy Ridge) and GR939323, I wanted an easy, short objective to wind down my two weeks off. Wietse was interested in joining me for the day and eventually we settled on Ruby Ridge. We figured it would take us around 6 hours, which gave us plenty of time to get back to Calgary on time.

Lakeview Ridge

After a spectacular trip to the White Goat Wilderness with Eric over the weekend, I spent a few rainy, cold days back in Calgary recovering. Unfortunately (for me) the latest weather system dumped a pile of fresh snow on most of the Rockies, once again dashing any hopes of a large ascent for my second week off. Even my dream of going into the Mount Assiniboine area to bag peaks and photograph larches was literally dumped on. Ah well. The Rockies are a big place and one place didn’t seem to be affected by the latest storms, so I headed back there! Waterton Lakes National Park was back on the menu so-to-speak.

Red Peak

After a few weekends of general laziness, I was in the mood for some moderate hiking with my family on Saturday, August 29 2015. I was hoping the recent smoky conditions would be calmer than they were over the week previous, but as the day approached we realized that we wouldn’t have the clear views we wanted. Oh well. We still wanted to get the exercise and I wanted to scope out the fall colors that I was sure would be starting in the alpine.

Opal Ridge South

The weather forecast for Saturday, July 11 2015 wasn’t optimal for scrambling. I knew it wouldn’t be quite as bad as TheWeatherNetwork was predicting, but I don’t mess around with t-storms and so far have never been caught in one high on a mountain, due to a rigid avoidance of them. I scrapped my original plans to go to Yoho and decided at the last minute to do an easy / short peak that’s been on my radar for a few years already – the south peak of Opal Ridge.

Orphan, The

For Father’s Day and for the longest day of the year, we chose a fairly easy scramble in the Spray Lakes region of Kananaskis. Originally I was hoping to climb North Victoria early on Sunday before coming home to celebrate Father’s Day, but that didn’t work out thanks to a very chaotic weather forecast that kept promising perfect weather and then changing at the last minute! Oh well. June in the Alberta Rockies is known for unpredictable and chaotic weather.

Wildhorse Ridge

I’ve been a bit obsessed with the Ya Ha Tinda region this year. I’m not sure exactly why, but I’ve been there 4 or 5 times since my first trip in November 2014 up Evangeline Peak / Rum Ridge with Steven and Ben. While hiking Labyrinth Mountain and Mount Minos with Wietse in April, we looked across the Ya Ha Tinda road at a lovely ridge, rising directly over the road with no bushwhacking and no approach and wondered how easy this would be. I remembered looking at the lower slopes every time I drove into the area, wondering the same thing. A friend of ours, Dave Salahub decided to try it out and reported back that it was easy and pleasant. I needed no more prompting and decided that this would be the perfect trip to introduce my family to the Ya Ha Tinda hiking experience.

Minos, Mount

After a very pleasant scramble on Labyrinth Mountain, Wietse and I still had plenty of gas in the tank to go for a second summit. Due to the crossing of the Red Deer River and a shared approach via horse track along Wolf Creek, it makes very good sense to tackle both Labyrinth Mountain and Mount Minos on the same day. I do have some advice if you follow our idea though. Definitely do NOT ascend Minos first. If you ascend Minos first, you will not ascend Labyrinth afterwards. You will be largely unmotivated after Minos, I think!