As I tossed and turned in the pitch black night, I found myself wondering (and not for the first time in my life) why I wasn’t home in my comfortable, warm bed next to my beautiful, warm wife!
After biking, hiking and scrambling for many hours and many kilometers in the past 28 hours or so it was finally time for Phil Richards, Joanna Ford and I to attempt the highlight objective of our so-called “Three Passes” trip.
Where do I even start with this report? I guess I’ll just start at the beginning and see where this story goes as I access my overloaded memory banks…
Mount McConnell is one of those peaks that got onto my mountain list somehow and just stayed hovering somewhere near the top of it but never seemed to actually get done as the scrambling seasons came and went. Why was it on my list? As one of the most remote and hard to access peaks in Banff National Park with a summit over 10,200 feet high, it is rarely done (ours was only the 5th recorded ascent) and gets the explor8ion juices flowing. Why does it not get done, even though it’s on many Rockies explorers “to-do” lists? Simple – see above. McConnell is freaking remote and freaking hard to approach!
8.5 hours after leaving the car along highway 93, Phil and I were finally done with Quill Peak and turning our collective attention towards a distant Conical Peak, rising through the smoky skies to the SE of our little perch at the edge of Quill’s access glacier. Conical Peak had been on my radar for many years already – mostly due to a rumored shortcut route over, or near its summit from hwy 93 to the Dolomite Creek valley and Isabella Lake. We were planning to use this shortcut for our Recondite trip in 2013 but decided a trail approach via Helen Creek the was better option – thank goodness for that decision.
I was feeling quite ill the week of August 7th 2017. I’d probably been on one too many long day trips with Dr. Phil – or I was just allergic to work. Probably the latter. Of course, as the weekend approached and looked to be quite clear and warm, we started throwing around plans despite my current illness. After finally settling on a pretty fantastic trip that excited both of us, we were discouraged to find out that despite its relative obscurity, this particular peak was being visited by another party on the very same weekend. We decided we didn’t care (even though we really did) and upheld our plans for a two day trip.
I’ve been dreaming of climbing the highest peak in Banff National Park and 8th highest in the Canadian Rockies for many years. I’m not 100 percent sure when I first laid eyes on the hauntingly beautiful northwest face and dramatic summit pyramid of Mount Forbes but I do know that it probably terrified me the first few times I looked at it. That giant triangular face of snow, rock and ice stretching upward into the clouds continued to draw me in as I gazed at it from many surrounding summits, year after year. In 2015 I was sure I was going to climb Forbes with Ben and Steven, but alas they chose a weekend that didn’t work and I was once again left to wonder at a missed opportunity.
By the end of September 2015 I was getting a wee bit desperate to finally see some fully turned larches. Despite getting out a lot in the middle of the month, especially to Waterton Lakes National Park, I’d yet to run into the full fall golden goodness of larch heaven that I’ve come to crave at the end of each scrambling / hiking season in the Alberta Rockies. As usual for the 2015 season, the weather did not cooperate when I needed it to! The forecast for the weekend of September 25-27 was looking a bit thin. Sunday was the best looking day by far, but as the dates crept closer the forecast grew dimmer until even Sunday was looking like a good shot at cold, cloud and possibly rain or even snow.
I’ve been dreaming of the Matterhorn of the Rockies since I first laid eyes on her while on a hiking trip to the area in 2008. I never actually thought I’d be climbing its NE ridge but it was fun to imagine! Towering over everything in its vicinity and visible from almost every prominent peak in south Banff and Kananaskis , Mount Assiniboine is a big, beautiful mountain that has inspired climbers from all over the world to test its charms.
After 2 full days of constant wind in the 50-80km/h range we were ready for a calmer day on Saturday, May 12th. Luckily when we woke up around 0600 the wind had indeed calmed down somewhat, probably in the 30km/h range. Due to the constant wind threatening to tear apart our tent all night and my cramped sleeping bag I was more than ready to get out and stretch my legs when the sun started peeking into our front door on Saturday morning.
Sometimes in life you get a chance to do something that you’ve always wanted to do but scares you a little at the same time and you have a choice to make. Is it one of those moments that you jump in or jump out? Monday May 7 2012 I was presented with such a chance. Since our failed attempt at Mount Columbia in February, Ferenc and I had been planning a repeat 2 day trip to get redemption. Our plan was to wait for optimal conditions in May before our next attempt. TJ was also keen on Columbia so I agreed to keep him in the loop.
The first week of February 2012 was looking pretty promising for weather and avalanche conditions in the Alberta Rockies. Since Hanneke wasn’t on call for the weekend of the 4th I decided to send out the “who’s in?” emails to start organizing at least one day of backcountry skiing – hopefully involving a summit of some kind.