logo

Tag : banff national park

Bident Mountain

In 2007 I made my first attempt at Bident Mountain, looming high over Consolation Pass and Lakes in Banff National Park. Bident sits lower than its neighbor to the west, Quadra Mountain and higher than its neighbor to the east, Mount Bell. It took almost 17 years, but finally on April 13 2024 I stood on both summits of Bident, tackling them from a completely different direction by a completely different method. Instead of a rock ascent, this one would be on snow.

Pulpit Peak

After years of planning a late summer ascent of Pulpit Peak, I slowly switched my plans to a winter ascent instead. On March 24, 2024 Wietse and I managed to make this happen on a glorious bluebird spring day in the Rockies.

Gibbon Pass Peak (Vista, Arnica, Twin Lakes)

I enjoyed this hike quite a bit. It’s very similar to something like Healy Pass / Egypt Lakes or the Skoki Lakes area but much shorter. I’ll admit that I was a wee bit disappointed in the lack of larches almost the entire way until just below Gibbon Pass but this isn’t unlike many other larch marches in the Rockies. If you are a fit hiker and don’t mind a 25km day with over 1600 meters of gain, than this trip is definitely for you. I would time it a week better than I did to catch the larches at their prime but this is always a bit of a “hit-and-miss” game.

“Vista Peak” (Arnica)

Yes, Vista Peak is unofficial, lowly and unremarkable in almost every way. BUT. Its location made it worthwhile for the boundary commission over 100 years ago and it should make it worthwhile to you as well. With a trail leading up through the worst of the bush and an easy route with stunning views from there and from the top, I think it should be on most Rockies hikers and scramblers hit lists.

Allenby, Mount (True & False)

Mount Allenby is a trip I won’t soon be forgetting. I can’t recommend the south ridge as a scramble due to its disturbingly loose and exposed nature. I’ve noticed a trend on Social Media where folks with limited technical climbing experience are confidently giving 5th class ratings to their scramble routes. I won’t do that, but I’ve been up enough mountains to know what’s safe and what isn’t. Mount Allenby’s south ridge is not a safe place to be, no matter what technical rating you might attach to it. When holds are falling into the abyss underneath you and moves are made downwards to avoid pulling critical holds off the mountain as you ascend it, this is cannot be called safe terrain. I certainly used some of my luck coins on this trip. The hike up Bryant Creek and into the upper Mercer Creek valley with its larch forest was beautiful and exactly what I needed out of one of my last trips of the year before snow starts falling in the Rockies.

Onion, The (Summer Route)

It was nice to see so many folks out enjoying a beautiful late summer day. Bow Lake has gotten more and more popular as a summer destination – likely overflow from a way-too-busy Lake Louise area. It deserves the attention but for those who want a little more peace and quiet with a lot more views, The Onion is a great escape.

Zeke’s & Whistling Rock Peak (Schiesser’s Apex)

Doug Lutz recently scrambled the entire north ridge of Whistling Rock Peak and reported back a straightforward descent down west slabs to valley bottom. I knew I had to give that route a try since there was no way I was going to follow him all the way along that north ridge. Since Zeke’s Peak is right there it made sense to combine them. Devan Peterson put up a track for Zeke’s on Strava and confirmed it was F 3rd but quite exposed. I was intrigued and excited to try them sooner than later. I strongly recommend this trip for confident scramblers with a good head for heights and exposure and sure footing. Try to pick a warm, windless day and enjoy the fun routes and great views.

Goodair, Mount (Snort, Roaring Ridge)

Standing on yet another remote peak with yet another likely 3rd ascent also felt pretty darn good. In a time where folks like Devan are doing routes that I can only dream of and tagging 10 peaks in 4 days (!!!!) to our 2 in 3, I realize that the era of 2nd, 3rd and 4th recorded ascents is very quickly ending. And I don’t mind – there always has to be an end to things. The next generation always brings new light and new challenges to old ideas, making what we did on Smoky and Goodair look like nothing more than a simple afternoon stroll in the park – which I guess it literally was in the end. Folks like Rick Collier, Glen Boles, William Putnam, John Martin, Jason Thompson, Graeme Pole, Tony and Gil Daffern and Alistair des Moulins and so many others got to enjoy the last of the 1st and 2nd recorded ascents of many of the Rockies front range peaks and folks like Phil and myself got to follow in their footsteps 20 years later. Now the ascents will start accumulating faster and faster with more beta, more lightweight gear, more fitness and more interest from a younger, more energetic and bolder generation of explorers. And I say to them, “enjoy and have at it”!

Smoky Mountain (Roaring Creek)

Smoky Mountain is likely one of the easiest peaks I’ve ascended in the area other than maybe Whimper Peak, which felt much bigger since we didn’t camp 350 meters below its summit the night before. What makes Smoky Mountain such a rare gem is simply the process of getting onto its easy south rubble ledge. In our case that involved a 48 kilometer, 11.5 hour approach with over 1200 meters of height gain with overnight packs. Once you’ve managed to work through that ‘little’ problem, there are no more difficulties other than a few hundred additional vertical meters and some loose rubble to get to the top. Easy peasy. 

Trekking along McConnell & Roaring Creeks

This trip lived up to everything I thought it would be. A fantastic backcountry adventure in pristine landscapes, exploring some of the last remaining untouched and largely untraveled wilderness along massive Cambrian Cliffs of the Alberta Rockies along the source streams of two of Banff National Park’s major drainages – the Red Deer River (McConnell Creek) and the Clearwater River (Roaring Creek). Thanks as usual to Dr. Phil, the trip planning guru and to me the routefinding drill master dragging us up peaks along the way. As long as our bodies and life allows, I’m sure we’ll continue to stumble and bumble our way into new corners (for us) of the Rockies somewhere or another – as rare as those corners seem to be getting.

Puma Peak (Palliser)

It was incredible to exit that huge south face of Puma Peak, knowing the route not only went – but went very smoothly. We relished in the success of our day, slowly wandering back to the dried up lake and making our way down alpine meadows to the upper stream. As I rode the familiar 14 kilometers back to the Lake Minnewanka parkway, I meditated on how darn lucky I am to be free to do whatever adventure motivates me, pretty much whenever I can. Life goes by very fast and I am grateful for the Rockies and the sense of exploration they still offer in a modern world with very little true “unknowns” still there. Now I just have to hope my poor body can keep up with my spreadsheet as I continue to seek these adventures out. 😉

Cuthead Peak

Cuthead Peak was a very good outing for many reasons. The campout with a cheery fire and good company, getting out on another obscure peak with Phil and fun, challenging scrambling on the summit block. There are very few reasons why any hardcore Rockies scrambler / backpacker shouldn’t have this one on their list.

Temple, Little

On Monday, April 21 2014 I joined Steven Song for an alpine ski tour up Little Temple in Lake Louise, Banff National Park. On Friday March 31, 2023 I repeated the trip with Wietse Bylsma under very similar conditions – cool and cloudy with questionable ski conditions.

Barrier to Gable Mountain Traverse

What a day! I can’t think of a more appropriate or better way to end the main 2022 summer season. This trip has it all and requires the exact set of circumstances that we used to complete it. A very highly recommended trip for parties that can move quickly through typical Rockies terrain with a light pack. Just make sure you’re well-hydrated before leaving that valley floor towards Barrier Mountain!

Merlin Ridge / Peak (Sectional)

On hindsight I’m happy to have “missed out” on my first two opportunities to hike and scramble Merlin Ridge. Both of those opportunities were in less than ideal conditions and very likely would not have included the highest point or the fascinating journey around Merlin Castle and Tower. I am still amazed by the conditions of the Rockies this late in the season – many of the highest peaks were absolutely bone dry and other than daylight hours it’s still go-time for hikers, scramblers and climbers. The fall of 2022 has certainly more than made up for the crappy spring we endured!

Nasswald Peak (Citadel Pass)

I’ve been dreaming of scrambling Nasswald Peak for many years now. It felt great to find a beautiful and straightforward route to the south face from the Valley of the Rocks Trail. Despite an easy ramble up the south face the final hundred meters of SE ridge to the summit was very loose and exposed terrain. A perfect fall day for a long sought summit!

Whiskey Papa & Minnow Peak

My feet were feeling pretty chewed up as we completed the final hour of fast hiking to the parking lot. Despite more discomfort than I’m used to, from the heat, my feet and my tired mind I find myself reflecting very fondly on this trip only days later while writing this report. Things are never guaranteed to go perfectly in the hills and some trips simply hurt more than others for a variety of reasons. The trick, I find, is to push through the pain and try to enjoy them as much as possible. Now that the pain is receding and the memories of discomfort are fading I realize that this trip was amazing and I want to go back.

Forgotten Peak

Within just over 5 hours of starting our ascent we were back out of Fossil Creek towards the Pipestone River. I was hurting more than I should have been from a 33km, 2100m day. Although that isn’t a small day by any means, most of it was on trail and the off trail part was pretty darn easy and straightforward as far as these things go. I’ve had a lot of big trips lately so I think I was suffering from a form of burnout (mental and physical) and I just had an “off” day in the strong summer sun and heat. I did enjoy Forgotten Peak (my 900th summit if you must know) despite the slight setbacks. The views on route took me by surprise. For some reason I didn’t expect the north end of the Drummond massif to be quite so impressive.

Bonnet & Hickson Peak

This was a trip that will not soon be forgotten for all the right reasons and a few of the ‘wrong’ ones. I suggest taking a little more time than we did to enjoy the long trek in and out and pick a season with fewer biting insects than we had at camp. Bonnet and Hickson make a wonderful duo of peaks that deserve much more attention from the summer and fall hiking and scrambling community. Get after ’em!

Bearskin Peak (Noseeum)

After a lengthy set of family vacations and over a month away from summer mountain adventures, I returned to Calgary on Monday August 1 with a wicked cold and a bruised left rib. Despite feeling like I got hit by a city bus I was determined to get out and test my fitness against some mountains in my remaining days off. I needed to start with something relatively short and easy so “Bearskin Peak” got the nod.

Melanin Peak

Another great adventure up the Cascade fire road! There were many highlights to put this trip into a top category. Wildlife galore, including deer, dogs, elk, bison and grizzlies. Warm temperatures and clear skies. Not too much snow and easy scrambling conditions on a rarely ascended peak with views forever. A wonderful campsite at a brilliant backcountry lake that hardly anyone has heard about. Hours and hours of pleasant hiking with a good friend and a (relatively) healthy body. What’s not to love about all that? Indeed.

Malloch, Mount

The south ridge descent offered full-on views up the Roaring Creek valley over the tiny falls to giants such as Mount Drummond and Cataract Peak. The deep green of the valley with brown and shades of gray in the rocky slopes above to blue skies and white clouds made for vistas that only happen a few times in a year. Watching Phil hike back along the giant scree slopes with Clearwater Lake and Mount Hector and Cataract looming over it all was a highlight moment of the entire trip for me. We are incredibly lucky to enjoy such wild, pristine and accessible places in a world that is very quickly becoming the very opposite of these things.

Whimper Peak

Finally, around 4 hours from camp we found ourselves with no more elevation gain ahead and no obvious cairn indicating previous ascents either. There were some rocks just under the summit that could have been the remains of a very old cairn so I’m certainly not claiming an FA on this one. There is a good chance that the 1919 geological team ascended here to garner views of surrounding peaks but I can almost guarantee that very few folks have stood on this particular summit over the past few thousand years. Summit views were great to the east and somewhat muted everywhere else thanks to lingering clouds but the scene was wild and I almost prefered a bit of mystery that the clouds provided.

Adventures at Trident Lake

I can’t stress enough how difficult biking up the series of OHV, horse trails and roads from Cutoff Creek up the Clearwater River is. I know everyone can do everything but this is next level suffering – especially with an overnight pack on your back. You might wonder about using paniers instead of a pack, but good luck hoisting your bike onto your shoulders with this option. Or bushwhacking. Put it this way – this trip is among the hardest on this site and there’s a few doozies available to choose from! Don’t get me wrong. The bike ride is a spectacular, wild approach along pristine valleys, soaring peaks and vast alpine meadows brimming with wildflowers. It is also, however, a tough, painful grind along rough horse trails, muddy OHV tracks and unbridged water crossings. My GoPro smoothes out the bumps but I think you can get a good sense of the effort by watching the movie I put together on our explor8ion.

Mistaya Mountain

Swooping down the Peyto Glacier with views of giant snow covered peaks – every one of them a familiar sight – I reflected how freaking lucky we are to live where we live and have the fitness and health to enjoy this sport.