After dreaming of visiting this area for many years, I have to say that it still exceeded my expectations.
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.
Summit Elevation (m): 2813Trip Date: April 22, 2017Elevation Gain (m): 1600Round Trip Time (hr): 13.5Total Trip Distance (km): 40Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain your wrist.Difficulty Notes: If you ski up the peak, the main difficulty is planning your trip around a good snow pack and stability. There are avalanche slopes on this route despite reports suggesting otherwise. If hiking dry I’m sure it’s no more than a hike.Technical Rating: OT3; YDS (Hiking)Map: what3words On Saturday, April 22 I finally […]
After a long hiatus from peak bagging and pretty much any activity in the Rockies, other than resort skiing, I was more than ready to join Eric Coulthard on a front range adventure to scout out the Waiparous Creek area of the North Ghost Wilderness on the eastern edge of the Rockies in Don Getty Wildland Provincial Park, between Kananaskis to the south and Ya Ha Tinda to the north. Our original objective was the impressive Mount Davidson, a peak that isn’t well documented and probably not visited that often due to the nature of its access.
Ever since I first backpacked into the Mount Assiniboine area in early September 2008 from Mount Shark, I’ve wanted to go back in larch season – sometime in the last two weeks of September. I did go back to the area on September 22, 2012 but avoided most of the larches by going in via Settler’s Road and Assiniboine Lake before climbing Mount Assiniboine and Lunette Peak from the Hind Hut and returning via the same route. In 2015 I thought I’d be going back and for some reason or another it didn’t pan out. In 2016 I was absolutely determined to make the hike and scramble trip work out.
There are some mountains that really stir my gut when I think about doing them. For some reason Molar Mountain has been one such peak ever since I first saw a trip report and the corresponding stunning photographs from Andrew Nugara back in 2007. Nugara’s online trip report is no longer available (he has added it to a recent guidebook – something I didn’t find out until after our trip) but Josee and Fabrice repeated his route in 2014 and posted it on their website which increased my interest in the lovely Hector Pass / Molar Creek area and in the mountain itself.
On Friday, June 3rd 2016, I found myself in the back of Ben’s SUV, turning off the Trans Canada Highway just past Golden at the Donald weigh station, onto the now familiar road leading to Kinbasket Lake and eventually the Bush and Sullivan River forestry service roads. Our destination this time was the very end of the Bush River FSR followed by a trek into the bivy site for Mount King Edward. Of course, our original intent was to also climb King Edward, but […]
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.
There are a few notable things about the White Goat Wilderness Area as compared to a national or provincial park. In a way, it’s even more restrictive. There are no horses, no motorized vehicles and no air traffic allowed. No fires, hunting or even fishing either. But random camping and backpacking is highly encouraged – provided it’s done responsibly of course. I’d certainly seen mountains in the White Goat before, notably the three summits just north of Mount Cline and the massive summit of Mount Stewart, which I’d last seen from Corona Ridge. (Stewart was actually another choice for the weekend Steve and I did Corona Ridge and Marmota Peak…)
Of course when I started my two week vacation in September, the weather turned for the worse in the Rockies. And when I say “worse”, I mean way worse… First of all was the dump of snow that covered the entire range of the Alberta Rockies from north of Jasper to Waterton Lakes National Park. While a bit of snow isn’t a huge issue, especially in the fall – it definitely limited my choices for peak bagging. I had to dial down my ambitions from lofty 11,000ers to trips that involved more hiking and backpacking. I didn’t mind, to be honest. I was in the mood for more reflective trips anyway – sometimes the intensity of larger peaks can distract from the beauty and peacefulness of the area that you’re traveling through. Not a terrible thing necessarily, but it’s nice to stop and smell the roses every once in a while.
After a long day on Corona Ridge where I was dealing with a stomach flu, we awoke at 04:30 surprisingly willing to tackle another long objective in the area – Marmota Peak. After staring at it for hours from our scramble of Corona Ridge, we were excited to see if our chosen route would go. The route was easy enough to spot – a high-line traverse (more side-hilling!!) along ridges and cliffs beneath Spreading Peak before ascending a gully to a ridge abutting the west face of Marmota. From here we’d gain the upper ridge and traverse to the summit – one of two high points at the southern end. Unfortunately it was obvious from Corona Ridge that the cooler looking south peak was lower than the other two, and our GPS units confirmed that it was about 80m lower.
As I drove out to meet Steven on Friday, August 7, 2015 I could see that we were probably not going to be climbing our original objective for the next two days. Originally we were planning to do Mount Saskatchewan but even as I drove past the Saskatchewan Crossing junction I could see that Mount Cline was plastered in new snow thanks to the system that came through the previous day. Sure enough! My first glimpse of the mountain showed a lot of new snow above 10,000 feet – way too much to melt off in the next 24 hours or less. When I met Steven at the Big Bend parking area we both agreed that we needed to change plans. After some deliberation and looking at maps, we decided to lug the bivy gear up Totem Creek and check out one or two peaks in the back country of the Siffleur Wilderness Area behind Mount Murchison. Corona Ridge would be our first objective, we hoped to still bag it on day one before bivying and attempting a second peak before coming out the next day.
I don’t think either Ben or I really cared if we summitted another peak on the Brazeau Icefield or not, after two grueling days spent ascending Brazeau and Warren in marginal conditions. We already had the two 11,000ers and obviously the best views, but did we have ALL the best views? We suspected that there were still a few more good views we didn’t have yet. Most people traverse from Brazeau to Valad and Henry MacLeod on their way back to the high bivy. We had already noticed that there were a number of crevasses on Valad and we didn’t feel like traversing back over them, but Henry MacLeod looked dead easy from our camp. Since we were already at 3,000 meters, MacLeod should only be around a 300 meter height gain and my GPS put it at only around 2km distance. After a leisure breakfast (still in that infernal cold west wind), we set off for one last peak before getting off this melting icefield for good.
If I’m completely honest about it, I didn’t really feel like climbing Warren after a long day of approaching and climbing Mount Brazeau the day before, not to mention a very restless night spent sleeping in a very noisy and cold mid, thanks to a strong west wind blasting our exposed bivy site on the glacier. Somehow, I’d miscalculated how chilly it was going to be at around 10,000 feet on a large icefield at the beginning of August! I was really wishing for my down jacket during the night and it took all we had to force ourselves out of bed at 06:30 to put on soaking wet boots and get the stoves fired up, all while feeling the bite of a cold morning wind no matter where we sat or how small we tried to make ourselves.
Mount Brazeau has been on my radar for many years already. I wasn’t in a huge rush to do it however, because I knew it was a relatively easy 11,000er and could be done in almost any conditions and in any season, from full-on winter conditions to mid-summer ones. Or could it? Ben and I set out on July 30th 2015 from the Poboktan Creek trailhead to find out how Mount Brazeau and its neighboring peaks would behave in an extremely dry year in the Canadian Rockies. Considering other trip reports from around the same time, we wondered how different our conditions would be. I left Calgary at 04:00 and we found ourselves leaving the cars at a very non-alpine start time of 09:00 (!!) under a very warm and pleasant sun.
Raf told me I should climb Mount Sir Douglas this year (2015) since it was my 40th birthday and Sir Douglas is the 40th 11,000er in Corbett’s book. Who am I to argue with the crazy Pol? I tentatively made plans to attempt this peak at some point this year, and that point came to fruition with the usual crazy planning that Ben, Steven and I usually end up doing. Our plans changed at least 3 times over 2 days, including a phone call and last minute weather checks from Red Deer as they drove out to my house!
Finally, on May 9, 2015 I managed to summit South Twin Peak on my third attempt of this beautiful mountain. I have some history with the north end of the Columbia Icefield, and with South Twin in particular.
On Sunday, April 19th we awoke in -15 degrees feeling pretty darn good with ourselves. The previous day we’d skied into our camp beneath Mount Columbia and even managed to ascend the peak before collapsing into our sleeping bags after a long and hard 17 hour day. There was a cloud cap covering Columbia as we struggled out of our warm sleeping bags and slowly started breaking camp. The sky soon cleared completely off – we were going to have a bluebird day on the ice fields. Even though our views would have been clearer on Columbia this day, we were still glad to have climbed the face with some clouds rather than a relentless spring sun heating things up. As we packed camp we made decisions on what to attempt.
Summit Elevation (m): 3747Trip Date: April 18 2015Elevation Gain (m): 2000Round Trip Time (hr): 23Total Trip Distance (km): 41Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3 – you fall, you break somethingDifficulty Notes: Crevasses, avalanches and a remote location in the middle of a large ice field are the main difficulties when climbing Mount Columbia. Don’t underestimate this trip just because it’s not technically that hard!Technical Rating: MN8; YDS (II)Map: Google Maps I have been waiting many years to climb Alberta’s highest mountain and the 2nd highest […]
Every once in a while I do a mountain trip that feels like it redefines my approach to climbing, skiing or hiking or whatever activity I happen to be doing at the time. This past weekend I experienced such an event on Mount Alexandra, deep in the heart of the Alexandra River Valley near the headwaters of the Saskatchewan and Columbia Rivers. Here’s some words that come to mind from the past few days; bushwhack, lost, confused, rain, sun, clouds, snow, cold, warm, blue sky, crevasses, snow, ice, rock, streams, lakes, boulders, exposure, waterfalls, mountain goat, exhaustion, blisters, bruises, alders, devil’s club, slabs, fall colors, bear, rough roads.
As part of a father / daughter backpacking trip over the last weekend of summer 2014, I decided it was time to take Kaycie on a real back country adventure instead of front country ‘easy’ stuff. She was game for something a bit more rustic after our bivy on White Buddha back in May. I had my eye on a trip that Rick Collier did as his first overnight solo in 1985. I was fairly confident that nobody had replicated Rick’s trip in the 29 years since he did it and I was intrigued to bivy in a remote area of Banff National Park that I’d never been in before.
I have to admit that I was not feeling ‘it’ on Mushroom Peak. I was ready for some warm soup and a few hours lounging around our excellent bivy site, maybe even reading my e-book for a bit. But there were a few factors that made it sensible to attempt Mushroom while we were half way up it already;
Once we descended the North Ridge of Mount Woolley to the col, we found ourselves staring up at the easy, snow and scree covered South Ridge of Diadem Peak. There wasn’t much in the way of difficulties or route finding to the summit of Diadem. It was one tired foot in front of the other! As I crested the snowy summit bump, I immediately noticed what looked to be a slightly higher, rocky summit tower to the Northeast of us. I remembered a discussion on the old RMBooks forum about this summit and wondered if we should wander over to it, to give it a look.