It felt good to be out near the Wapta again with the wild scenery it always gives us.
On Sunday March 27, 2011 So Nakagawa and I skied to the summit of Crowfoot Mountain and on Saturday March 16 2019 I repeated it with Wietse Bijlsma. I always figured I’d repeat this mountain since it’s relatively easy and a surprisingly short day despite being over 1200 meters of height gain and almost 20 km of distance from the Bow Lake parking lot.
Most of my Wapta summits have had brilliant blue skies and views to die for. Mount Rhondda was not one of those peaks. When I first ascended it back in April of 2007 we had very windy conditions with limited views. I set out to rectify this injustice on Thursday, April 26 2018 on a brilliantly sunny and warm Spring day. I was joined by Liz and Alison, both of whom had not done this central icefields peak before.
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.
I decided to take advantage of a good weather forecast and a day off work on Friday, August 1 2014 to attempt one of my last remaining peaks along the Wapta Icefield – Portal Peak. I’d heard rumors for years that this was only a ‘scramble’, after hearing initially from Dave Stevens that this was a climb – and not an easy one. I remember looking at it from the summit of neighboring Mount Thompson thinking it didn’t look that easy…
After traversing Parker Ridge earlier in the day, I found myself with plenty of time and a gorgeous spring day still ahead of me on Friday May 10, 2013. Since my snowshoes had done a great job of keeping me on top of the punchy spring snow pack, I decided to try one more ridge ascent before heading home. I didn’t know exactly where “Crystal Ridge” was, but I remembered something about the Crowfoot lookout parking lot from one of Marko’s trip reports so I drove to the lookout and parked there. From the lookout area there was a ridge, just barely visible through the trees, that would be between hwy 93 and the Helen Lake, Cirque Peak area. The trail to Helen Lake curves around this ridge. I thought the ridge looked prominent enough to give it a shot and geared up before heading to the Helen Lake trailhead across the highway.
On the shortest day of 2012 I was joined by Wietse and Kelly on an ascent of Mount Gordon on the Wapta Icefields in bitterly cold but clear conditions. Of course, this wasn’t my first time ascending this peak. It was the very first summit on the Wapta for me, back in 2006 on a bitterly cold January day. The afternoon before, we had skied to the Bow Hut in marginal early season conditions across a groaning Bow Lake and barely enough snow in the canyon. We made it to the hut with just a few minutes to spare before dark and enjoyed the hut entirely to ourselves.
On March 23/24 I joined Kevin Papke for the first summit attempt on his quest for 50 summits in a “Summits for Seniors” fundraiser in his 50th year. Considering his birthday is on March 22nd Kev wasted no time to start his summit bids! We decided that in order to make a big day trip slightly shorter we would ski into the Bow Hut on Friday evening and summit Habel on Saturday before heading home. We left the parking lot under warm conditions, lots of fresh snow and cloudy skies – but with high hopes that the weather forecast for Saturday would come true with a mix of sun and cloud and little wind.
On Friday, February 17 2012, Wietse and I decided to take the day off work and bag another peak after our great experience on Patterson a week earlier. Originally we were thinking of Mount Gordon. I’ve already skied that peak, but it was -26 with an extreme windchill and no views so I want to repeat it in gorgeous conditions some time. Once we got closer to the date we decided we didn’t want such a long day and settled on Little Crowfoot mountain instead. Wietse didn’t think this was an ‘official’ summit but since Chic Scott mentions it in his guidebook he agreed that it was official enough to bother with. 🙂
On Good Friday, April 22, 2011 I took my brother in law, Mike up his very first Rockies peak. He chose to attempt his first peak on alpine touring gear, which I thought was very admirable considering you can’t really find a more physically challenging way to climb a mountain than with huge skis and boots attached to your feet! 🙂
On Sunday March 27, 2011 So Nakagawa and I skied to the summit of Crowfoot Mountain under a clear, nearly windless spring / winter day. I haven’t stood on a peak since I scrambled Midnight Peak way back on October 30 2010! I think that 5 months between peaks has to be some sort of new record for me. The last few outings I’ve had to the Rockies have been marked by cloud, wind and dreariness. So and I were both looking forward to a nice spring day with sunshine and melting snow but we knew that this was unlikely.
I made it this time! After a previous attempt at the summit of Jimmy Simpson with Raff and Josh in January of 2007 I returned 3.5 years later and bagged it via the other side on a gorgeous fall day. Ironically there was probably more snow in October than we had on our first attempt in January. Originally I had a trip planned with Kerry to do Cathedral Mountain. Due to fresh snow of unknown quantity and an aversion to a 03:00 wake-up time we canceled those plans on Friday evening. I knew what I’d replace it with – I was in the mood to try a solo jaunt up Jimmy Simpson.
On Thursday, February 18 2010 a group of us lit up the interweb with a flurry of emails regarding the upcoming weekend. The reason we were so excited was the weather forecast’s promise of an imminent stretch of bluebird days over the Rockies, specifically in the Wapta Icefields area. The Wapta is like any other ice field in the Rockies. If there’s even one measly little cloud in the forecast, chances are very high that you will be experiencing a white out once you get onto the glacier. It’s just the way the weather patterns work with large expanses of snow and ice when there’s any moisture around. Another bonus was the very favorable avalanche reports – somewhat of a rarity for a February snow pack in Alberta.
On Thursday, March 12 2009 Bill Kerr, Wietse Bylsma, Kevin Papke and I set out to clear Kev’s head after a personal loss, the manner of clearing being a nice back country ski up some Wapta Peak. It’s been almost 2 years since I was last on the Wapta since I didn’t get up there at all in 2008 for some reason. I was also looking forward to finally bagging another peak for 2009 – my record of peak bagging in 2009 has been dismal so far!
What a fantastic day in the hills! That about sums up my Mount Olive (and St. Nicholas) outing. After spending a fun but bone chilling day out on the Wapta 3 weekends ago in our Mount Gordon trip, this was just a great way to see the other side to ski mountaineering.