I’ve heard of the Observation Sub Peaks for many years as a pretty tame but highly recommended ski objective along the Icefields Parkway near Bow Summit and Bow Lake in Banff National Park.
I forget when I first heard of BowCrow Peak but it’s been on my never ending and never shrinking list of Rockies summits for years. Something that was frustrating me was that even though I had a general idea where it was located, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how anyone bagged it!
After braving fairly cold temperatures the last weekend of February 2019, I was ready for some more bravery on the first weekend of March 2019. When I say “ready”, I really mean I was desperate enough to get my ass off the couch and out of the city to suffer -30 temps – frostbite be damned! When I contacted Ali to find out what she was up to, she mentioned Matt Clay was planning something.
I somehow convinced Hanneke to join me at least to North Molar Pass and we set out on a cloudy, misty morning from the Mosquito Creek parking lot, following another group of 3 hikers. The long jaunt up Mosquito Creek to the campground was made lovelier than usual with cool temperatures and a moody atmosphere. If I’m honest about it, I’m getting a bit bored with the 5.5km stretch to the campground, but chatting with Hann and it being her first time helped with the drudgery that is a flat, rooted, muddy trail along the creek.
Long before Andrew Nugara made Silverhorn Mountain much more popular than previously with his new guidebook, I’d been interested in it after reading Rick Colliers report years beforehand. Funnily enough, before I asked Brandon Boulier about his recent ascent and for a possible GPX track, I didn’t even realize this peak was in Nugara’s guidebook, but it certainly explained its recent popularity for me! Friday the 13th would be a solo outing for me and I was really looking forward to it. There’s nothing quite like enjoying a whole mountain all to yourself.
From the summit of South Totem Peak, Spreading Peak looked pretty darn sweet. I remembered looking up at Spreading Peak from our long traverse towards Marmota Peak in 2015 and thinking the same thing. A beautiful line of snow highlights the ridge to the summit cap and it looked pretty easy to boot. The issue – as with any peaks in this part of the Siffleur Wilderness – is access. There is no quick or easy way to access the gorgeous summits in this area. Or is there?
After a very successful and somewhat tiring 5 day trip with my daughter in which we traveled approximately 57km and over 4500m of height gain, I was ready to put my feet up for the remainder of my week off. Then Phil texted me… When Phil sends a text, it’s usually some idea for an exhausting day trip involving many kilometers and many hundreds of meters of height gain, usually on an objective that nobody has ever heard of. Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised when we settled on a day trip of South Totem and Spreading Peak in the Murchison Group just east of Totem Creek in Banff National Park.
After first becoming interested in Breaker Mountain in 2013 while perusing Google Earth for ideas, Phil took Rick’s trip report on Bivouac (a 1987 spring ski ascent) and successfully completed an ambitious solo trip up Capricorn Creek to Capricorn Lake in October 2014 to scout the route to the Parapet / Breaker col. Thanks to intermittent snow flurries at Capricorn Lake and an impending snow event he never made it as far as the col. Ever since then, Phil has been trying to find a partner to suffer the approach with him and try to find a scramble route up Breaker. Finally, for reasons still unknown to me, I agreed to his suggestion and we each booked off work for Friday August 5th to make the attempt during a good weather window – a rare thing in summer 2016.
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.
Mount Murchison has been tempting Raf and I ever since we first got a really good look at her summit from across highway 93 while sipping Starbucks on Mount Sarbach in 2009. Already in 2008 my appetite for this mountain was wet by Andrew Nugara’s trip report of him and his brother’s ascent. Murchison is a huge massif, covering a main mountain with two summits plus 7 other towers which are adjacent to the two main summits. Something else that is fascinating about Murchison is that it’s listed height (3333m) is actually not the true height of her highest (SE) summit.
On Friday, July 12 2013 I was joined by Wietse for an attempt up a relatively unknown peak along the icefields parkway – Bison Peak (see the interesting facts above for a discussion on the naming of this peak). All we had to go on was a terse description by Graeme Pole on Bivouac.com. Well, as it turns out this terse description is pretty much all you need to summit this mountain! The day started out nice enough from the pull out along the parkway (roughly across from Epaulette Lake, just north of Chephren / White Pyramid and south of Bison Creek). It was a cool morning and we were surprised to see fresh snow high up on the surrounding peaks, including our ascent slopes. This wasn’t a huge concern but we knew that part of our route ascended steep cliff bands and this could present a problem if there was too much ice. We shrugged our shoulders and started off.
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.
Admittedly, after standing on the summits of 3 11,000ers only a few days previous, “Parker Ridge” does seem a bit lame. 🙂 But there’s a reason for this objective. The original intent was to climb Mount Athabasca via the AA col on Friday, May 10 2013 with Wietse, Scott, Kelly and myself. We planned an overnight stay at the Rampart Creek Hostel and met there on Thursday evening. Patrick Delaney, a guide with Yamnuska Mountain Adventures was also at the hostel with a client and we spent some time chatting. Patrick was concerned about the “big melt” that was going on and cautioned our group to be super-careful. We took his advice to heart and decided to get up at 02:30 and try to take advantage of colder morning temps to meet our objective safely.
Mount Wilson has been on my radar for a long time already, ever since one of my first trips up the Icefields Parkway with Sonny back in 2006 when we ascended Sunwapta Peak. On the way home we drove past this massive mountain sitting just north of Saskatchewan Crossing and I remember thinking that it must take some effort to stand on that summit! It turns out that it does take some effort!
On Sunday, April 21 2013 I joined Steven, Ben and Eric on a two peak day in which we snow shoed Big Bend Peak (BBP) and Mount Saskatchewan Junior (MSJ). Our plans for this weekend were originally to have an easy day out on Sunday with an ascent of BBP followed by some relaxation at the Rampart Creek Hostel and then a huge one day ascent of Mount Wilson on Monday. The weather forecast for Sunday was a mix of sun and cloud with the weather on Monday looking perfect for an ascent of Wilson – notorious for white out conditions on the summit with any cloud cover.
Wow. That 3 letter word pretty much sums up this trip. Don’t bother reading further unless you’re interested in more detail. Wow. There – I just said it again. This was one of those trips that’ll stick with me for the rest of my life – or at least while I have a reasonably intact memory. Eric Coulthard is one of those people who dreams up trips while looking at his extensive online library of photos and possible routes. While climbing Mount Fryatt a couple of weekends ago with him, he suggested that he might be giving Mount Amery and some other peaks in the area a shot this fall.
On August 25/26 I joined Kevin Barton and Eric Coulthard for a trip up Mount Fryatt in Jasper National Park. This mountain has been on my radar for a number of years due to its remoteness and the beautiful bivy site that was rumored to exist under the SW face. When Raf climbed Fryatt back in 2009 I was quite disappointed that I couldn’t join him. I waited patiently for three years and made my ascent in perfect conditions. Sometimes I get the sense that I’m rushing to complete peaks – this trip proved once again that it’s the journey that counts – not the summit.
There are a few mountains that having been hanging around on my ‘to-do’ list ever since I first laid eyes on them or read someone else’s trip report on ascending them. Some are really obvious like Mount Columbia or Mount Vaux, while others have just triggered something in me that makes me really want to stand on their summit. I first noticed Mount Patterson while descending Mount Weed across highway #93 in June of 2006. I don’t really know why, but I love the way it rises above the valley with the Snowbird Glacier and rugged rock towers catching the light.
On Friday, September 16 2011, I found myself with a day off and no scrambling partners. The weather had initially looked quite nasty for the icefields parkway regions but a glance at the weather forecast at 05:00 on Friday morning had me jumping in the truck and driving out to the trail head. I knew I’d have clouds and rain or snow, but the promise of some sunny breaks lured me out anyway.
Since school was just around the corner (where does time go?!) and Hanneke, my wife, was on call for the weekend, we decided that the weekend of August 19-21, 2011 would be a good weekend for a father / kids adventure. After some debate, the kids and I decided that Yoho would be a cool place to camp and the Burgess Shale guided tour would be a pretty awesome thing to try! Of course, since I’m a peakbagger and we had another two days to do other things besides the shale tour, I found us a nice peak to bag on Saturday, August 20.
On Tuesday, August 09 2011, Wietse and I scrambled to the summit of Mount Noyes in Banff National Park. This scramble is uncanny in it’s similarities to Mount Weed, the mountain just to the south of Noyes. As awesome as the views from Weed are, I would have to say that Mount Noyes is a more enjoyable scramble, or it certainly was for me. The main difference between Weed and Noyes is that Weed is pretty straightforward route-finding and a fairly typical Rockies approach. The route finding on Noyes isn’t nearly as straightforward and there are some hidden gems along the way. I had more fun on the Noyes approach than I can remember on any recent approach over the past couple of years.
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.
After a solo scramble on Observation Peak, I met up with Keith Bott for the trek into the bivy on Mount Chephren on August 07 2009 in the evening. I had Chephren on the radar for a long time already and finally all the pieces of life aligned to allow me a good chance at this giant. And make no mistake about it. Chephren is every bit the giant you may have heard or suspected it is! Just gaze at it from the highway sometime and you’ll have a pretty good idea of how big this mountain really is.
Finding myself with a free weekend in the summer is a very rare occurrence, so when it happened on the weekend of August 7, 8 and 9 I arranged a 3 peak extravaganza! The first summit would be a solo effort so I chose something without a lot of difficulties and a short approach, Observation Peak.