An easy ramble along a number of front range foothills with some surprising views and a lot of unsurprising non-views.
Since my last ill-fated trip with Dr. Phil in an ill-advised November 2018 attempt of Stenton Peak with an immediate subsequent follow up failure on an unnamed pile of choss nearby, my mountain mojo has been sitting somewhere between a 0 and a 1 with 10 being the amount of mojo required for peaks like McConnell or Cataract and 8+ being the amount required to get me out of bed at 04:00 on a weekend morning.
Summit Elevation (m): 2485Trip Date: Saturday, October 6, 2018Elevation Gain (m): 650Round Trip Time (hr): 4Total Trip Distance (km): 6.5Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 1 – you fall, you’re stupidDifficulty Notes: No difficulties. Your aunt Edna could do this one blindfolded – assuming you were yelling good directions at her. Some avy hazards with copious amounts of snow in the “right” conditions but none otherwise..GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: OT3; YDS (Hiking)Map: what3words Despite being in the midst of the worst stretch of Fall […]
Summit Elevation (m): 2066Trip Date: Friday, May 4, 2018Elevation Gain (m): 1050Round Trip Time (hr): 8.5Total Trip Distance (km): 22.5Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 1 – you fall, you’re stupidDifficulty Notes: No difficulties other than some routefinding and choosing the right conditions (early or late season).GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: OT3; YDS (Hiking)Map: what3words There isn’t a ton to say about this hike to be honest with you. Phil and I were planning a much “sexier” peak for Friday, May the 4th (be with you), […]
Since it was a gorgeous day and it only took me approximately 2 hours to bag my first summit of the day, I figured I might as well wander up a couple more summits before heading back to the concrete jungle. I drove a few kms back along Maclean Creek trail (hwy 549) before parking near another well site belonging to Pengrowth, along yet another access road. I chose to leave the snowshoes in the truck for this hike, and proceeded up the road in very pleasantly warm sunshine. I was questioning my choice to leave the ‘shoes behind as I forked off the main (dry) road and started up an icy / snowy side track leading towards the lower Jack Hill.
Summit Elevation (m): 1738Trip Date: Sunday, April 22, 2018Elevation Gain (m): 370Round Trip Time (hr): 2Total Trip Distance (km): 7.2Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 1 – you fall, you’re stupidDifficulty Notes: No difficulties other than finding good conditions that don’t involve endless post holing or severe bushwhacking.GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: OT3; YDS (Hiking)Map: what3words There’s not much to say about Death’s Head, other than it’s name is very dramatic compared to it’s reality. I wanted to spend Earth Day (April 22, 2018) hiking in warm […]
You know it’s been a long winter when Phil and I go up a treed bump with no summit views after work in April. To be fair it was 13 degrees outside as we parked near the municipal building in the small hamlet of Exshaw. Kids were roaming the streets playing their after school games and the sounds of birds chirping over top of happy kids, playing in the warm afternoon sunshine was very pleasant.
Summit Elevation (m): 2820Trip Date: Monday, September 25, 2017Elevation Gain (m): 1700Round Trip Time (hr): 7.5Total Trip Distance (km): 15Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 1 – you fall, you are sillyDifficulty Notes: No difficulties other than having the motivation to slog to the summit after presumably already scrambling nearby Mount Howard Douglas.GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: OT3; YDS (Hiking)Map: what3words After a delightful easy / moderate scramble up Mount Howard Douglas, it was time to add a second peak to my day. Why? Don’t ask. […]
Summit Elevation (m): 2813Elevation 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.GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: OT3; YDS (Hiking)Map: what3words On Saturday, April 22 I finally […]
On Sunday, April 16, 2017, I joined Phil R, Raf K and Taras for an easy snowshoe ascent of Tent Mountain. This mountain is located along Corbin Road on the Continental Divide between AB and BC and has the dubious reputation for having some pretty ugly views of a former open pit coal mine that was in operation in the area from the 1940’s to the 1980’s, supplying the Japanese steel industry. We were hoping that the snow cover would add an interesting texture to the landscape, hopefully hiding some of the mine scars.
Ever since snowshoeing and hiking up Monola Peak in extremely strong winds and a fair amount of snow back in 2012 on November 18th, I had a trip filed away in the back of my mind that would entail both Isola and Monad Peaks to the south and west of Monola. After a stretch of incredible late fall weather in the Canadian Rockies which saw me bag around 7 peaks since the end of October, I was ready to give this trip a shot. Raf Kazmierczak was looking to hike up Monad Peak, so we agreed to team up for this one.
I’ve been interested in Southfork Mountain and the traverse to (or from) Barnaby Ridge for a while now since reading multiple trip reports on it over the years. It seemed to be the type of trip that is more effort than you expect – which describes a lot of the Castle Wilderness Area peaks and trips that I’ve done over the years. I imagined the views must be pretty sweet, as a previous trip in the area with Wietse up Gravenstafel Ridge and Mount Haig was very scenic.
After scrambling Prairie Bluff in the morning, we found ourselves with plenty of time for a short objective on our way to setting up camp for the night at the Beaver Mines Recreation Area in the Castle Wilderness. I had a trip report on Mount Backus from Bob Spirko who snowshoed it in March of 2014. Backus was located along the highway leading to Beaver Mines, so it made perfect sense to try it. I was a bit nervous about the level of bushwhacking required but it was short enough that I foolishly decided it couldn’t be that bad. 🙂
On Sunday, January 24, 2016 I was joined by Mike Mitchell for a long ski tour up Unity Peak in the Skoki region of Banff National Park near Lake Louise. Due to a ‘considerable’ avalanche rating, specifically around ridges and wind loaded, faceted slopes, we had to be very choosy with our choice of ski tour. Originally I was planning to ski Mount Turner, but the weather forecast was calling for snow flurries and essentially 100% cloud cover for most of the day which defeated the point of ascending a peak with great views!
After a few weekends at home, I was ready to explore some front range areas again – somewhat of a tradition when the weather turns and it’s not quite ski season yet. After conversing with Wietse for a while, we settled on Cabin Ridge, also known as Twin Peaks. I was too lazy to research the route, so Wietse did some Googling and decided that road 532 through the “Windy Gap” to hwy 40 (gravel) was closed (due to the 2013 floods) and we should take Township Road 104A (Oldman River Road) to hwy 40 instead – driving past the parking area used to ascend Thunder Mountain. We decided to check out Windy Gap ourselves on the return trip, because I had a hard time believing it was still closed from 2013!
After a very pleasant scramble on Labyrinth Mountain, Wietse and I still had plenty of gas in the tank to go for a second summit. Due to the crossing of the Red Deer River and a shared approach via horse track along Wolf Creek, it makes very good sense to tackle both Labyrinth Mountain and Mount Minos on the same day. I do have some advice if you follow our idea though. Definitely do NOT ascend Minos first. If you ascend Minos first, you will not ascend Labyrinth afterwards. You will be largely unmotivated after Minos, I think!
On Wednesday, April 8 2015, I climbed Mount Athabasca with Ferenc in perfect spring conditions. This left me wanting more in the way of snow ascents, hopefully on skis, for the weekend of April 11/12. Alas, the weather report didn’t bode well for a nice summit on skis. Rather than a suffer-fest in blizzard conditions, I decided another hike in the front ranges was in order. You probably can’t tell, but this year has been all about one area when it comes to hiking / easy scrambling in front ranges – Ya Ha Tinda.
On Saturday, November 22 2014, Wietse and I finally managed to get another trip in together. It’s been a while since we managed to clear our schedules and match objectives so it was nice to get out again. Our destination was two small front range summits in the Bluerock Provincial Park area of Kananaskis west of Turner Valley up the Gorge Creek Road. When I did Missinglink and Dot Mountain exactly one year previous in 2013, the Gorge Creek road was still washed out near the start. It is now filled back in and goes a few more kilometers to a parking area on the west side of the road (you are forced into this parking lot by a barricade across the road).
After a full day driving to and summiting Mount Harrison the Saturday previous, we slept in on Sunday before reluctantly rising and surveying the clouds that were now hanging over our little valley. Mount Folk hadn’t looked very difficult the afternoon before, as we trudged slowly past it on our way up Mount Harrison, so we weren’t too concerned about ascending it in the clouds or even rain if it came to that. Thunderstorms would be an issue, but we weren’t expecting any of that sort of fun activity, so we ate a leisurely breakfast before setting off up the same route we’d just completed less than 10 hours previous. Good times. Dang peakbaggers…
On Monday, April 21 2014 I joined Steven Song for an alpine ski tour up Little Temple in Lake Louise, Banff National Park. Ever since hearing about the trip from Bill Kerr, I had decided to ski it one day and was saving it for a time when other, bigger and more remote options were out of shape or not feasible. I think the word “little” in its name fooled me into thinking that this was going to be a very easy and short day trip. Well, it IS technically pretty easy and timewise pretty “short” but at over 1100 meters of height gain and around 20km distance, it’s not really THAT short or easy! 😉
On Saturday, March 22nd 2014 I joined Wietse and Dave for a snowshoe jaunt up Mount Barwell in Kananaskis Country, just off highway 549 past Millarville in the Northfork Provincial Recreation Area – the same area as Mesa Butte. We left Calgary at around 11:30 so it was definitely one of my latest starts for a winter hike. You won’t find too many descriptions of this mountain, mostly because it’s in the heart of the McLean Creek off road vehicle area and as such, not hiked very often. Also, the summit views are rather treed in – the best views seem to be from the hike up and from the further “west summit” mentioned by Gillean Daffern in her book on hiking in Kananaskis.
After talking to Steven and Wietse about their recent trips up Powderface Ridge (Steven ‘shoed and Wietse skied) I decided that with avalanche danger too high again, I had to so something – even if it was just another easy objective. I’ve been getting some smack talk lately from friends on my “lowly objectives” this winter. I know it’s all in good nature, but trust me – I’d rather be off bagging some more serious stuff. I made a pact with my wife a few years ago when she started catching on to the fact that a lot of people were dying each year doing exactly what I do – backcountry skiing. The pact was simple. I would not intentionally go into the backcountry if avalanche ratings were ‘considerable’ or higher for that area. Period. No exceptions, unless I’m out for a few days and the danger spikes while I’m out there. Ironically this year I even bought an avalanche air pack to make things even safer, but the ratings have been too high almost every weekend.
After getting up at 05:00 to watch the men’s gold medal victory in Olympic Hockey I was contemplating what do to for the rest of the day. Hanneke was in Europe, the kids were engaged in activities ranging from sleeping in to animating computer games and I was itching to get outside for a bit. The sun was starting to come out when I settled on an easy snowshoe trip from Bob’s Spirko’s site – Foran Grade and Windy Point Ridge in Sheep River Provincial Park.
After snowshoeing Coyote Hills the day before, Raf and I decided that Junction Hill looked too tempting to leave it alone for long. We both returned on Sunday, January 19 to see what it’s summit would offer for views. Ironically we took different routes and drove separately – never even running into each other en route! This was not the intention. When Raf told me that Kev and him were going to attempt Junction Hill on Sunday, I assumed he meant Kev Barton. I agreed to meet at the trailhead since it’s easier for me to bomb down hwy 2 and go past High River and Longview from that direction than go through Calgary. When Kev Papke called me at 08:30 as I was driving past High River already, I realized that I should have asked which Kev. Oh well. (Kev Papke and I can usually carpool together.)
On Saturday, January 18 2014 I was joined by a gaggle of friends for a snowshoe trip under an extremely warm, winter sun. Due to high avalanche risks all over the Rockies (all the way to the coast actually), we decided on a relatively low angle and hopefully snow free ascent. We scored on one of our objectives at least. Due to a mix-up with some of Marko’s friends, Raf, Wietse, Andrea and I ended up breaking trail to the summit with Marko, Amelie and company following. We decided that this was our anniversary present for Marko and Amelie since they just got engaged.