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Tag : SC5

Merlin Ridge / Peak

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!

Owen, Mount

It felt great to finally scramble this mountain that’s been on my radar for so many years and planned so many times over those years. If I have to be honest, Owen was a bit too easy considering what I thought it would be like. This isn’t a bad thing, of course, but I was expecting more of a challenge from this peak. In the end it’s about as easy as peaks over 3,000 meters come. Simply bike 12kms up a road, turn left and go up and up and up a gully on a huge avalanche path. Keep going up steeper scree and rubble. Traverse to your right to SSE ridge and then go up again to the left on easy dinner plate shale. Boom! You’re there. 😉 Mount Owen is the “easy  Mount Stephen” – similar height gains and simple route lines with stellar views with a much easier scramble and no permits required. A very highly recommended bike, hike ‘n scramble for the Rockies crowd.

Jutland to Sage Mountain Traverse (Matkin, Font)

As we drove slowly back to the hwy Sara and I agreed that this was one of our more relaxing multi-day outings of 2022, actually it was by far the most relaxing one. With the first day only coming in at 9 hours 1650 meters of ascent and the second at less than 8 hours and only just over 1000 meters ascent we didn’t feel too stressed. I’m sure that for me the ultralightweight backpacking system had a lot to do with it – I decided to test it on a 2 night trip immediately after this one. A highly recommended late summer or fall trip for fit parties wanting to experience some of the Castle Wildernesses more remote peaks and valleys.

Scarpe Mountain (Sunkist Ridge, La Coulotte)

Wietse and I were shocked that our total time for this trip was only 11.5 hours with an average pace of 4.2 km/h for the day! Despite being painful we agreed that this is a pretty good outing for hikers and scramblers who don’t mind a long bike approach and a bit of work. Instead of carrying a much heavier overnight pack you can squeeze 2 days into 1, bag three summits and get some pretty sweet views for all your efforts. There is very little (i.e. none) water along the route once you leave the West Castle River lower down, so you should budget your water carefully and think about how much you might need. I highly recommend this trip for larch season – looking back on my photos from Jake Smith Peak I realize how many there are along the ridge between La Coulotte and Scarpe Mountain.

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.

Aires Peak

Within 2 hours of leaving our overnight packs along the South Ram River Trail we were back at them, proving that Aires really is just an “add on” peak. On hindsight I’m glad that we ascended it – it was the one bright spot on an otherwise very challenging and dreary day. 

Dodo Peak

It’s a heckuva long way into the front ranges but once you get to the old Headwaters Patrol Cabin a horse track leads up the Dodo valley to easy south ascent slopes. Views from the lofty 3067m peak make the work worthwhile and will have you dreaming of many more adventures in this pristine area of the Alberta Rockies. The mysteries of “Ladder Falls” will have you wondering about going further up valley.

Oval Peak

Oval Peak was a quick and easy 5th summit from the north shoulder as Sara and I passed by it on route to the Brazeau River and the South Boundary Trail far below. Views of Afternoon Peak’s north face and over the meadows towards Mount McDonald, Frances and Lonely Peak make this peak a worthwhile objective if you’re in the area anyway. On its own it’s a pretty lengthy march to nowhere for a lowly summit.

McDonald, Mount

Mount McDonald is one of those peaks that once you find out about it, it grabs your attention. Or at least that’s what happened to me. I’m not even sure how or why, but I was perusing bivouac.com one day and came across Rick Collier’s photo trip report from a 2011 excursion into the area with David P. Jones. What caught my attention immediately wasn’t even the peak – it looked a little dreary and very easy. It was the large lake located south of the mountain that really got my explor8ion juices flowing and I immediately started dreaming of visiting this obviously special place at the headwaters of a pretty major drainage.

Wandering the White Goat Wilderness

In 2015 I was invited by Eric Coulthard to do a trip into an area I’d never been before – or even really heard of. He suggested we tag a couple of lofty summits in the White Goat Wilderness Area. I’d seen a few of the peaks in this area from nearby summits including Mount Stewart from Mount Coleman (the first trip I’d done with Eric way back in 2009) and Mount Willis which I’d spotted from Corona Ridge earlier in 2015. We had a fantastic trip and ever since I’ve been planning to go back.

Crypt Circuit (Boswell, Crypt, Vimy)

As someone who’s done most of the peaks in Waterton I can confidently say that you’ll be hard pressed to top this traverse. As a 6-peak circuit it’ll pad your summit stats very nicely but it’s the views, the terrain and the ease of access that makes this trip really stand out for me. On the one hand I’m sad that for the most part scrambling in Waterton is now done for me, but on the other hand I can’t think of a better way to finish.

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.

Finch & Canaria Peak

Standing on Sufi Peak a week ago, I was struck by the amount of fresh snow still sitting on peaks to the west. Heck! Nevermind other peaks, I had plenty enough snow to endure on Sufi – a very front range summit that should be among the first to melt off every year along the Rockies front ranges. Originally my plan was to stay overnight and attempt either Canaria or Finch Peak with a bike approach up Canary Creek but they both had so much snow I didn’t trust that I’d be able to bike very far, making the trip more work than I was in the mood for. Only days later I was already trying to recruit other suckers – er, I mean friends – to return to the Upper Clearwater / Ram PLUZ for some quality suffering. Er, I mean fun. Alas, I didn’t do a great job of selling it and after working out on Prairie Mountain Friday (1 lap), Saturday (3 laps) and Sunday (2 laps), I was ready for something a little different on the holiday Monday. Despite feeling off all day I still managed a 9.5 hour round trip without feeling rushed. I highly recommend this loop in any of its many various forms as an early or late season trip. Views are excellent and the hiking easy. What more do you need to get you off the proverbial couch?

Sufi Peak

Despite driving 7 hours to hike for under 6, I enjoyed my day out to the Hummingbird Creek area. As usual for this time of year it was very quiet and I enjoyed spending a few extra hours at Ram Falls taking in the views and the atmosphere of the Rockies front ranges. Getting lucky with snow conditions and nearly running into a giant Grizzly on the bike will ensure this small trip stays in the memory banks a bit longer than usual.

Highwood Peak

I enjoyed Highwood Peak about as much as I expected to. It’s not the world’s most attractive mountain and definitely not the easiest or most straightforward to approach either. Unlike a peak such as Haiduk, which is also quite an involved approach, Highwood doesn’t have larches either. But it’s close to Calgary, has a great approach trail that includes 4 lakes, is a quick trip and has great views to the Divide including giants like Harrison and Abruzzi. I recommend this as a late season objective when larger and more mid-range peaks might be out of scramble condition.

Smutwood Peak

I loved this hike even more than I thought I would. Sure! It’s overused and over photographed and definitely overshared but that doesn’t change the fact that I had a wonderful time with my daughter enjoying some of the best views of my year from this lowly objective. And that’s what it all comes down to in the end isn’t it? Sharing nature and fresh air while exercising with loved ones and being amazed over and over with stunning views of wild landscapes in all directions. The fact that thousands of others have shared this experience shouldn’t lessen it but should encourage us to seek out new experiences rather than going back to the same ones over and over. I won’t be back to Smutwood in the fall any time soon but I sure am thankful for this particular trip.

Haiduk Peak (+ North Hawk Ridge)

As you can probably tell from the amount of photos and superlatives in this report, I great enjoyed the convoluted ramble from hwy 93, up Hawk Creek and over to Haiduk Peak. This route might not seem very straightforward – and it’s not – but considering that it avoids almost all bushwhacking and allows you to enjoy the only remaining larch forests in Verdant Creek it is 100% worth the hassle. And can you really call it a hassle when your day involves a good trail, fresh water and air, bursting fall colors, blue skies, swirling clouds, fresh snow and distant views of hidden giants? I call that a win every day of the week and especially on a Tuesday.

Whelk Peak

Whelk Peak has pretty much everything you want out of a remote, un-beta’d summit. It is a LONG way from nowhere, has an untamed, wild approach valley and views of some of the Rockies hardest-to-spot peaks with Alice in Wonderland themes. Compared to the forecast, we certainly felt like we’d fallen down the rabbit hole more than a few times but in the end I have some pretty sweet memories and find myself strangely longing to visit that remote valley again sooner than later.

Wingnut & Canary Peak

I think it goes without saying that I’d rather we had the dry conditions from a week previous for this trip. Sometimes you have to accept that conditions are crap and you have to decide what to do about it. I’m happy we pushed through and I won’t soon be forgetting this particular outing. These peaks are located in a unique and distant area of the Rockies and are well worth the efforts needed to attain them.

Falls Lookout

It’s for good reasons that me and my friends are spending time in the Ram / Clearwater areas. Despite being a long drive, it’s really no longer than most hwy 93 objectives and despite not having glaciers, this area has a remote feel to it and wonderful views over many creeks and rivers.

Onion Peak

Without a doubt, Onion Peak was our favorite of the three summits we did this day. With a round trip time of only around 4 hours (with bike approach), this is a half day objective if you do the more direct route rather than Cornelius’ route. The ascent was fun on snow and the views are stunning from the summit, which is the highest in the area (higher than Sufi, Kista and Falls Lookout).

Scalp Peak & Skeleton Mountain

Scalp Peak and Skeleton Mountain are some of those front range mountains that sat on my list for a while before finally getting direct attention late last year after Wietse and I hiked two nearby peaks – Well Site and Hat Mountain. I highly recommend combining these two peaks into a single trip. The only question left to you is how many days you’ll set aside for it. 😉

Vision Quest Ridge

Vision Quest was much more fun and scenic than I was expecting. It’s Prairie Mountain but with a nice lake (normally) in view and slightly more scrambling if you continue to the high point I did. I enjoyed it despite the smoke and the busy trail.

Coral Ridge

The upper part of the route was much more scenic and enjoyable than I was expecting. I really wished for better views of the lake here.