After enjoying a nice supper break at our Tomahawk Pass bivy site, Joanna, Phil and I set off up the easy looking western slopes of Tomahawk Mountain.
After my adventurous solo outing on Mount Hensley only a few days previous, I wasn’t sure I was entirely prepared for the long bike ‘n scramble Phil and I had planned for Saturday, June 15th. We’d been planning a trip into the Fording River Pass area for a few years already and June seemed like an ideal time for such a venture.
I took my own excellent and logical medical advice and layered more pain on top of existing pain in order to help the original pain fade. It didn’t work – at all, but I did have a heckuva solo adventure when I could have been at work doing boring stuff all day.
Astral Peak has been on my radar for many years now, ever since climbing Devils Head in 2012 and looking back over my shoulder as I walked onto its surprisingly spacious summit. The views from this very distinctive and well-known Ghost Wilderness peak provided me with a list of relatively unknown summits to the west including Poltergeist, Astral and Castle Rock Peak.
From the summit of Three Lakes Ridge we had a choice to make. Despite the gorgeous weather Phil and I were obviously enjoying, it was already past 14:00 hours and we were a long way from the parking lot. We could descend Three Lakes Ridge via west slopes before joining the track back up to Middle Kootenay Pass and decide from there whether or not Middle Kootenay Mountain was a “go”, or we could take advantage of the ridge we were already on and continue towards Jake Smith and Red Argillite peaks. Why was it even a choice?
A day after ascending close to 1800 vertical meters and biking / hiking and scrambling almost 30km up and down Mount Coulthard and McLaren in the Crowsnest Pass area, I was back at it with Phil Richards. We were planning a very full day of biking, hiking and peakbagging in the South Rockies within the newly formed Castle Wildland Provincial Park, near the Castle Mountain Ski Resort and just outside the other newly formed park, Castle Provincial Park.
September 2018 was not the best ending to a hiking and scrambling season that I’ve ever had – not even close. To be blunt, it was pretty crappy and the worst end of season so far for me! September is usually my favorite time of year in the Rockies. The touron hordes go home and even normally busy areas such as Skoki, Lake O’Hara and Assiniboine see less and less visitors and more and more yellowing larches and bright fall colors in the vegetation coating the mountains. The combination of clear blue skies (no more wildfires), snow-capped peaks and bright vegetation is usually what keeps me going for the next 5 months of winter. Not this year.
After our ascent of Beehive Mountain, Wietse, Phil and I started a delightful traverse across brightly colored alpine meadows leading under towering cliffs to the west towards the NE shoulder of Mount Lyall. Beehive Mountain had gone much quicker and easier than we expected and despite thick smoke interfering somewhat with our views, we were feeling pretty pumped about our day so far. The temperatures were more mid-summer than late, and the fall colors on the vegetation in the meadows was absolutely stunning.
Once our original plans fell through for the weekend of September 7-9 (thanks to forest fire smoke), Phil Richards, Wietse Bijlsma and I had to think fast on Thursday night to come up with an alternate trip that still satisfied on some level. Smoke from BC forest fires had already been a huge issue since late July this year and we were tiring of trying to avoid it or climbing in it. After several suggestions we settled on a few easy, but lengthy and harder to access, scrambles on the Great Divide in the High Rock Range of South Kananaskis.
The only “peak” remaining along the ridge after scrambling up Mount Townsend, Epic Tower and Mythic Towerwas about as unofficial as a peak can get – “Little Mythic Tower” – so dubbed by Bob Spirko back in July of 2008 while on his scouting trip to find and document the Mythic Towers mentioned by Gillean Daffern in her famous Rockies hiking guide. Some people get all technical and cautious when referring to their “formal peak lists”. Meh. Who has time for such things? I don’t even count my peaks anymore – because in the end who really cares how many I’ve done or even which ones I’ve done?
Wietse and I found ourselves with a day off mid-week on August 22, 2018 and decided we should probably take advantage of the perfect weather forecast by standing on a summit somewhere. The real question was which summit should get the nod? The issue wasn’t conditions – everything was pretty much in great condition – the issue was the levels of smoke we’d encounter and the corresponding lack of views or breathing issues we’d have to deal with. After going around in circles several times, we finally settled on an ascent of Pyriform Mountain in the Highwood Range of the Rockies in front range Kananaskis Country.
While standing on many of the peaks lining the Sunshine Meadows area in Banff National Park, one’s eyes are naturally drawn towards the line of summits from Howard Douglas in the north to Fatigue and Golden Mountain in the south towards Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park in British Columbia. Right in the middle of all of these fairly significant peaks on the Continental Divide lies an unnamed peak at just over 2900m high. For years now, I’ve looked at this summit and wondered two things.
For some reason, Fatigue Mountain had been on my radar for many years by the time 2018 rolled around. I don’t remember when or where I first heard about it, but it intrigued me as it sounded like a fairly easy ascent that wasn’t done very often due to its location far from any parking lots. When I skied to the summit of its tiny neighbor, Citadel Peak, back in 2011, I was even more intrigued.
After successfully completing my second ascent of the diminutive Citadel Peak (with it’s not-so-small views), Phil and I returned to our waiting overnight packs at Citadel Pass and prepared for the uphill trudge towards Fatigue Pass. I’d often wondered what this pass looked like and Phil also remembers wondering about it on his way to Mount Assiniboine years previous. We were about to find out. I had no idea if there’d be decent bivy sites at, or near the pass but as part of our July long weekend peak bagging adventure in the area, finding a bivy site was key.
On a beautiful sunny, wintry May 1, 2011 I was joined by Raf and Mel on a ski trip through Sunshine Meadows to Citadel Pass and up Citadel peak. I repeated Citadel Peak again on a much less wintry, but also much cloudier day on June 29, 2018 as part of a three peak extravaganza with Phil Richards that included Fatigue, Citadel and Golden Mountain.
As we traversed to the summit of Mount Currie, my eyes were immediately drawn to a distinctive ridge running west of Currie, lower down and guarding Cross Lake (which wasn’t visible from our vantage). This ridge was obviously connected to Mount Currie and it looked to be very reasonable to traverse it before descending past Cross Lake to the historic White Man Pass before following the trail back down to our original ascent line and of course to the bikes at Bryant Creek. Given the historic nature of the pass and the surrounding area, I was immediately excited to add this not-inconsiderable distance and height gain to our (already long) day trip.
After being only the 6th summit party in the last 31 years to stand on Mount Morrison’s summit, Phil and I somewhat reluctantly turned our attention to our next destination – Owl Peak. We were only reluctant because we didn’t see how the day could get any better than it had already been! The weather had been perfect to this point, our route had worked out beautifully and the views were overheating our cameras. How could it get better? We set out to find out.
Since we were camping in the area over the weekend of June 15, I decided I might as well drag my family up the diminutive Packenham Junior with it’s not-so-diminutive views. The rumors on this outlier of the much higher and more impressive Mount Packenham are true – it’s a steep grind with no trail and sweet views. We parked in the ditch along Hwy #40, just up from about 20 cars that were parked for the obviously MUCH more popular Grizzly Peak just to the north of our destination.
Saturday, June 2 2018 was looking like a mixed bag of Spring weather. Phil and I decided to play it easy and get out for an “exercise day” – hopefully one with some great views. Phil had put Ochre Spring Peak on our list a while ago already, but I’d never paid it much attention until the Matt’s (Hobbs and Clay) recently posted trip reports on it, demonstrating some pretty sweet views.. Phil agreed that this was likely the best time of year to do it and since it has a very short approach and easy slopes, having snow in the ascent gully would be perfect.
Wietse, Phil, Calvin and I took advantage of yet another great May weather forecast on Sunday, May 27th 2018 to summit a peak that’s been on my list for the past few Alberta spring scrambling seasons thanks to its position on the front ranges of the Rockies near the Crowsnest Pass. For some reason Phil and I ended up canceling several planned excursions here, but alls well that ends well – and we picked the perfect day in the end.
The weather during the work week (of course) has been gorgeous so far in late April and early May 2018. Sitting in the concrete jungle, looking out at another gorgeous day made me leave the office 20 minutes early, jump in my truck and start driving to the mountains to see what I could hike in the evening. I knew from doing Hell’s Ridge and Etherington Baril Ridge on the weekend, that although there was still snow on the ground in the Eyrie Gap area of the Highwood Range, there wasn’t a copious amount of it.
Saturday, April 28 2018 was forecast to be summer time in Alberta! After a bitterly long and cold winter, April was ending on a high note with several days pushing 25 degrees above zero, even in the mountains. Of course, these temperatures were too warm to safely enjoy the snow pack so I was left wondering what to do on Saturday. Any meaningful scrambles weren’t in shape yet (way too much snow). I’d had Etherington-Baril on the list for awhile already and decided that since I was going to be solo, this was the day to try it.
Already on the ascent to the south ridge of Kink Peak, my eyes were turning towards the surprisingly impressive form of Fallen Peak (Sheep Meadow Mountain). Phil, predictably, agreed with me to make it our second objective of the day. After a great ascent of Kink Peak, we found ourselves looking up at the ~250 vertical meter ascent, trying to pick the best line. We decided to stick right on the ridge as long as possible since it was almost snow-free. This plan worked even better than expected.
After grunting my way up Serendipity Peak, I didn’t linger long in the fierce winds at the summit but turned my attention quickly towards a distant looking Patterson’s Peak. Actually, my first glance towards Patterson’s made it appear much closer than I was expecting. It’s not until I actually started descending to the Pyriform S5 / Patterson’s col that I realized it was further than I first guess. Typical.
After several weekends in a row of very low motivation, I finally felt the call of the mountains again as the last weekend of October 2017 approached. My apathy the weeks previous had been mostly due to typical fall conditions – hurricane force winds in the front ranges, despite warm temperatures. I’ve done a lot of front range hikes and scrambles in these conditions and they’re never as fun as you imagine they’ll be when planning them. It’s like peak bagging in Waterton. The peaks are always more enjoyable afterwards, when looking at the photos without the wind trying to blow you off the peak!