I really enjoyed Mount McPhail and the Weary Creek Gap area. This area certainly deserves the attention of any Alberta Rockies peakbagger or backpacker.
The summit views were pretty sweet from MacLaren, including many of the Kananaskis peaks I’ve stood on like Holy Cross, Head, Gunnery and even all the way to the Highwood Pass with lofty summits like Rae and Mist showing up.
When our plans for climbing Mount Lefroy fell through, Mike and I started looking at other options. After swearing that I was done with David Thompson Country for at least a few months, I found myself planning another trip to the area. Mike was still feeling ill on Saturday, so I solo scrambled Abraham Mountain – a delightful and unexpectedly short day out. Our plans for the Sunday and Monday were to scramble Mount Stelfox, spend Sunday night camping and then attempt to find a scramble route up Bright Star Peak, it’s higher neighbor to the north.
After a longish outing on Mount Head a few days previous with a couple of smelly guys (no offense guys), I decided it was time for a nice hike in Waterton Lakes National Park with my wife for a change. She not only looks (a lot) nicer than those other guys, but she smells nicer too. Again – no offense guys. In the fall of 2015 I hiked Lakeview Ridge solo and remember really liking the Horseshoe Basin area.
On Friday, June 09 2017 I managed to summit Mount Head in the Highwood Range of the front range Rockies with Wietse and Kev Papke. Exactly ten years previous, to the day, I scrambled up Mount Head’s southern neighbor, Holy Cross Mountain, also with Wietse. Also, almost ten years to the day, was the first time I became aware of the scrambling on Mount Head when some friends did it and reported back. It was on my radar ever since and just never seemed to get priority until now. This was long before Nugara’s scrambles book added it to yet another list.
After a long hiatus from peak bagging and pretty much any activity in the Rockies, other than resort skiing, I was more than ready to join Eric Coulthard on a front range adventure to scout out the Waiparous Creek area of the North Ghost Wilderness on the eastern edge of the Rockies in Don Getty Wildland Provincial Park, between Kananaskis to the south and Ya Ha Tinda to the north. Our original objective was the impressive Mount Davidson, a peak that isn’t well documented and probably not visited that often due to the nature of its access.
After spending the previous two weeks in various stages of fall throughout the Rockies, I was almost ready to return to work on September 29, 2016 when Wietse texted me, asking if I wanted to bag a peak? Let’s see. Go back to work or bag a peak? Hmmm. That decision wasn’t really a decision so much as an instinct. 😉
Summit Elevation (m): 2471Trip Date: September 19, 2016Elevation Gain (m): 1600Round Trip Time (hr): 8Total Trip Distance (km): 19Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 1/2 – you fall, you sprain something, i.e. your egoDifficulty Notes: Slightly more difficult than Southfork Mountain but still only easy scrambling with some routefinding to keep it easy. Note: The statistics include both Southfork and Barnaby.Technical Rating: SC5; YDS (Hiking)Map: Google Maps After getting over a serious lack of motivation and summiting Southfork Mountain, I decided to give myself an hour towards Barnaby […]
As I watched the giant snow flakes fall gently and silently all around me and settle onto the yellow and red fall foliage before slowly starting to melt, I was struck by a thought that has hit me square between the eyes more than once while solo trekking on various trails and routes through the backcountry of my beloved Canadian Rockies. The beauty that I’d experienced on this long and tiring day – and many long and tiring days before it – was not there for my benefit. It was simply there. Natural beauty is something that drives many of us out of the concrete jungles where we make a living, out to a more peaceful and reflective existence on the trail – where we are smaller somehow, and more connected with our ancient, wandering roots. While we feel almost a spiritual connection to the land, we often make the mistake of thinking that all the natural beauty that we find beyond our temporary fake and material world, is somehow there for us. Because of us – like it owes us it’s very existence. But this is not true my friends.
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.
If you’ve read my Cockscomb Mountain trip report, you should not be surprised that it’s been weeks since my last summit! I jest. Although my mountain mojo was a bit depleted in June / July, this isn’t the real reason I haven’t summitted a mountain in the last 7 weeks. There are two reasons for the break. The first was a three week holiday in July which saw me and my son do an epic 16 day canoe trip in Woodland Caribou Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada, followed by a week camping with family in Nutimik Lake, Manitoba.
Cockscomb Mountain has a few things going for it. No matter how many peaks you’ve done, as long as it’s more than one, you will have a “best” and a “worst” one. I never have to worry about my worst one now – I’ve apparently just completed it. Another thing in Cockscomb’s favor is that I will never have to repeat it. Yes – I enjoyed it that much! 😉 The first thing to note about Cockscomb Mountain is that despite Bob Spirko’s apparently easy and rather pleasant ascent back in 2006, this is not your typical “Kane easy” summit. According to me, an easy scramble should be one where you take your Aunt Edna for a day trip in the Rockies, where Aunt Edna is in decent cardio shape but isn’t a hardcore peak bagger or a secret lover of horrible approaches.
Originally I was planning to attempt skiing Little Galatea, an outlier of the much larger Mount Galatea. After Matt Clay posted that he and Matt Hobbs had recently spent a considerable amount of energy breaking trail through sugar-snow to the upper ridge, I couldn’t resist taking advantage of this on my ‘shoes, and I got to spend another day in the hills with my family out of the deal. Now that I’ve ‘shoed it, I’m glad I didn’t go for it on skis, via the alternate route. The only way to ski LG is via the massive avalanche gully that Nugara recommends ascending and which I think should be avoided by all but very confident and avy-aware skiers / ‘shoers in prime conditions.
I was due for one of these extremely rare days in Waterton Lakes National Park! What days, you ask? Those rare gems where the wind is manageable and “sunny” actually means you see blue sky and the ball of fire sustaining life on our fragile planet! Oh – and of course those days when you have a route planned out that will take 100% advantage of these conditions. In our case Phil Richards and I were planning a grand traverse from Vimy Peak to Arras Peak (Vimy Ridge) to the highest point of Vimy Ridge (GR939323) and back again.
Looking at my choices for peak(s) to do on my second full day in Waterton National Park I thought I was fairly limited, thanks to the closing of the Red Rock Parkway for construction. I settled on Mount Rowe, hoping that it would have similar snow conditions to what I had on Sofa Mountain the day before. Of course I rationalized that even though it was further west, it wasn’t that much further right?! Joining me as we cruised along the Akamina Parkway under a gorgeous morning sunrise was Phil Richards – a recent friend who’d done another long trip with me earlier this year on Rose and Threepoint.
The weather along the Alberta Rockies was quite dreary for my first week off in September 2015. After doing a fairly intense trip with Ben up Evelyn Peak in Jasper National Park, I came home for a day before setting out in the opposite direction to try my luck in the southern Rockies instead. It’s been a long time since I set foot in Waterton National Park – about 6 years to be exact! I wasn’t impressed with the Red Rock Road being closed already (due to construction) but hoped that there’d be enough other objectives to keep me busy. Mostly I was just hoping that the conditions would be decent.
The weather forecast for Saturday, July 11 2015 wasn’t optimal for scrambling. I knew it wouldn’t be quite as bad as TheWeatherNetwork was predicting, but I don’t mess around with t-storms and so far have never been caught in one high on a mountain, due to a rigid avoidance of them. I scrapped my original plans to go to Yoho and decided at the last minute to do an easy / short peak that’s been on my radar for a few years already – the south peak of Opal Ridge.
For Father’s Day and for the longest day of the year, we chose a fairly easy scramble in the Spray Lakes region of Kananaskis. Originally I was hoping to climb North Victoria early on Sunday before coming home to celebrate Father’s Day, but that didn’t work out thanks to a very chaotic weather forecast that kept promising perfect weather and then changing at the last minute! Oh well. June in the Alberta Rockies is known for unpredictable and chaotic weather.
After a fairly straightforward route to the summit of Threepoint Mountain it was time to explore. Nugara is pretty sure in his guidebooks that there is “no direct route” from Threepoint over to Mount Rose, it’s shorter neighbor to the south. He’s right, of course. There is no direct scramble route. But when there’s no direct route what do you do? Obviously you scout around a bit and look for an indirect one. The thing with Mount Rose is that while it’s a nice enough little summit, surrounded by some very nice terrain, it’s not really the sort of mountain you want to dedicate a whole day to ascend. Phil and I both remarked more than once that if we didn’t get Rose with Threepoint we wouldn’t be coming back for it any time soon. From the summit of Threepoint, there were a few obvious gullies to try on the ridge splitting south (skier’s left) off the west ridge that Nugara recommends using for an alternate descent. We knew that the long band of cliffs running along this ridge were huge and even overhanging so the odds of these gullies working were slim. We also figured that for sure Nugara would have tried them – although if he did Threepoint in the winter he may not have bothered.
Ever since I first biked the Big Elbow loop in the front ranges of Kananaskis Country along the Sheep and Elbow Rivers I was interested in scrambling Threepoint Mountain and Mount Rose. I’m not sure why, but these two peaks kept coming up in conversations. While scrambling Cougar Mountain in 2010, I remember looking over at the two mountains and wondering if they could be done together. On May 31 2015 I scrambled Bluerock Mountain and found myself gazing once again at Rose and Threepoint, wondering about them. When Phil Richards sent me a PM on ClubTread asking if I’d be interesting in giving Threepoint and Rose a go, I couldn’t resist. Our first plan fell through due to my laziness at getting up early, but with the weather looking like it might allow us to sneak in a trip on Saturday, June 13 if we left early enough, we made plans to leave the trailhead at 05:30.
I’ve been a bit obsessed with the Ya Ha Tinda region this year. I’m not sure exactly why, but I’ve been there 4 or 5 times since my first trip in November 2014 up Evangeline Peak / Rum Ridge with Steven and Ben. While hiking Labyrinth Mountain and Mount Minos with Wietse in April, we looked across the Ya Ha Tinda road at a lovely ridge, rising directly over the road with no bushwhacking and no approach and wondered how easy this would be. I remembered looking at the lower slopes every time I drove into the area, wondering the same thing. A friend of ours, Dave Salahub decided to try it out and reported back that it was easy and pleasant. I needed no more prompting and decided that this would be the perfect trip to introduce my family to the Ya Ha Tinda hiking experience.
Every time I drove home from the mountains along the Trans Canada highway, I wondered how easy this little bump would be to ascend. It’s certainly prominent enough to warrant a name, but it doesn’t have an official one as far as I know. Sonny and Raf are two friends who have done it. Raf assured me that it would be a nice short day – something I could do with my family. On Saturday, May 30 2015 the weather forecast was kind of grim. I decided we should drive to Razors Edge and check it out. If the weather held long enough, we could try an ascent. The clouds were low as we drove out from Calgary.
On Saturday, May 23 2015 Raf and I decided we were in the mood for an easy scramble. We settled on Waputik Peak on the border of Banff and Yoho National Parks after Raf assured me that the slopes looked dry already a week ago. I couldn’t believe there was that little snow already near the divide – but he was right. After doing many over night ski trips and big snow ascents in the past month, it felt wonderful to lift a light day pack! The route to Waputik is quite straight forward. Follow an old trail up Bath Creek (it was already overgrown in 2002) until the slopes get easier on the right and follow them to the summit. Sounds easy anyway.
After looking at our options for the weekend, Ben, Steven and I decided that it made the most sense to try for a hiking or snow shoe trip on Sunday, December 14th. Considering the snow conditions everywhere, we settled on Maze Peak in the Ya Ha Tinda Ranch area of the Rockies, west of Sundre Alberta. Our initial plan consisted of meeting in Sundre on Sunday morning before driving to the trail head. As I was puttering around the house on Saturday afternoon I over heard something about meteor showers in the area for that night. I immediately went on the web and discovered that the Geminid Meteor shower was indeed occurring now, with the most intense shower being the night of December 13th. Ya Ha Tinda is an isolated place with very little light pollution. Since I was planning to be there the next day anyway, I couldn’t think of any reason not to go the night before and try to witness some of these meteors myself. I contacted Ben and Steven about my plan and they agreed to also drive all the way to the (free) Bighorn Campground where we would spend the night meteor and star gazing before ascending Maze Peak on Sunday.
I wasn’t sure I was in the mood to go out on Sunday, October 19th. I had a pretty bad head cold and some motivational issues on Saturday evening. I slept in ’til around 08:00 on Sunday and awoke feeling pretty good – and the weather was pretty sweet too. I dashed around the house like a mad man and managed to get out the door by 08:25, heading down to the Kananaskis Lakes area hoping to either scramble Rawson Lake Ridge or The Turret, depending how I was feeling and how much snow there was.