Arete Peak has been on my radar for a while now. When I ended up with a midweek day off and nobody to join me I decided 2019 was finally the year that I was going to try for this remote summit.
When the dust finally settled on our Saturday plans it was Wietse, Cornelius, Richard, Trevor and I leaving the Castle Mountain Ski resort at around 07:00 before the lively Huckleberry Festival could continue its rambunctious celebrations.
The last time I scrambled this circuit was over 10 years ago on June 14, 2008 with Wietse. I don’t generally repeat trips and despite not planning this particular trip for this particular day, on hindsight I’m perfectly OK with repeating it – it’s a beauty!
Deadman Pass Peak is one of those mountains that snuck onto my list many years ago when So Nakagawa posted a trip report in 2015 from a trip he did in 2013. When Dave McMurray posted another trip report on the same peak in 2015 it went up the list a bit higher before fading to other, bigger, more remote objectives as these things tend to do.
It’s been roughly 15 years (!!) since I tackled the main summit of Mount Baldy and 8 since tackling the west summit. I don’t like repeats if there’s other options but on this particular day in June 2019 I decided it had been long enough and it was time for some updated photos and some exercise.
On Saturday, June 1 2019 I was at home getting texts from a bored Wietse who was sitting on the summit of Sulphur waiting for the rest of his hiking group. He indicated that the rumored true summit on the fourth peak clearly looked lower and after seeing his photos I agreed.
Even before Cornelius Rott forged a route to the summit of Winchester Ridge, it was on my radar. This has happened with a number of relatively obscure peaks over the past 3 or 4 years as Cornelius is attracted to the same types of objectives as Phil and I and usually manages to nab them before we do.
I very rarely repeat mountains. Very, very rarely. I just don’t see the point. The name of my web site provides insight to the whole point of hiking, scrambling, skiing and climbing for me – exploring new areas. But every once in a while I get an itch to do a repeat for whatever reason. Sometimes it’s just that the mountain is that much fun but usually it’s because I didn’t get great photos or views the first time. Such is the case with Mount Cory.
After the crappiest September on record, I knew we’d likely get some good weather in October. Sure enough! After a pretty bad start, October turned gorgeous and by the third week the forecast was all sunshine. After a series of emails and texts, Wietse and I were the last two standing and started making plans for Saturday. We settled on Chimper Peak.
Phil and I weren’t sure where “RA” Peak actually was! After returning from the summit of Jake Smith Peak, I was feeling a bit more energy than before the short scramble and we decided that since we were in the area, we might as well tag both the west and east “RA” peaks. From the col with Jake Smith Peak, Phil and I regained part of RA Peak’s south ridge before traversing easy SW slopes to the col on smatterings of sheep trails worn into the scree.
After approaching the Middlepass Lakes and scrambling up Rainy Ridge it was time to traverse towards the creatively named, “Three Lakes Ridge” – the professional cartographers must have been on holidays when these peaks were monikered. Nugara mentions the traverse between Rainy and Three Lakes Ridge as doable but not highly recommended, especially in the direction we were going to be doing it. How difficult could it be right?
After a great bivy at the lovely Lyall Tarn, Wietse and I awoke at around 06:00 to an extremely windy, cloudy and dark sky beneath the brooding rock walls of Mount Lyall. We both commented on the quality of our sleep – the night was very calm and quite warm for September and we both got over 9 hours of shut-eye. Just as forecast on SpotWX, the wind picked up fiercely in the early morning hours, and by 06:15 we were feeling rain drops outside the tent. Darn it. I seem to be getting a lot of rain on my trips in 2018!! I can only remember packing up a few dry camps this year and I’ve spent a lot of nights under the sky, as usual.
After approaching and scrambling Mount Townsend, I descended its slabby summit block and down the only obvious break through its intimidating cliffs before heading along a sheep track towards Epic Tower. Initially I worried that I might have to gain and lose some elevation on this traverse, but it went much quicker and easier than I expected. Within only about 45 minutes of leaving the summit of Townsend, I was scoping out a route up Epic Tower’s SW scree and slabs to the summit.
My first good look at Mount Townsend was from Cougar Peak earlier in 2018 upon reaching its summit after a fun, early season scramble in mid May with Wietse – and it looked pretty darn impressive! After getting home and doing some research I also became interested in two unofficial peaks next to Townsend along the ridge towards Mount Fable dubbed, “Epic” and “Mythic” towers.
After a couple of very long and full days spent on a 5th recorded ascent of Mount McConnell, deep in the heart of Banff National Park, Phil Richards and I awoke at 05:00 on Friday morning, August 17 2018 with tired bodies and minds, unsure of our abilities to ascend another peak before exiting. I was feeling much better than I had a right to be, but Phil was clearly not feeling the stoke for another peak on this particular day. His head cold from earlier in the week was back and his body and mind were not impressed with him for even considering it.
Mount McConnell is one of those peaks that got onto my mountain list somehow and just stayed hovering somewhere near the top of it but never seemed to actually get done as the scrambling seasons came and went. Why was it on my list? As one of the most remote and hard to access peaks in Banff National Park with a summit over 10,200 feet high, it is rarely done (ours was only the 5th recorded ascent) and gets the explor8ion juices flowing. Why does it not get done, even though it’s on many Rockies explorers “to-do” lists? Simple – see above. McConnell is freaking remote and freaking hard to approach!
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.
After a ~900m descent from our Alcantara / Brussilof bivy, I was feeling pretty bagged for some reason. I think Phil was too. It sure felt good to down the cool pop we had waiting for ourselves in Phil’s SUV! Technically we had two days in front of us still at this point. We knew that Saturday was supposed to be almost 100% cloudy with no rain and Sunday was supposed to improve to sun again. We felt a wee bit burned out after our monster approach and scramble of both Brussilof and Alcantara the day before and we both wanted to turn off our brains and do something a bit easier than our originally planned 1.5 days on Mount Eon. We decided pretty quickly to do the hike into Marvel Pass and check out some of the scrambles around there.
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.
As we were ascending Simpson Ridge to the NW of Simpson Peak, we kept looking for possible routes that would save us time and effort in a traverse between the two. The immediate obvious one sucked as it involved losing hundreds of meters of elevation from the ridge before following a steep snow line up to the peak. Since it was 18:00 when we were finally done with the ridge, we no longer had time or energy for this option anyway. That’s when I spotted another potential route that would be much quicker if it worked. In a route-finding theme for the weekend my mountain goat senses were tingling quite accurately for once!
As of July 2018, Simpson Ridge had been on Phil and my peak hit list for more than a few years already. The main reason was an enticing comment from the indomitable Rick Collier about his second ascent of the mountain in 1996(76 years after the first ascent in 1920!). Reading that there might still be an original 1920 summit register waiting to be rediscovered put our imaginations into overdrive. We didn’t yet know about the naming confusion or the difficult and multiple attempts at the original ascent – and didn’t realize this very interesting part of the mountain’s history until after returning from our trip days later.