As Phil and I drove home from our successful scramble up Mount Berland in Kootenay National Park on Saturday, May 11, my thoughts turned to the following day.
On March 23, Phil Richards and I hiked up a snowy Sheep Creek and scrambled Winchester Ridge. From the ridge we enjoyed spectacular views over the Dormer River towards Dormer Mountain and started to plan what kind of adventure would get us to its summit.
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.
Whenever I looked into the Mount Coulthard scramble, I always ended up wondering why nobody seemed willing to combine it with its easy neighboring peak, Mount McLaren (not to be confused with Mount MacLaren in the High Rock Range further north). I decided it was time someone tried it and posted it as a good idea – provided it was a good one of course. As it turns out – it was a very good idea. Initially, I thought I’d have to start up to the Andy Good / McLaren col from lower down on the North York Creek Road, even lower than the plane crash site.
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 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?
After bailing on my original plans for the weekend thanks to an unstable weather forecast, I was sitting at home in front of my computer with a long face when my wife, Hanneke walked downstairs and said, “why don’t we go for a hike instead”? Indeed. Why not go for a hike instead of moping around the house all day? The weather for Saturday was actually looking pretty decent and despite lingering smoke from BC wildfires, a hike sounded perfect. After some fast thinking (it was already around 09:00 at this point – I’d already done an 8km walk that morning too), we settled on Grizzly Ridge in the Highwood Pass area of Kananaskis as our hiking destination for the day.
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.
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!
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.
Summit Elevation (m): 3005Trip Date: Friday, July 20, 2018Elevation Gain (m): 2000Round Trip Time (hr): 15Total Trip Distance (km): 15Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2/3 – you fall, you sprain your wrist or break your legDifficulty Notes: The approach is through BC bush with no trails – so there’s that. From alpine meadows the route is either easy or moderate depending on choice. The final few steps to the top are very exposed and loose.GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: SC5; YDS (3rd)Map: what3words There really […]
Summit Elevation (m): 3005Trip Date: Friday, July 20, 2018Elevation Gain (m): 2000Round Trip Time (hr): 15Total Trip Distance (km): 15Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 4 – you fall, you are almost deadDifficulty Notes: A difficult approach through medium BC bush followed by snow climbing, 4th class loose rock and routefinding up ledges and cliffs to the summit.GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: SC7; YDS (4th)Map: what3words Somehow, despite planning a trip into the Lyell Icefield to climb the last of the Lyells (IV) that I have […]
Summit Elevation (m): 2965Trip Date: Sunday, July 8, 2018Elevation Gain (m): 2400Round Trip Time (hr): 18Total Trip Distance (km): 42Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 4 – you fall, you are almost deadDifficulty Notes: A very long and tiring day including remote BC bushwhacking, routefinding, exposed ridges and steep snow with possible ice.GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: SC7; YDS (4th)Map: what3words On July 8th, 2018, Phil Richards, Eric Coulthard and I spent one of the longer days I’ve had in the Rockies scrambling and route finding […]
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.
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.
After our trip up Mount Morrison and Owl Peak earlier in the week, Phil and I had been thinking (obsessing) about its supposedly easy neighbor to the south – Mount Currie. This might seem strange to some folks, but Phil and I don’t just love peakbagging, we love getting to peaks that are not done very often and are remote and somewhat challenging to access.
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.
Ever since skiing Mount Turner (Morrison’s slightly higher neighbor to the north) in April of 2017 my stoke for Mount Morrison had increased ten-fold. When Phil texted me and mentioned that he was going to attempt a long-planned traverse over Mount Morrison to Owl Lake I was intrigued.
Mount Denny is no exception to the list of summits I’ve desired for many years already. I first heard of it around five years or so ago and since then it’s made it’s way into not only one guidebook, but two. Both Nugara and Kane list it as a ‘moderate’ scramble via its southwest face. When Liz and Mike announced they’d successfully scrambled it in early June, it bumped way up my list and Wietse and I planned an ascent for a nice looking Friday on June 8, 2018.
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.