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.
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.
After the easy (hot and lengthy) scramble to the summit of Pyriform Mountain and its fly-covered summit cairn, Wietse and I turned our collective attention to the alluring ridge joining it to Junction Mountain. The first part of the traverse was, as expected, fast and pleasurable. This was a good thing, because we were running low on water and were feeling the effects of an incredibly hot and windless summer day up high.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After a sublime day on Mount Denny the day before, I was not keen on sitting out the rest of the weekend despite a pretty dismal weather forecast. After downgrading objectives a few times, I settled on an easy scramble / hike to Buller Creek Peak as outlined in Andrew Nugara’s, More Scrambles guidebook. The weather was looking pretty gray as I parked in the Buller Creek / Pass parking lot along the Spray Lakes road but as I got ready I noticed a ton of vehicles pulling into the lot behind me. Apparently I wasn’t the only one determined to get out despite the clouds and rain! As I marched out of the lot towards the trail head, I was surprised to recognize two of the folks in a large group of hikers.
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.
On a very warm Friday, May 25, 2018, I finally got to ascend a front-range peak in the Ghost Wilderness that I’ve had on my radar for many years already – Orient Point. Why has it been on my “to-do” list so long? Simple! I’ve been hearing some pretty great things about it from friends and acquaintances over the years. It started for me, when Kerry Vizbar posted a report on the old RMBooks forum back in 2009. Raf and Sonny tried to follow his route a few years later but ended up on a difficult sounding route up the most westerly south ridge instead.
Summit Elevation (m): 2310Trip Date: Sunday, May 13, 2018Elevation Gain (m): 850Round Trip Time (hr): 7Total Trip Distance (km): 15.5Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain your wristDifficulty Notes: Almost all the scrambling sections on this ridge can be avoided. This is mainly a hike with some routefinding if you do the loop like we did. There are options for difficult scrambling. Technical Rating: SC5; YDS (Hiking)Map: what3words On Saturday while driving back to YYC with Wietse after scrambling Cougar Peak, I was musing about […]
On Saturday, May 12 2018, Wietse and I managed to summit a peak that’s been on my to-do list for quite a few years now. Over the years, since Bob Spirko first published an easy scrambling route to its summit, Cougar Peak (in the Fairholme Range rather than in the North Highwood) has slowly become a surprisingly popular Spring objective for people like me, eager to bag something more than a front range bump when many other deeper range peaks are still plastered in a mushy white coat of unpredictability.
Hanneke had a rare opportunity to join me for a hike on Sunday, May 6th 2018 so I figured I should take advantage of that. I was determined not to make her wade through the knee deep snow drifts that I kept ending up in over the past few weeks and decided that surely Stony Ridge in the Highwood area of Kananaskis would be dry by now? Yeah…The past few weeks have seen me drive past Black Diamond and Longview a few times, including a solo jaunt up Three Cairns, Hell’s Ridge and Mount Mann.
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.
After completing a very pleasant scramble / hike on Etherington-Baril Ridge I stupidly decided that I should cap off a perfect day with a jaunt up something named, “Hell’s Ridge”. What was I thinking?! It could be convincingly argued that I was so overcome with the powerful elixirs of Spring that I wasn’t thinking at all…
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.