Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wonder Peak and Mt. Cautley (Assiniboine Park, B.C.)

Photo 1: View once on the ridge to Wonder Peak

Photo 2: This is after we had sumitted Mt. Cautley and followed the adjoining ridge towards Gibraltar rock

Photo 3: This is looking at Gibraltar rock, after following ridge down to Cascade Rock.
Photo 4: Earlier in the day... This is Ken trying to find a route to descend off of Wonder Peak

Photo 5: View from Gibraltar rock... we almost went to the end but bailed on the last 20 metrs
Photo 6: Summit view from Mt. Cautley

Photo 6: Ken descending loose chimney
Photo 7 (right). View from ridge above Wonder Pass

Photos 8-11. Interesting wildflowers; fossilized elephant poop?; ridgewalk to Mt. Cautley

Photo 9: Ken early in AM... on ridge to Wonder Peak.

Photo 10: Ken in later PM looking off of Cascade rock

Photo 11: Ken scoping out the gully that we descended to rejoin the ridge to Cautley.

Phot 12 (right): Ken descending off the summit block of Wonder
Photo 13: Ken, standing in front of the tower we had to descend from Wonder to Cautley. The route we used is the border of the shadow in the gully.

Wonder Peak (9,289 ft) and Mt. Cautley (9,414 ft). July 29/07.

What a view... Wonder Peak truly lives up to its name!

On our third day in Assiniboine, Ken Mcdermott and I scrambled up Wonder Peak and followed the ridge over to the summit of Mt. Cautley. Along the way, we also followed adjoining ridges over to Gibraltar and Cascade Rock(s) to view the wide open valleys to the east side of ridge.

Kristien and Carol (Ken's wife )as well as a few others with the Chinook Club had set off separately that morning to explore Mt. Cautley. Ken and I had hoped to catch up with them on the connecting ridge, but unfortunately, after summiting Wonder Peak it took a lot of time to figure out how to descend from Wonder Peak to the ridge towards Cautley. (We did hear Gaylen Armstrong's booming voice at one point and we saw the group, just little tiny black specks from our vantage point on Wonder Peak, as they descended back to Happy hour at Assiniboine Lodge).

The entire route is pretty much visible from the meadows at Naiset Huts - we were able to plan our route for the day from the Naiset kitchen hut just after breakfast! One option we had considered was 'The Towers' - a grouping of interesting rock towers to the west of Wonder peak... We were tempted to try that scramble but ultimately we decided on a multi-peak day with the hopes of meeting up with the others by following the ridge to Mt. Cautley.

To get to Wonder Peak we followed the hiking trail to the highpoint of Wonder Pass, then followed the faint hiking path that goes up the ridge from the pass. Gaining elevation, it did not take too long to be rewarded with impressive views on the ridge and the views got progressively better the higher we went. The glaciers and the lakes below were almost a sensory overload! There was a lot of exposure on the ridge but getting to the summit of Wonder was mostly a straighforward hike, with just a bit of class III scrambling near the summit. (On the other hand, getting off of Wonder to the connecting ridge to Cautley was downright hairy, by our route.)

We had lunch at the summit and found a mickey of rum that some chap had hid under some rocks! There was also a metal box at the top that housed a register with lots of interesting entries.

Descending from the summit, we made our way east along the ridge and came to the crux of the trip just a little while later. Following the ridge, we arrived at a set of cliffs. The ridge at this point was separated by this set of cliffs that we needed to descend. We backtracked and got fixated somewhat on descending on the class 3 ledges on south side of the ridge and spent an hour scoping out possible routes ~ 50-100 metres back from the end of the ridge... The ledges got too sketchy for my taste as we descended, although we found a couple of possibilities (one gully we had hoped to descend had snow/ice.)

Eventually we went back up to the top of the ridge and followed it again to the end where it dropped off and and found a steep, loose chute at the very end on the south side... twas hairy but we managed. There was a possible route on the north side of the ridge at this exact junction but the chute we followed looked ok from above, and had visible footprints. The footprints were probably the reason we followed this route! Someone else had gone down this way, so we could too.

I had met a chap at the group kitchen at Naiset in the morning who had advised on descending on the North side of the ridge at what I think was that exact junction, but gravity had already taken hold of Ken and me and so we made our way down the south facing chute.

{EDIT Sept. 2010: Not to overstate the difficulty... We did a lot of farting around trying to find a way to descend the rock bands at the end of the ridge off Wonder Peak and encountered some cliffs, but the descent route we took off the rock bands was only class 3/4, not class 5. As stated above, there is apparently an easier route on the north side of the cliffs, but this is not how we got down. See final photo.}

Monday, August 20, 2007

Nub Peak, Assiniboine Park

Nub Peak (~8950 ft), Assiniboine Provincial Park

July 28th/07

Here are some pix from this past summer's trip to Assiniboine Provincial Park (July 27th-30th/07. We went with some other folks with the Chinook Club from Lethbridge and slept at the Naiset Huts, which were quite reasonable. Only 20 bucks a night!

Some people in our group hiked in over 2-3 days from the Sunshine ski resort in Banff, but we flew in by helicopter from the Shark pad in Kananaskis. The helicopter trip was awesome and only cost us $150 each for the short ride in... we hiked out with one full pack out but shipped one of our packs by helicopter at a cost of two bucks a pound. The hike out was a good 25 kms or so.

The Naiset Huts are located a few minutes away from Assiniboine Lodge, which was great, since there is a 4 o'clock happy hour daily with beer or tea! Happy hour is open to people caming or staying at the huts, not necessarily for patrons of the Lodge.

Nub Peak is a great day hike from the Naiset Cabins. We took a meandering route to the top, which allowed us to view Sunburst and Cerulean Lakes. We left the Naiset Huts and made it up to the summit by lunch time and after lounging around the summit for a good 30 minutes or so, were back at Magog Lake for a swim by 3:30. Perfect timing for 4 o'clock happy hour at the lodge!

The lodge has a spotting scope set up, which allowed us to look up towards the Hind Hut, which is the hut halfway up Mt. Assiniboine. We were able to see a couple of parties making their way accross the glacier towards the summit.

Mt. Stimson

Getting there:

This trip was organized by Susan Schwartz, David Olson and Ken Mcdermott of the Glacier Mountaineering Society (GMS). Susan (from Colorado) and David (from Wisconsin) travel up to Montana every year for Glacier Mountaineering Week, which was starting just after our 3-day trip to Stimson. Ken was kind enough to invite me along as a fourth member of their little expedition.

Late Thursday night, Ken and I drove down from Lethbridge and met the others at the cabin of David Olson’s uncle on St. Mary Lake. The place (on the Blackfoot reserve) looked like a little hideaway from the road, but inside it was really nice and had awesome views of the lake and surrounding peaks.

The trip up Mount Stimson
DAY 1: Friday, we awoke early (5 AM) and made the drive up past east Glacier to our trailhead. On the way, a large brown bear, (perhaps a grizzly) popped out of the woods and dashed across the highway in front of us. Susan and David also saw a cow moose with a calf not too far from where we parked.

We finally headed towards the trail shortly after 9 AM. Words to describe the approach: decimation, devastation, obliteration, shattering, destruction, ABANDON ALL HOPE ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE! It was ‘just’ a 9 mile approach (15 km) following elk trails, but more often than not, we found ourselves floundering along the trail slowed by quagmires of deadfall, or more commonly - bushwhacking in thick brush after losing the trail completely.

After crossing Middle Flathead River and stashing the canoe away, we followed a park trail to the first crossing of Pinchot creek. There was a ridiculously steep drop of a couple of hundred feet to the creek, where we discovered a cable strung across the river at an opportune spot, which assisted in the crossing. There was a USGS water monitoring station being set up there, complete with solar panels and antennae for remote data transmission. It was rather funny to see such alien looking technology in the middle of the bush!

We made really slow progress after the first crossing of Pinchot; by 8 PM we were still a few miles from our intended campsite near the base of Stimson and our morale was getting low. It was a heatwave in Lethbridge that weekend, and in Glacier the heat was slightly better, but still brutal… probably still in the 30s.

We had been given rather detailed information on the approach from one Ralph Thornton (a longtime GMS member), who had made multiple trips (apparently 5 trips!) up the creek to the summit of Stimson. We tried our best to stick to Ralph’s route and in particular, we expended much energy looking for a phantom elk trail that Ralph had described rather favorably, which we had guessed was some distance upwards from the creek. By 8 PM we had decided we had ascended too high and decided to drop down towards the creek and luckily found a good trail that took us within a half mile of our intended camp by 9:30 PM. My feet got a bit trashed from hiking in wet boots as we followed some gravel beds along Pinchot creek.

The only ‘near miss’ of the day occurred as I fell almost up to my waist in a big hole as we hung our food in a tree in the dark!

Day 2: Summit day!

Again it was super hot day, probably in the 30s after 10 AM. We left camp at 8 AM and made it to the saddle between Mt. Pinchot and Mt. Stimson by noon. The trip up from the saddle was mostly class II and a bit of class III near the summit… typically there were lots of ledges a couple of feet high that one could ascend rather easily, the most difficult part being loose rubble on the ledges that could cause one to trip or dislodge a nugget or two onto fellow climbers below. We made it to the summit ridge by 3:45 PM and views did not disappoint! The summit ridge of Stimson runs roughly east-west, with the true summit being a few minutes west of the eastern edge, and it was a fun little scramble to follow the ridge to the true summit. There were great views of the Mt. Jackson and Mt. Logan, as well as the Jackson and Blackfoot glaciers; Mt. St. Nicolas; Rising Wolf Mountain. We found a canister in the summit cairn and saw we were the first summit party of the year. Judging from the summit canister, there are just a few parties that make it up every year. We spent way too much time on the summit and finally started our descent around 4:30.

Initially, the descent was slow. The ledges were impossible to make good time on the way down! Finally, when we hit the top of the saddle we found some scree that took us down to Pinchot Creek. At this point, my feet were just killing me and unfortunately I slowed down the group pretty good. By the time we made it to the gravel beds of the creek it was dark (10 PM) and eventually, we had to don headlamps. (I forgot mine and had to follow closely behind the others, tricky, especially when crossing the stream!) We still had to follow the stream for about a kilometer to find our campsite, which was along the stream somewhere. To make a long story short – we got lost and ended up going in circles for a bit, thrashing about the woods trying to find our tent by GPS. It was very much reminiscent of the movie ‘The Blair Witch Project’. I don’t think I will ever forget that night, as much as I would like to! It is a bit spooky to be bushwhacking in the dark- you don’t really see much past the first set of bushes that your flashlight shines upon. Finally by midnight, we found our tents and had a midnight snack. We hit the sack around 1 AM!

Day 3: We felt bagged from our previous ‘day off’ and were not ecstatic about the prospect of backpacking out. Luckily, we knew exactly what we were up against and really, we knew it could not be any worse than the previous couple of days!

The only real trouble we had on the way out (aside from the heat) was finding the exact spot where we crossed the Pinchot Creek for the first time on the way back. Luckily, Susan had her GPS with her and with some care we managed to find the little cairns we had built at the spot where we crossed. From that crossing, there was still some unexpected bushwhacking that occurred, but we made it back to the cars by 8:00… about 11 hours! The shortest day yet!

I am really glad I did this trip and in particular, I appreciated the good humour and patience of David, Susan and Ken… but I don’t think I ever want to do this trip again!!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Mount Otokomi

Scamble with the Glacier Mountaineering Society. Drove down to Glacier Park early in the morning with fellow COC member Ken Mcdermott from Lethbridge. The intended destination for the day was Curly Bear Mountain, but it had been quite cloudy and raining lightly when we met early in the morning. One dude in the group (Gerry) works for the park in the summer, so we decided to stop for a coffee at his park residence. After sitting around for a couple of hours, we spotted a couple of (sucker) holes of blue sky through the clouds and decided to try hiking towards Otokmi Lake, with the idea that if it cleared up we could break offtrail and go for a summit. As we hiked it started to get progressively clearer, and by the time we summited Otokomi at lunch it was positively sunny! Up higher, there was a bit of snow and the surrounding mountains all had a light dusting of snow.

The coordinator (Bruce) was surprised by his lovely wife (Rhonda) at the summit with birthday brownies for his 50th birthday, which he was celebrating that day. We had some leisurely summit time, basking in the sun and spotted some big horn sheep to the north just below us. Descending towards the Rising Sun Motorlodge, we had a nice picnic together and then parted ways again. All in all, another great day in the mountains with a great bunch of people.