Steven Song's Peak-bagging Journey

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Banff / Sunshine Village

Area surrounding Banff, including Castle Junction and part of Kootenay National Park.

Steven Song
 
Healy Pass Peak
Jan 13, 2013

The objective for this weekend changed a dozen times, from Michener to Windy Point Ridge, even to Ma ...more

ssive Mountain, but eventually we decided to go for an unnamed peak that had been on my radar for a while, Healy Pass Peak. The reasoning for naming this peak is the same as how Burstall Pass Peak was named. Since we had a high pressure system moving in (which almost guarantee stable weather), a peak with inspiring views would be appropriate. I had been to the nearby Monarch Ramparts before, but didn't get any view from the top, so I always wanted to come back to this area. Sandwiched between Massive Range and Ball Range, the Healy Pass area guarantees great views.

I joined Ben and Mike from Edmonton. We are slowly forming a Team Edmonton group.. (Where is Eric?) I was seriously considering doing this trip on skis, not just because skiing would be more fun, but mainly to get more experience. However, Ben and Mike would be on snowshoes, and It would be really crowded to get my skis in Mike's car, therefore I would be on snowshoes this time. It was good since the supposed considerable avalanche hazard was forcing us to stay relatively close to each other. So we left Edmonton Saturday evening, and slept in Canmore ACC Hostel. The avi condition eventually changed to moderate.

We started to day at Sunshine Village parking lot with just enough light, and quickly started the long long approach. The first 0.5km was following Sunshine Ski-out. Due to the massive amount of snow (30cm+) fallen in the past few days, we were concerning if the trail was broken or not. Post-holing all the way in didn't sound that appealing to either of us. Luckily, the trail was broken! The next 1.5 hours was merely trudging up the trail in the trees. The elevation gain was very gradual until Simpson Pass junction, and after that, the trail gets a little steeper, but still gentle enough that we didn't even bother using the heal-lift. Eventually we made to Healy Meadows, and got our first view of the impressive The Monarch, and the long ridge of Monarch Ramparts.

On my solo trip to Monarch Ramparts in December, the ski tracks ended at the meadows, but this time we were lucky to have tracks all the way up to Healy Pass. The forecasted inversion didn't happen and we were treated with coldness all day. We didn't have thermometer, but based on my experience, the temperature must be below -20 degree. It was tough to take photos. My battery worked fine, but I had to warm-up my fingers frequently. I'm not used to take photos with big gloves on.

We left the tracks before the actual Healy Pass and ascended straight towards the peak. The slope is foreshortened and to get to the top, you have to get up higher than all the bumps nearby. It is overall a 2577m summit.. The view was needless to say, awesome towards each direction. I especially like the impressive Mount Ball. We also got a head-on view of Egypt Lake area. There are a couple of scrambles, The Sphinx, Pharaoh Peaks, Scarab Peak, and Haiduk Peak (approached from Kootenay Parkway). The backside of Pilot Mountain, Mount Brett, and Mount Bourgeau was equally attractive. I haven't got Pilot and Brett yet, and they are on my list for the following summer. Towards south are the Sunshine Village peaks. I've done most of them except for Mount Howard Douglas (summer scramble) and Brewster Rock (ski). Further down south we could see Quartz Hill, Citadel and Fatigue Mountain (all could be done on skis), and then the mighty Mount Assiniboine (someday)...

Due to the coldness, we didn't stay long. We were far ahead of schedule so we decided to go for Monarch Ramparts. You would be looking down on that flat ridge from Healy Pass Peak, and wondering why bothering with that. But that's overall named officially, and it situates on the boundary between Banff, Kootenay, and Yoho National Parks. So there's something special.

We decided to directly traverse to Monarch Ramparts. Once leaving Healy Pass, heavy duty of trail breaking began, and there is one steep slope (steep enough to raise some concern) involved on the direct traverse. We ascended that slope one by one and after that, it was just a walk over a couple of bumps to the summit plateau. The plateau was broad enough that you need to walk around to soak in the views. The views were almost the same as from Healy Pass Peak so I didn't bother to walk around. The wind picked up and I took out my wind breaker and ski goggles, and even so I still felt cold. So we quickly moved down. From my ski trip up here, I knew there's a short-cut down one of the gullies so we took that direct route to save some time and energy. The wind disappeared but it was still cold. After a break at the meadows, we walked down the long long trail, trees, trees, and more trees. Eventually we could hear the gondola lift, and then cross a bridge, one last uphill section, I took off snowshoes and walked down the final 0.5km on the ski-out. There were 3x more snowboarders than skiers passing us. Overall, awesome day in the mountains again, and thank Mike for the driving.

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Steven Song
 
Vermillion Peak
Jan 5, 2013

After 3 days of intense trail-breaking, I still had enough energy to push another ascent, so I turne ...more

d on my laptop again... Kevin Papke was planning on Mount Haffner, which I hadn't done yet. Of course I'm interested in. Granticulus also invited me to do Mount Allan, and I managed to convince him to do Haffner. So 6 of us, 4 skiers (Kevin P, Kevin B, Vern, Eric), and 2 snowshoeers (Grant and I) met at Numa Falls Parking lot at 9am in the morning. Weather was cloudy, but again, just like the day on Emerald Peak, we were hoping for inversion.

We were lucky to find packed ski tracks up the treed slope which saved us a lot energy and time. As we gaining elevation, we noticed the trail venturing more towards climber's left than we should for Mount Haffner, but we decided to just keep going. Following tracks is always better than breaking trails by ourselves. Higher up, just like 2 days earlier, we entered the clouds, but soon broke through. Inversion again!

Since we were in the trees, we couldn't see where we were going. Further up, a glance to Mount Haffner revealed that we were too high on Vermillion. Grant and I hadn't done Vermillion yet so we decided to give it a go first, while Vern, Kevin B and Eric decided to ski down to the col and do Haffner first. I didn't bother to follow the tracks higher up since I was snowshoeing, and we quickly made to the south ridge. We managed to keep snowshoes on all the way to the false summit, where the ridge gets narrower and sketchy.

I knew the ridge is fairly exposed based on the summer view. It didn't look that bad thank to the big cornices hanging on climber's right side... Those cornices were very suspicious and we couldn't trust every single footing without carefully probing. At places the actual ridge narrows to a sharp knife edge. I'm sure it won't be like this in summer time, but given the fact I couldn't trust the snow, following the rock edge was the only option. The rock wasn't that stable neither and there were a couple of loose pieces that I dislodged. The snow was also rock hard at places, and sugary at other places. I couldn't afford a slip so I crampon on for the rest of the ascend. Grant was following my footprints so he didn't need crampons. The strategy was to be really patient and careful, and eventually we made to the summit.

Since we still wanted Haffner, we didn't linger long on the summit. Retracing our steps back down was definitely easier but still required caution. Even our own steps could be traps. Thankfully we both made back safely. This ridge reminds me the winter attempt of Mount Lady MacDonald, and I will never repeat this section in winter... If one day I come back here on skis, I'll give the summit a miss.

We soon started the traverse to Mount Haffner, down a steep slope to re-join Vern's up tracks.

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Steven Song
 
Mount Haffner
Jan 5, 2013

After finishing Vermillion, Grant and I continued towards Haffner. Thank the skier group for breakin ...more

g trail for us, and we could just follow their tracks down to the col, and then up towards treeline. Haffner is very easy compared to Vermillion. Near treeline, I noticed three of them coming down. None of us has seen Kevin P at this time... The slope to Haffner was drier than Vermillion, and we took off snowshoes fairly early. Sugary snow wasn't pleasant to go up, but with positive attitude, we both made to the summit. There were high clouds rolling in from west, but they did create some variation on the views. We definitely don't want the same view from these two peaks..

Again, we didn't stay on the summit, but immediately turned back, slowly worked our way back. Instead of retracing our up line, once we got down to the col, we descended diagonally towards skier's right, and eventually joined our up tracks. I noticed more than one skier's down tracks, so that means none of them were gonna do Vermillion. Grant's snowshoes were too small and he constantly fell in to waist deep. He also didn't have snow baskets on poles... So to travel easier, he had to follow our uptracks down, which slowed down quite a bit. I could just float down the powder snow and that was also easier on the knees. Lower down the slope, the little trees created some problems to us. Both of us constantly fell into weak spots and thus post-holed to waist deep. We still had enough of daylight time so we decided to take our time and descend our uptracks, and eventually made back to car.

I would never thought of successing on both Vermillion and Haffner in early January, on the 4th day in a roll of intense snowshoeing, but this day I did it!

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Steven Song
 
Eagle Mountain
Dec 12, 2012

It was hard to choose my objective for the second day. The ski ascent of Monarch Ramparts was pretty ...more

tiring and I also had a plan to do Pumpkin Traverse with Ben the day after. So I was looking for something short and easy. I really wanted to ski up Eagle Mountain but in December, there wouldn't be enough snow on the upper slope. I certainly wouldn't want to slog up that slope on ski boots. Actually I would do that if the Skoki trip wasn't on schedule. On this particular day, what I needed was a success by the most efficient and energy saving way. I'm definitely more familiar with my Lightning Ascent snowshoes + winter boots, versus AT skis + ski boots.

Another concern for this peak is, the lower slope belongs to Sunshine Village ski resort, and you have to either ski up or snowshoe up the ski runs. This could be dangerous and I didn't know if that legal or not. Failing because of getting caught by a ski patrol is definitely not something I was looking for. So I had to do a head-lamp start to beat the ski lift.

It was hard to wake up in a cold morning at 6AM, but I had to do so. I quickly made my way in Banff MacDonald and got warmed up a bit. The next thing was to scrape off the ice on my windshield. It took me 10min... Then I drove to Sunshine Village, and started the day at 7:10. There were at least 10 snowmobiles passing me on the way in. An hour later, I arrived at Goat's Eye chair lift. Good thing no one was working at the lift at this time of the day, or they could prevent me from going up the ski runs.

The next hour was definitely snowshoeer's dream. I ascended straight up the "Super Model" black diamond run, which is directly beneath the chairlift. 35 degree slope on compacted snow. It felt like going upstairs.

Upon exiting this black run, I ascended more towards climber's left and then up "Upper Free Fall" blue run. I didn't go all the way up to the upper terminal, instead crossed the ski area boundary and ascended more on climber's left side. I could manage to use snow and keep my snowshoes on. Higher up, I broke through the clouds and got about 5min inversion scenery. I thought it was gonna be another gorgeous day, but I was wrong. A few minutes later, I was back in the clouds. No view on the summit... I stayed for at least 15min hoping the clouds could lift up, but it never did.

Descending was fast. I took off snowshoes and it was very easy on the knees, in no time I made back to the ski run. The snow was very compacted and I could keep descending without snowshoes. At the top of Super Model run, I took out my axe and had an awesome glissade. Everybody on the chairlift was looking down at me and wondering what the heck this guy was doing... The rest of the day was an easy walk down the ski out. Next time when I head back for Brewster Rock, I'll definitely do it on skis. No excuse..

Round Trip time: 4 hours.

Since I made back by 11AM, I had the entire afternoon free. I did manage to review for the chemistry final exam, which would be 2 days later..

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Steven Song
 
Monarch Ramparts
Dec 11, 2012

As a student, the final exam period is usually the busiest, but if you study well during the term, h ...more

aving 6 exams over 15 days means more flexibility. Having a 3-day break between two exams, I found myself driving down Highway 2 again. I got my AT skis about 1 month ago, and I've been practicing downhill skiing at city resort since then, so I was looking forward to a ski ascent. Monarch Ramparts sounds like a perfect objective. Really? It's a long way in..

According to the Gem Trek Map, the Healy Pass Trailhead is at the far back end of Sunshine Village parking lot, and thus, I made the big mistake right at the start of the day... The trailhead is definitely not at the back end, and it's just the same as Sunshine Village ski-in. The trails split up about 0.5km uphill... Well, I followed the wrong track for about 20min, and it gets narrower and narrower, becomes more bushy, and climbs sharply uphill towards a icy waterfall... Man, that must be the trail for ice climbers... I wasted about 40min, and got back on track at almost 10am... This is definitely not a good timing for a December ascent..

Getting back on track, the skiing became much easier on packed trail. The Healy Pass trail is easy to follow and very flat. I did definitely move faster on skis compared to snowshoeing, but I also started to feel the multiple blisters on my feet and legs about only a few kilometers in.. And I was pretty much suffering from the pain for the rest of the day, and the following two days.. Well, unless getting injured, having a few blisters isn't a good enough reason to stop me having a successful trip..

The weather was very different from expected. It was snowing pretty much all day, and visibility was bad too. After skiing in for a long time, I came to a camp site, and checking out my map, oh man, I wasn't even finishing half of the approach.. Now I started to feel the distance of this trip. Indeed, it's 9km one way just to get to Healy Pass, and after that, you still have an hour to go. Keeping marching on, I passed Simpson Pass turnoff, and eventually I made to Healy Meadows. Again, the view was bad but I did got the first view of my objective. Instead of going to Healy Pass and then traversing horizontally, I started to look for a short-cut which could save some time and energy. The trail also disappeared at the meadows so there's no advantage to follow the supposed route anyway. I started to travel straight ahead towards Monarch Ramparts, aiming for a less steep area. The heavy duty trail-breaking also began here. Skiing over a gentle hill, I arrived at the base of my objective.

I could easily pick up a line through the steep slope and this could save me 1-2km overall distance. The slope was pretty steep and I had to ascend on switchbacks, rather than straight up. Once on the ridge, I still could keep my skis on, over a few up-and-downs, and eventually I entered the clouds. Visibility was reduced to less than 20 meters. I felt like having traversed for a long time, and seeing the terrain ahead was down-hill, I decided to call it a day. I took out my map, and according to the distance I had to travel, I must be at the summit plateau. I ditched skis and walked on foot for another 100m or so, and couldn't see a higher bump ahead. It was also pretty windy so I headed back down quickly, without a necessary summit stay.

The weather cleared up a bit once I lost some elevation, and I took my first break of the day before taking off the skins. The ski run down the big slope was pretty fun. I had to say skiing on powder snow is very different from skiing in the resort. I felt skiing in resort to be faster but easier to do turns. Once the fun thing was over, the long trudge back Healy Creek was tediously long. I must spend more time dealing with uphill sections rather than enjoying the downhills. It was very frustrating and tiring. I thought about getting the skins back on but if doing so I wouldn't get the essential practice. Eventually I made back to the Sunshine Village ski out and the last 0.5km was awesome.

Round Trip time: 7 hours.

I don't know if I can beat 7 hours on snowshoes but it should be close. This was my first ski ascent and I felt hurt on several muscle groups, especially my hips, not to say the multiple blisters I got. But I did enjoy the down-hill parts which is very important. Last year, I got perfect weather on Twin Cairns and Wawa Ridge, so I know what I've been missing from this trip. I'll definitely come back to Healy Pass again, and I will do the peak north of the pass, and name it as Healy Pass Peak. It's higher than Monarch Ramparts.

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Steven Song
 
Storm Mountain
Aug 12, 2012

I was quite tired after finishing Fisher Peak the day before, so I was looking for a shorter objecti ...more

ve. Kevin Papke and I were originally planning on Wapta Mountain... According to Vern, So, and Dow's trip reports, this mountain is very serious. The summit block is rated as 5.4 rock climb but has a not-so-clear bypass. Obviously Kevin wasn't prepared for this kinda difficulty so as we discussed about it on the drive in, we decided to change to an easier objective. Kevin wanted to do Wapta with rope and climbing shoes. We re-scheduled it to Wednesday and he can teach me roped work as well. So, we decided to do Storm Banff.... Easy?? No!!! It turned out to be the worst scramble I've done in Kane List so far..

Because of the last-minute change of plan, I didn't do any preparation on Storm Mountain. I didn't know there's even a trail on the left hand side of the main drainage... We met 4 scramblers from Edmonton at the parking lot, but we decided to go separately. They went ahead of us so they could help us scaring away the bears. Kevin and I started the bushwhacking soon after the start. We traversed diagonally up until crossing a small drainage. We crossed it according to Kane's book, and then ascended straight up on its right side. The next half hour was to negotiate a thousand of deadfalls... This isn't the worst bushwhacking I've done, as the descent gully of Southfork Mountain is really hard to beat... But it's definitely the worst bushwhacking I've done in Kane List. Kevin has done Inglismaldie and he said this part is even worse... Higher up, the bush got less dense and we started traversing more towards climber's right. Eventually we reached the main drainage and we re-grouped with the other 4 scramblers.

We took a short energy break and soon started the trudge up the gully. It's very foreshortened... It took us a while to get to the upper part where we should leave the gully and traverse more towards climber's right. We went too far up and as a result, we had to negotiate a giant boulder field (some of the boulders are car sized)... Good thing was, the rocks were generally stable at this point, as we quickly made ourselves to the upper bowl, the official start of scree bashing...

The initial part of the scree wasn't too bad for going up. It was mainly a rubble slog, but as we went higher and higher, the terrain got steeper and steeper, and the rubble slope became more and more unstable... Three of us (we grouped together, so 6 of us total) didn't bring poles.. Oh man, they really had a hard time slogging up this stuffs without a pair of poles. It was the first scramble for one of the group members... I don't think Storm Mountain is a good choice for introducing someone into scramble. You need something easy going, short, and scenic to introduce beginners. As we went up, we started to see an alpine tarn near treeline. If not because of the deadfalls, we should have give it a visit on the way down..

We could see storm was building up in Lake Louise area, and Kevin and I decided to go on ourselves as we didn't want to be turned back due to thunderstorm... We cut climber's left to gain the broad scree gully in Kane's book. It was okay at the beginning, but higher up, the terrain got looser and looser... Anything could move, no matter how large the boulder is... The entire mountain is unstable. We managed to get to the base of the rock cliff where we could get better grip. Higher up, in order to avoid more scree, we did an optional moderate to difficult scramble section to get up a step. The view was very foreshortened and after that, we still had lots of elevation to go before topping out on the ridge. At least the views were good. One thing I didn't realize was, Storm Mountain is even higher than Stanley Peak. Eventually we topped out on the ridge, and surprisingly we still had a good amount of work to do... Again, the view is foreshortened and the final push on the summit plateau isn't pleasant especially just after doing all of those miserable stuffs. Finally, finally, we made to the top. The views were amazing towards each direction, and that made up for the miserable ascent.

We didn't stay long as soon started the descent. Usually the looseness helps on the way down, but this mountain is an exception. The loose ground is too shallow. It was mainly a loose layer on down-sloping slabs and the slabs are not stable as well. Nothing is stable. We took our time and descent parallel to each other. Apart from the thousands of rocks we knocked down, a microwave sized rock was dislodged and we watched it bouncing down for hundreds of meters... I also tumbled down for 5m due to scree covered slab... At the end of the gully / ramp, we managed to catch up the other 4 scramblers. They turned around due to the looseness. Turning around on this mountain really sucks, but I have to say they actually made a good call. Not to say the lack of experience and poles, having 4 in one group you really have to bring a helmet... The ground got better as we got down. We regrouped together again and slowly moved back through the boulder field. Now we were down to the main drainage.

We decided to follow the drainage down for as much as we could, and that turned out to be a really good call.. Initially we had to negotiate more deadfalls but soon we managed to find a trail!! We could follow the trail almost all the way down.... Oh okay, looks like we did lots of extra work on the way up.. Before reaching the highway, we had to cross a river. Kevin didn't mind to wet his boots so he just plunged through, while I bushwhacked on my side for a while to find a good spot to cross. Fortunately I did spot on deadfall which prevented me from wetting my boots. Once on the other side of the river / stream, I was only about 15m from the highway. However, this 15m proved to be the most tedious bushwhacking of the day. 3m high alders + deadfalls, I had to really push through a way to cross. We walked back the final hundreds of meters on Highway back to car. Overall, except for summitting this major mountain and the views, nothing is enjoyable. On the other hand, if you don't like exposure and hands-on but you like good views, you might actually enjoy this peak though. Oh by the way, on the way up, you should try to find the trail...

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Steven Song
 
Mount Edith N & S
Jul 21, 2012

My original plan was to join Wil Tabak for Mount Lougheed I-III Traverse, an "official" climber's sc ...more

ramble with a 5th class step in Andrew Nugara's scrambling book. The weather forecast predicted sunny and windless, and we decided to meet at Canmore at 6AM in the morning. However, when I woke up, I saw low clouds everywhere, and Mount Lougheed was covered in clouds. We briefly talked about the moderate route up, but Wil wanted something more challenging. Also, if doing the alternate route, we would miss the first peak, which is significantly enough to call for a separate summit. However, we still found ourselves driving up Smith Dorrien Road towards Lougheed... That's because, we'd like to trust weather forecast and believe that the sky would clear in 2-3 hours... Okay, we arrived at the correct drainage of Lougheed traverse, and found the entire upper mountain was soaked in clouds. Okay, we could just take a chance (on the success) and go up, and very likely, be turned back by weather. This is definitely not my way of peak-bagging. We kinda agreed with the situation and discussed about the alternative plans. As Wil wanted something challenging, I pointed out either McGillivray or Mount Edith, and he agreed with Edith, so we drove all the way back to Canmore, then to Banff...

Usually when you change your plan at the last minute, you're very likely to make mistake on trip planning part. By the time we arrived at Cory Pass TH (Mt Edith TH), I realized I left several things in my car, helmet, Alan Kane book, and sunglasses... At least I didn't forget camera. Wil didn't bring Kane book neither. Oh well, let's just find our own way up. I could vaguely remember other people's trip report but that wasn't reliable. What I could remember was: Go up to Cory Pass, scramble up the N. summit while going through a steep chimney, traverse to center peak. Going to south peak requires squeezing through a tunnel. Wil was optimistic because he thought for every Kane peak, there will be a beaten path or lots of cairns.

Honestly, I was more concerning about not having a helmet, rather than the route description, especially for loose rock difficult scramble like Edith. Anyway, we started the trudge up Cory Pass Trail, and took the left branch upon reaching the first and only intersection. From a hiker's perspective, this trail is quite steep, especially the initial kilometer or so. For some reason, maybe the weather, I felt very short on energy. My legs' muscles were stiff and I had to go slower. Probably I should do more warm-up next time, but I rarely have the same problem in the past trips without warming up. I think everybody will have some bad days though. When I finally started to see Mount Cory towards west, the steep part was done. Due to the clouds, the view along this trail wasn't breathe-taking as described on other sources. With the peak in mind, we marched on.

The impressive Mount Louis suddenly showed up when we topped out on Cory Pass. "That's the therapy", said by Wil. Yes, agree! If you really want to see the impressive rock formation in Sawback Range, I highly suggest you to go up Cory Pass. Now I know why so many people like this trail! I took a short break while eating a muffin, and we soon started the upper section. Wil was correct, there was indeed a beaten path leading us up, all the way to the base of a cliff band, then it disappeared. Now what, both of us didn't know what was the correct chimney to go up. I took the center line and saw a very steep and narrow chimney (actually the correct one). But I turned back and I wanted to see how's the other side. Wil found a cairn towards climber's right and we followed to the col between 1st and 2nd peak. There's another chimney on this side... Okay, since there were cairns, we decided to took this one. We then followed the ridge line up for another 10-20m or so, while overcoming moderate to difficult terrain. Damn... This shouldn't be the right way man, the terrain ahead of us was extremely exposed and overhanging. I wanted to just re-trace our steps back to the col, but Wil was able to find another chimney which could bring us directly down. Okay, I just followed. I would say this is about the same level of difficulty as the correct chimney.

We still didn't feel like going up the correct chimney, and we wanted to check out climber's left first. We traversed around over slightly exposed ledges and found a broad gully on that side. It definitely looked much better than the steep narrow chimney though, and we started trudging up that gully. Since I was below Wil, I kept my eye more on him. I need to point out here, even if you have a helmet, rock fall danger is still high on this loose crappy gully, therefore Kane's chimney is better. We already tried to avoid kicking down rocks to each other (both of us didn't use helmet, I didn't know if Wil also forgot his), but there were still lots of loose stuff being knocked down including several basketball-sized rocks. After this part, it's only 5min away from the summit of North Peak. However, to get there, we had to step over a half-meter crack. You can jump over it as well. But if slipping into that crack, you would be in a really bad shape... The clouds didn't lift up at all, instead the ceiling actually lowered down. We lost our view towards SE side... Glad we didn't go up Mount Lougheed...

We didn't linger long because our objective is the traverse, not just the north (true) summit. We were able to find the correct chimney mentioned in Kane's book. It's steep and narrow, but you also have lots of holds so it wasn't too bad. Considering the low exposure level, Wil thought it's more like moderate. I would say it's lower difficult, as the nearby Mount Norquay is even easier.. Follow the beaten path, we soon arrived at the north-center col. To get to center peak, we followed the trail skirting around the first cliff band on climber's left, on slightly exposed ledges. The ledges look exposed from north peak, but when we got there, it wasn't bad at all. Then we had to trudge up another loose gully, better than the one we just did though. From the center peak, we could have a better perspective of our next objective, the south peak. It looks intimidating from this angle, not much better than Louis... We were surprised to find a register on this peak. I think it has to be replaced to the true summit (north peak)...

Also, to get to south summit, we had to lose a lot of elevation. We were able to find the steep gully leading to center-south col. From above, this one looks just the same as the previous two, but when we got into it, we found it's not as loose. Good. There was even a good scree run on the lower part, which was a bonus for our knees. The south summit is rated more difficult by Kane, and a narrow tunnel is involved. Since we had to go back the same way, I just left my backpack at the col. Following the obvious path up, the tunnel is the first obstacle we encountered. Kane mentions your size factor, but what... If your size is a factor here, then you shouldn't be hiking lol... The tunnel is wide enough, and also considerably easier than the steep chimney on north peak. There were tens of cairns after the tunnel, and route-finding wasn't a problem for the rest. The cairns led us traversing climber's right then up, and we were soon facing the next obstacle, a 3m high slight overhanging step. For me, coming down this step is the crux of the day (which is on the way back). The holds are solid, but because of the overhanging factor, you need some techniques or strong arm, or long legs. The consequence of falling is minimal, but like I said earlier, you need strength for this step. Personally, I feel this type of stuff harder.

Kane mentions that the upper ridge to the summit is exposed. Well, the ridge is wide enough. Mount Rundle's dragon's back is more exposed than this part, and that is rated as easy... Okay, minutes later, we reached the summit, which surprisingly also has a register. I saw impressive names like Barry Blanchard. The clouds also started to lift and allowed me to take a full panorama.

Wil likes to go down by a different way, but not this time though, as I left my pack at the center-south col. So we retraced our steps down. As I mentioned earlier, coming down that overhanging step was harder as a long reach was required. Even though the holds were solid, I still couldn't trust them 100%, especially after all of those loose stuffs on this mountain. Wil did it more comfortably, and I did it okay. Compared to the climbs on Mount Pierre Elliot Trudeau last weekend, this is not a challenge. We came straight down from center-south col towards Cory Pass trail. Once on the trail, we saw tens of hikers. Oh yeah, it's Saturday with good forecast... The sky finally cleared up and we were able to take some nice photos of Bow Valley, Mt Rundle, and Mt Norquay.

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Steven Song
 
Mount Aylmer
Jul 7, 2012

Mount Aylmer is my major objective of this trip. I messaged several friends but they all had other p ...more

lans. Soloing this mountain is a bit nervous because of the lengthy approach in active grizzly country, but considering the group size restriction starting at July 10th, I couldn't wait for another week. I can imagine how hard to gather 4 experienced and fit scramblers on Aylmer, with no bike approach (I won't do any biking unless someone from Edmonton has a bigger car that can take my bike. I have to sleep in my already-small-car. If I really want the peak done, I won't care about approaching on foot or on bike, skis or snowshoes, walking or post-holing. I have a very high tolerance about lengthy approaches and long days). Also, gathering 4 people together requires arranging weeks ahead of time. Mt Aylmer is one of the peaks I'm really caring about the views, because there's simply no other objectives in that area. If you care about the view, you gotta have to be weather wise, if so, planing weeks ahead isn't smart. If the weather turns bad you have to cancel, and then all of your partners will be pissed off. Okay, that's my theory though.

Despite the very-long-day-description in Kane's book, I didn't feel like doing an early start. Last week I did a trip of 43km distance 3700m elevation gain in less than 16 hours, so a trip of 35km distance 2000m total elevation gain shouldn't take me more than 12 hours. Therefore I slept in a bit and started at 8:30AM. The first 8km approach along Lake Minnewanka shoreline trail isn't a piece of cake. I didn't know there were so many up-and-downs including a big hill with about 150m elevation. If adding these gains both on the way in and out, you gotta have to do at least 300m more elevation. Bringing a bike can reduce the pain but the trail is narrow, rocky, rooty and rough. I don't know if I can bike comfortably on this terrain as I've only done biking in city. 1 hour and 40 minute later, I arrived at campground Lm8, where the trail to Aylmer Pass branches off. Due to sun direction, the views in the morning is not breath-taking. The best view is towards the east face of Mount Rundle.

I was yelling during the past 1.5 hours on Lake Minnewanka Trail, and now, I have to yell at a much more frequent pace. Compared with Lake Minnewanka Trail, Aylmer Pass Trail is much more less traveled. Seeing those signs just made me more nervous. Normally if you don't surprise a bear it won't attack you (unless it has been fed on human food), so making lots of noise is the best weapon. I yelled about once in every 10-15 seconds. Upon reaching the Aylmer Lookout Junction, I decided to take the faster way up, which is via Aylmer Pass. Yes it's a faster way, but I soon realized that this trail leads you to a more active grizzly country. Oh well, at least I knew I would be out of the trees in 40min, so not too bad.

Yes 40min later, I reached a huge avalanche gully, according to Alan Kane, I had to leave the trail and ascend this gully. There was supportive snow in it. I didn't yell that often but I still had to yell, because of the huge grassy slope ahead. Life became a game of slog since here. It was mainly a steep slog up endless slope to the summit. I suggest you to divide the game into several pieces. At the end of game 1, you gotta be treated with the first full view to Lake Minnewanka. During game 3, you can see most of the unnamed peaks towards NW (part of Palliser Range). The downclimb in game 4 requires difficult move on down-sloping and overhanging ledges, friction move, definitely not a moderate by any means. The final slog in game 5 requires 40min so be mentally prepared.

1. slog up avalanche gully followed by grassy slope on climber's right to ridge crest
2. slog up brown scree to the saddle (where different color rocks meet)
3. slog up talus and boulder fields to the difficult down-climb
4. down-climb rock bands (difficult scramble for one of them)
5. slog up the final 300+ meters to the summit

Finally, after 6 hours trudging, I stood on the summit of Mount Aylmer, a peak more than 3100m elvation. The views are awesome as I could look down at most stuff, but mostly unnamed peaks though. The most imposing feature towards East is Devil's Head in Gohst River area. Towards south is Lake Minnewanka, Mt Giouard, and Mt Inglismaldie. Familiar 11,000ers like Assiniboine and Temple are also visible. Anyone interested in doing Inglismaldie in late September please email me. It's miserable, but a major mountain in Banff area that should be on any peak bagger's list. The view was a bit smoky. I don't think that's because of forest fire, but rather the high humidity of the air. The register was placed in 2005, and there are not so many ascents since then. Lots of familiar names.

I stayed 40min on the summit soaking in the views before descending. Coming down the summit block was fast. I skirted around the difficult section on the way back, side-sloping on the scree and boulders. It's just an easy scramble, but again, I suggest you to take the difficult route at least on the way up, assuming you have the skill to handle it. I chose the Aylmer Lookout trail on the way back. The ridge went on forever, and the trail on teh ridge was in very bad shape. Lots of dead falls to negotiate. Despite that, this route is much more scenic than the direct route. Once at the lookout, a good trail led me back to the major Aylmer Pass trail, where I was joined by two other hikers. We hiked down together to the campground Lm8. It was a sunny Saturday night so there were lots of bikers and campers around, so I was not worrying about bears by this time.

I didn't speed on the last 8km back, but rather took time taking photos of Lake Minnewanka and Mt Inglismaldie. The afternoon and evening sun is much better for shooting them. This week is my first trip to Banff area in this year, so not surprisingly I was amazed by how many people there around the lake shore. Round trip time 11.5 hours including all of the stops.

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Steven Song
 
Mount Norquay
Jul 6, 2012

After a month of wet and questionable weather, a full sunny week comes in early July. Okay, time to ...more

go bag peaks then. On Friday, I found myself driving south towards the Rockies. Given a late start, I would only have about 5-6 hours of daylight time, so I didn't have many options to go. I could have climbed things like Door Jamb to Loder Peak, but it's time to head further west and leave the very front peaks for off-season, right?

I was told that Mount Norquay is short but fun, so I decided to give it a try. One thing I have to point out here is, the mosquitos are out on full force. I didn't bring a bug spray and I suffered from that. On the lower slope, you have to ascent about 400m up a steep ski run, which surprisingly has a faint trail up. However, if you decide to stop for a few seconds, for example, taking pictures, there will be about more than 10 mosquitos ready to suck your blood.... Okay man. Under the 30 degree temperature + humidity, I had to dress in long pants and long shirt.

Once getting to the upper terminal of the lift, you have two choices, which are well described in Alan Kane's book. If you go for the gully, you will be doing the first crux (harder than the actual crux) soon. It's not terribly steep, nor exposed, however, the problem is you don't have good holds, especially when water is running. I had to trust finger holds for at least 1 move. Once clearing the first crux, you gonna face a steep and loose gully. This is the way up though. The ground is somewhat the worst type of terrain, loose dirt, clay, and little scree on firm ground. Use caution here.

Topping out on the ridge, you will be surprised that how much of distance you still have to travel. I didn't see the bypass of East peak, mentioned on Vern's site, so I just followed the ridge crest. However, before the east peak, you have to go over a miner bump which involves the second crux. This one involves an exposed 2m traverse followed by climbing up a steep slabby crack. You don't need to use finger holds here, but the holds are still minimal. Once up the crux, I was surprised that this isn't the east summit. A slight dip followed by steep moderate scrambles leads to the east summit. There's a cairn but no register on it.

To get to the west summit, you have about 150m elevation loss towards a saddle. From the saddle, it's mainly moderate terrain to the summit, however, I had to overcome the third crux. Kane mentions a traverse horizontally towards climber's right below the summit block, well, a snow filled gully blocked my way. Crossing this gully without an ice axe was a bit skechy. The snow wasn't too hard though, but if I sliped, I would be sent all the way down. If you don't like this, the direct line up the west summit is at least upper difficult. After the gully crossing, the summit isn't far. I tried to find a register for about 5 minute, but failed. I had no clue where that thing went.

I didn't stay long because of time issue. Onc thing for a difficult scramble is, you'd better retrace your step on the way back, unless you're 100% sure about the alternate route (which is the east peak bypass in this case). I couldn't see an obvious trail nor line contouring around so I re-ascended the east peak (which was tiring). Climbing down the 2nd crux was easier than ascending as lowering your body is always easier than pulling up. Decending the loose gully requires patience. You don't want to speed or you will fall. There won't be any consequence if you fall, but I just don't like the feeling of banana-pilling on a scree route. I bypassed the 1st crux on the way down, which is definitely easier but I still suggest you to as least take the waterfall way for ascending, for more enjoyable scrambling. Decending the ski run is a test for your knees.

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Steven Song
 
Stony Squaw Mountain
Dec 23, 2011

I combined this mountain with Sulphur Mountain to make a day. It’s very short, and before hiking, yo ...more

u already drive up most of the elevation gain on Mt. Norquay Ski Area Access Road. Since the trail is well used, snowshoes are not required. The views are also very limited. This mountain is like the twin mountain of Tunnel Mountain, guarding Banff. Well, if you say Tunnel Mountain is the kid of Mt. Rundle, than Stony Squaw Mountain must be the kid of Cascade Mountain. Now, I’ve completed all four.

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Steven Song
 
Sanson's Peak
Dec 23, 2011

This mountain is a relatively small mountain located in between Sundance Range and Mt. Rundle, overl ...more

ooking Banff townsite. However, due to the Banff Gondola, this is also one of the most frequently visited mountains in the entire park. The trail up this mountain is relatively flat due to the endless switchbacks. In winter, since it’s snow covered, it’s very energy consuming without cleats. So after one hour, I decided to use snowshoes which have good crampon systems, to save some energy. The trail itself is relatively boring, because it’s below the treeline. But when crossing the Gondola line, the view opens up a bit, towards Mt. Rundle and Spray River Valley. At the top of the Gondola Lift, a 0.6km boardwalk leads to the summit, which is called Sansan’s Peak, where a Cosmic Ray Observation Station is built. You do get a full panorama view from the summit, but since I’ve done Cascade Mountain, Mt. Rundle, and Tunnel Mountain, the summit view offers nothing very spectacular. The weather wasn’t perfect, as Mt. Aylmer, Mt. Inglismaldie, Mt. Giouard, and Massive Range were hidden in the clouds.

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Steven Song
 
Twin Cairns
Dec 22, 2011

In the second day of my Christmas adventure, I decided to do a real snowshoe objective, that is, Twi ...more

n Cairns. It is one of the must-do objectives of skiers and snowshoe-ers. I had no idea how fast I can walk with the snowshoes especially when post-holing on the unsupportive snow, so I decided to take a gondola ride to Sunshine Village, to save the 6.5km boring hike with 500m elevation gain. This also saved me lots of time, in other words, without taking the gondola, I probably wouldn’t summit Wawa Ridge nor Mt. Standish. Sunshine Village, one of the three ski areas in Banff National Park, is one of the most frequently visited ski paradises in Canada, and probably, in the world. Indeed, I saw hundreds of skiers on that day, but few of them ventured into backcountry. To get to Twin Cairns, I had to snowshoe up directly beneath Wawa Chair Lift, and then cross the backcountry border. After venturing into backcountry, the snow hadn’t been touched by others, and things became bad. As in December, the early season of skiing and snowshoeing, the snow was very unsupportive. I had to give my snowshoes an extension of 5’, but even with the “tails”, I stil had to post-hole almost all the way to the wind blown upper ridge. Instead of following the guide book’s route, I chose to directly aim the northwest skyline ridge, then directly ascend the true summit. There was avalanche danger on one section. The book's route is safer but longer. After gaining the final ridge, the wind became considerably stronger. Then it’s a mix of snowshoing and scrambling. I climbed up to a small outlier first, which involves a moderate step. But the climb to true summit is more serious, since I had to cross a steep snow slope, followed by a narrow ridge with drop-off on one side and steep snow slope on the other side. Approaching from south ridge (the normal route) will not give these problems. On the summit, you get a full panorama view towards each direction. Mt. Assniboine is do doubt the majectic one, so is Mt. Ball and The Monarch. To the south, Mt. Bourgeau dominates the view. The day continues with the ascent of Wawa Ridge. See next album.

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Steven Song
 
Wawa Ridge
Dec 22, 2011

After finishing Twin Cairns, it’s time to head to my second objective of the day, Wawa Ridge. The we ...more

ather cooperates very well. Compared to Twin Cairns, Wawa Ridge is a lot easier, due to its popularity. I would only say this small summit can only be called a slack country summit, since it’s a lot closer to the ski resort. The skiers had already set the tracks for me, so I didn’t need to do trail breaking nor route finding. The snow on the ridge got wind blown, so it’s a pleasant walk to the summit. The views are similar to Twin Cairn, but since this summit aligns with the Sunshine Approach Road and Bow Valley, I could see Banff Townsite.
After Wawa Ridge, I still had time, so I decided to get another peak done, namely, Mt. Standish. I wonder why this is called a mountain, because it doesn’t look like a mountain at all. Although this small hump has elevation of 2398m, it only rises above the adjacent Sunshine Meadows 150m or so. Also, Mt. Standish sits right in frontcountry, as the chair lift can take you directly to the summit. I think the name “Standish Lookout” is more appropriate. But anyway, since Sunshine Village calls it a mountain, I got another mountain done. Combined with Twin Cairns, the round trip time is 6.5 hours.

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Steven Song
 
Tunnel Mountain
Dec 21, 2011

Since I still have daylight time after finishing Ha Ling and Miner’s Peaks, I decided to check this ...more

mountain off my to-do-list. It’s probably the lowest bump that is named as a mountain in Banff. It’s just located beside Banff townsite. Since the summit is below treeline, the view is limited. But during the sunset hours, I still got great views towards the surrounding giants, including Mt. Rundle and Cascade Mountain, two classic scrambles.

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Steven Song
 
Mount Rundle
Aug 28, 2011

This is my 2nd try on Mount Rundle. The first try was on July 25th, we turned around after Dragon's ...more

Back due to complete exhaustion and the incoming weather. After the 11 hours lengthy trip on Cascade Mountain the day before, non of us wanted an early start. We discussed other possible objectives, but too bad I didn't have any route information other than Mount Rundle. I didn't have Alan Kane Book by that time. Oh well, we started the ascent at 10AM in the morning.

The parking lot isn't obvious. You follow Bow Falls road, cross the river, then you'll see a golf course on your right. The parking lot is a pull-off on the right side. We walked down the road for another 100-200m, and look for trail head sign. This trail is considerably steeper than the nearby Cascade Amphitheatre Trail. I felt extremely short on energy at the start and I had to stop and rest for every few minutes or so. Good thing was, this problem didn't last long. After the trail turns right and paralleling the base of the mountain, you gonna have to cover 3km on this section. It went on forever before the first switchback. Then it's endless switchbacks.. After this section, you traverse horizontally towards climber's right again, crossing 2 miner gullies, and then you're at the main gully.

We carefully crossed the gully to the other side, looking for flaggings. Beyond this point, the trail is unmaintained and steep. The forested ridge section is surprisingly long. Once above treeline, we had to focus on the endless scree above. The view was good, but not breathe-taking. Oh yeah, there's nothing special about Sulphur Mountain (which occupies most of our view at this point). Mom awkwardly followed us up a few hundred meters and decided to stop and call for a day. She was very uncomfortable on the loose ground. She was afraid that, if she slipped she would slide down the entire face...

Dad was helping mom so he also fell behind quite a bit. Considering he had made through Dragon's Back on our first try, I didn't wait for him but continued by myself. By this point, I was speeding up quite a bit, and soon I reached Dragon's Back. This is definitely the crux of the ascent and any scrambler who is not comfortable on exposure will find it challenging. The narrowest section is about 1.5m wide on slabby terrain, with shear drop-off on both sides. Because this was my second time up here, I quickly made through. Now what, endless scree slog. The higher I went up, the looser the ground was. No footing is solid, and I had to hands-down for balance regularly. Near the summit ridge, the terrain got steeper and a bit rockier. I sticked to rock to avoid further scree bashing, and soon I made to the summit ridge. I waited for about 20min for dad to show up. There's a huge wind shelter and we stayed for about half an hour soaking the view. Towards east is a shear cliff down all the way to Bow River, one mile down. Cascade Mountain looks impressive towards north. The summit is an easy 5min walk from this point, but we didn't continue. We were all satisfied and our goal was mainly too see the views. Considering the amount of effort I put into, I still call it a successful summit day, and this way, I don't need to do all of these painful things again :)

Coming down the loose scree was much faster and easier. We quickly ran down the scree to the slabby Dragon's Back. Going down that section requires more caution, and we made through with no incidence. We re-joined mom at lower slope and we slowly made down to treeline. Now, a not-so-pleasant hike brought us eventually back to car. I was extremely beat and I couldn't even walk properly after dinner... Dad did most of the drive back home.

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Steven Song
 
Cascade Mountain
Aug 27, 2011

Taking advantage of the last few days before university life, my parents and I decided to go to the ...more

mountains again. This time, we were planning on something bigger, namely Cascade Mountain and Mount Rundle. Compared to what I had done before, these are more technical. Cascade Mountain is my first scramble that's rated as moderate.

We woke up at 2:30AM and started the lengthy drive towards Banff. Dad and I took turns driving so it wasn't too bad. We made to trailhead just after 7AM, where we met another scrambler, Judy. Because this was my first moderate scramble, I wasn't confident on it at all so we grouped together. Judy had done Cascade Mountain 4 times so she knew exactly what we were doing. Plus, being in a group of 4 is much safer in terms of bear issue.

From the parking lot, we had to walk down the Mount Norquay Ski Resort to its end, Mystery Chair. The trail starts at the back. Initially, we had to lose 100m elevation to Forty Mile Creek. This gave us a quick and easy start, but on the other hand, we had to gain them back at the end of the day... Oh well... What I can remember now is, the trail goes on forever to reach Cascade Amphitheater. It has endless unnecessary switchbacks. I think people who use this trail are all going to scramble Cascade Mountain, so what's the point of making such a flat trail...

Eventually we made to Cascade Amphitheater. Looking around, there was no bear. Good. We picked up a side trail that looks like the one going up the shoulder. There're several of them and they all lead up the shoulder. Be sure don't venture further back into the cirque or you'll be cliffed out. We followed the shoulder up for quite a while before breaking the treeline. Now we were treated with the view of Sawback Range, Bow Valley, and Mt. Rundle. Louis looks impressive. We took an energy break at treeline.

The trail quickly gets faint and eventually disappears into a giant boulder field. The correct route is to ascend the boulder field straight up towards the 1st peak. For us, we followed cairns side-sloping around the peak, over endless boulders. Some of them are very unstable so we had to use extreme caution. This was my first time negotiating boulder field and I wasn't very comfortable at all. But since I was leading I couldn't show any fear :) We managed to pick up paths and followed it around the first peak to its back side. Now we were looking towards the false summit.

I waited for the rest of the group for about 20min (can't remember exactly) before re-grouping towards the false summit. We soon separated again as they were getting slower. I was getting more and more comfortable so I did the rest of the ascent by myself. Judy knew the route so she could guide my parents up anyway.. Okay, as a member of a team, you should not leave your companies behind. I did the same thing again on Mount Temple one month later and almost resulted in serious consequence... Okay, back to the trip. I followed paths up the grassy slope towards the false summit. This section is a bit foreshortened, and it took me a good amount of time to get to hidden notch. According to the route description, there're several short down-climbs involved. Once around a corner, the entire route behind is hidden, and that's why it's called "hidden notch". There're multiple paths and they all work. Soon I made to the base of false summit, and I could easily spot the horizontal path that I had to aim for. However, to get there, I had to cross a very polished slab section. The path goes right onto the slab and obviously I couldn't. I wasn't comfortable at all on terrain without paths. I awkwardly moved up talus slope on climber's left to avoid the polished part and got back on track. There're several slabby sections involved after this part.

Once around the corner, I could see the normal crux of the route, the second part of false summit traverse. There's a dirt path goes below the cliff, with steep terrain on the right side. It wasn't that bad once you get closer though. The dirt ground is a bit slippery and I proceeded with caution. And soon I made through the crux traverse and I could focus on the final summit ridge push now.

I climbed up a rock outcrop but had to down-climbed the other side. The path goes on climber's left of it. The rest of the way is mostly scree slog. Near the summit, the terrain gets steeper and I had to hands-down for balance and crawling. (It's funny to write trip report for your early age scramble trips, as you have a whole different perspective now but you still have to write based on your experience level at that time)...

Once at the summit, I could see Lake Minnewanka on the other side. Rundle looks not that big anymore. In the far distance, I could see Mount Assiniboine, Ball, and Temple. I found a warm spot on the east side, and had a summit nap while waiting for my party members. I don't know how long I waited. There were several groups showed up but eventually my dad and Judy showed up. Mom stopped at false summit traverse as she wasn't comfortable on exposure.

On the way down, I tried to scree run the loose summit ridge and it worked really well. Judy wasn't comfortable doing scree run and it took them forever to get down the summit ridge. We all re-joined together at the false summit corner. Further down, we got off-trail and had to cross some talus slope to re-join the path. The rest of the way down was very slow going as we got pretty beat. Eventually we managed to make to the Amphitheater. We were the first group starting in the morning, and now, almost all other scramblers had passed us on the way down, and we were the last group got down... And the suffering wasn't over yet, Mount Rundle the next day. We gotta push things on a bit.

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Steven Song
 
Mount Bourgeau
Aug 1, 2011

After finishing Tangle Ridge and Mt. Fairview in the previous two days, we decided to do something m ...more

ore challenging. Well, it was not hard in terms of difficulty, but the long approach made it demanding. My parents didn’t push themselves to the limit the day before on Mt. Fairview, hence we had good energy level to conqure this mountain. The trail head is at Bourgeau Lake Parking Lot, southwest side of Trans Canada Highway, 2.5km west of the overpass of Sunshine Ski Area, in Banff National Park. The first 7.5km of the trail is mostly in the woods, with limited view. This trail leads us to Bourgeau Lake, a popular day hiker’s destination.
We rested at Bourgeau Lake for about 15min, consuming up all the berries, cause we didn’t want to encounter grizzly bears, whose favourite food is berry. The view opened up as continuing the trail to Harvey Pass. We passed one unnamed tarn on this 1.8km trail, which was more attractive than Bourgeau Lake itself. Once reached Harvey Pass, we could see the majestic Mt. Assiniboine rises above Harvey Lake.
After reaching Harvey Pass, we had to realize that it was still 3km long with 400m elevation gain to the summit of Mt. Bourgeau. However, by this point, all of the views to the west opened up. The higher we went, the greater view we could see. At the summit, looking west, the Monarch and Mt. Ball dominate the view, and we could see as far as the Bugaboos in the Columbia Mountains. Looking north, Deltaform Mtn, Hungabee Mtn, Mt. Lefroy, Mt. Temple, and Mt. Hector rise behind the Massive Range. Looking east, Cascade Mountain and Mt. Rundle act as the guards of Banff town. Sundance Range and Mt. Assiniboine dominate the view to Southeast and South, respectively. Overall the views were awesome, and it worth the effort.

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Photos taken by Steven