Steven Song's Peak-bagging Journey

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Canmore / Bow Valley

Area around Canmore and Bow Valley, accessed by Highway 1 east of Banff park boundary. The northern part of Smith-Dorrien Road and Highway 40 also include in.

Steven Song
 
Twin Towers
Dec 2, 2012

I've been eyeing on Ben Nearingburg's website (http://www.ualberta.ca/~benn/Outdoors/#) for a while, ...more

and he eventually decided to update his contact information. Ben has done quite a few interesting ascents in Jasper area, namely Roche De Smet, Hardisty, and O'Hagan, and that's why I came across his site. We're both from Edmonton and we have similar peak-bagging style, so we should schedule a trip together. After throwing back and forth the possible objectives we decided to set our goal to the Heart Mountain - Grant MacEwan Peak - Twin Towers traverse. So we left Edmonton at 8pm on Saturday, and slept in car at trailhead.

The wind was crazy when we arrived at trailhead and if it wouldn't die off, Twin Towers wouldn't go. Our alternate plan was Mount Charles Stewart South, a 1400 vertical meters of scree slog... Fortunately the wind died off completely on Sunday morning, and we kept our original plan. I did Heart Mountain on Christmas Day in 2011, so I had some memories about the route. Apparently I forgot how slabby the route is at certain sections.. It was unusually dry last winter season (until March storms), so even with little scrambling experience I could get up Heart without much issue. But this time, there was apparently more snow on the ground, and we found the ascending to be more energy consuming than expected. Still, we didn't encounter any real difficulty until the Heart Mountain crux. Alan Kane gives this mountain a rating of easy scramble, but I would say, even if dry, this step can be very challenging for easy-scrambling-seekers. It's a 2m solid moderate to difficult step. For us, we had to deal with the new snow which made holds extremely slippery. After this bit of fun, we proceeded up overcoming moderate scrambling sections hear and there, and soon we arrived at the 1st summit - Heart Mountain, 1 hours 40min.

Both Ben and I had done Heart before so the next destination, Grant MacEwan Peak would be the 1st peak. Since we haven't gained our first peak, we didn't do any break and immediately started the traverse towards Grant MacEwan. The traverse is generally straightforward even for hiker's standard. There was several treed bumps along the way and treed backbone is a perfect place for holding snow (I learned this on Hawk Mountain). As a result, we encountered knee deep post-holing hear and there. It wasn't too tiring and we could maintain a generally fast pace. As we approaching the last push up Grant MacEwan Peak, we could start to see the clouds rolling in, and soon after that, the forecasted snow finally arrived. The visibility suddenly reduced to 100m or so. We checked the summit register and it was in a really bad shape. It's basically pieces of paper sheets, and we didn't even bother to sign, and apparently it was full anyway.

A quick water break, we started the traverse towards Twin Towers. I have to mention that Twin Towers is a difficult to climber's scramble even if dry. Compared to Fisher Peak and Wapta Mountain, the crux on Twin Towers is definitely shorter but I found the it's more technically difficult. That is, more vertical, less holds, and the holds are down-sloping. Under this condition, if all the holds are covered by a layer of new snow, than it becomes a climb. I fully knew this before even thinking about this peak so I brought up rope and some basic climbing gears. I thought this is just "in case", but man, I was so wrong.

There's about 100m elevation loss from Grant MacEwan Peak to the crux. Viewing from top, what we could see was drop-off. Following So's description we descended towards skier's left side and then turn sharply right's left and traversed on a horizontal ledge. The ledge gets narrower and narrower and with the new snow we had to use extreme caution, making sure we wouldn't accidentally step on snow covered down-sloping and exposed slab.. Eventually the ledge becomes less than 1 feet wide, down-sloping, and very exposed. There's a bigger tree nearby and I started to consider taking out the rope. At this part, the band is about 5-7m high, vertical. Probably due to the lack of confidence on rappelling, we decided to traverse further down the ledge for a short distance, aiming for the shortest down-climb. Squeezing under, using the tree as holds, and crawling over with several awkward moves, we arrived at another tree, a much smaller tree. The down-climb at this point is about 3m high, but again, vertical. The small tree was strong enough to give me a good hold and I tried to down-climb this part but I couldn't. All the holds are slightly down-sloping and covered by the new snow. Okay, sitting on the exposed ledge, I took out the rope and set up (probably the simplest rap station). Obviously the tree was too small to be an anchor, but at this point, I had no choice. I slowly rapped down this step, and now it's Ben's turn. His strategy was to use the rope as hand holds to assist his down-climb. It worked! We left the gears behind for later use.

Under the reducing visibility and the light snow, we started the trudge up Twin Towers. Looking back at the crux, it doesn't feel that hard though. At this point there was already about 1cm of new snow from the day, and the entire ridge line got covered by this layer. The wind was almost zero so all the snow could stick to the slabs. The ridge gets fairly exposed at places and needless to say, extremely slippery. We carefully moved uphill, sticking to the ridge crest until about 50m short from the summit. We descended the snow slope on our right hand side and then slogged up the tedious scree to the summit of West Tower. Under dry condition, you should probably want to stick on the ridge all the way up, and use the scree to descend. According to So's trip report, the East Tower was the actual summit. To get there, we had to descend snow on skier's right side to the connecting saddle. Then it was merely a rubble slog up the east summit. There's even a register on this rarely visited peak. The last entry was from Dan Kim, in 2011... There was little hope for the weather to improve and we didn't linger any longer on the summit.

Slogging back up the west tower was very energy consuming due to the slippery nature of the terrain, and then we took the scree line down which was fast. We carefully descended the snow covered ridge line and it didn't take us long to arrive at the base of the crux wall. Both of us simply used the rope as hand holds to assist the up-climb and it worked pretty well. Sitting on the exposed ledge, I packed the rope inside backpack, and then the next 2min or so was definitely one of the difficult moments in this year. We both managed to squeeze over the extremely exposed and slippery ledge, and then one more slippery section, we made back through the crux section. If I do it again with the same condition, I will rap down from the first tree, and prussik up the rope on the way back.

Slogging up Grant MacEwan Peak, I started to feel the elevation regain. I had to slow down quite a bit, and now I just realized I hadn't eat anything except for half a muffin.. Well, let's take a break on the summit of Grant MacEwan then. Looking up, we could see the weather starting to improve, and Mount Baldy and Barrier Lake started to show up. There was a piece of blue sky above Midnight Peak, and that's motivating enough. We stayed on the summit for about 15min hoping the weather could get even better, and it did. As we descending towards Heart Mountain, more and more pieces of blue colour showed up and the visibility was getting better and better. Topping back on Heart Mountain, wow, we could see the low clouds covering the prairie, and part of the Bow Valley corridor. Looking straight across Bow Valley, I could recognize the lengthy Jura Creek approach (Morrowmount). Exshaw Creek and Jura Creek was actually hidden behind the low clouds and the scenery was spectacular. The sun was also low enough to provide some orange colour towards Grotto Mountain and Canmore corridor.

Now with the new snow during the day, Heart Mountain was way different from what we'd just experienced in the morning. We had to hands-down regularly on some slabby sections, and the descent was much slower than anticipated. We also stopped regularly for photos. I must have taken more than 200 photos while descending Heart Mountain... The Heart Mountain crux also provided some challenge to us. Ben found a less steep (but more slabby) line further down, and he managed to down-climb it somehow. I tried several moves and decided to just jump down the crux. Further down the mountain, we constantly slipped and fell because we couldn't see where's slab and where's dirt or scree. It's kinda fun though.. Round Trip Time: 8 hours 20 minutes.

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Steven Song
 
Exshaw Mountain
Jun 23, 2012

The weather has been bad for a month, and it's only gonna getting worse. It was forecasted rain ever ...more

ywhere... The main reason why I still headed south was to buy a pair of mountaineering boots that were selling at a price of 70$, but to grab them I had to drive to Calgary. But if I'm driving to Calgary, I gonna go bag a few peaks regardless the weather. And it turns out to be, I successfully got 6 peaks over 2.1 days, with decent summit panorama for 4 of those. If the weather can cooperate in July and August, I think I might gonna get 100+ summits in year 2012 (47 summits so far).

I started the drive after lunch on Saturday, June 23, and got to Calgary by 3pm, and then I realized something went wrong... I soon found the location according to the direction I got from google map. (I copied and pasted the address to google map and got the direction). There was no such a building lol.... Thank god I brought a Calgary map got from CAA with me. Checking the map, I was at the NW area, and the correct address is in the SW... Damn! In either Vancouver or Edmonton, you don't need to worry about the NW / SW thing. Just by finding the straight name you can get to the place.... Oh well. To get to SW section, I had to cross the downtown Calgary where I had never been to. Just like Vancouver downtown, the traffic pattern is much more complicated than Edmonton. But anyway, I made to the destination and got the boots. I didn't linger any longer and started the drive towards the Rockies.

It was raining hard on the drive in, and I couldn't even see Mt Yamuska's face until almost arrived Highway 1A junction. The rain ceased a bit and I thought I might just had enough time for a quick ascent of Exshaw Mountain. I wouldn't think about doing this mountain if it's not named. The summit is heavily treed (more treed than Tunnel and Stony Squaw), and there's even no trail up (at least, extremely hard to find), while, you still have more than 400m elevation gain which is about half of Mt Lawrence Grassi, so don't think it's just a cake walk that everybody can do just like Tunnel Mountain...

Anyway, I started the ascent at about 6:30pm, under light rain. Anybody that has done bushwhacking while raining knows what's gonna happen. I didn't even bother to use the waterproof boots nor gaitors because I didn't have the experience of dealing with bad weather. I paid for the consequence, my boots and pants got completely soaked literally after 2 minute of bushwhacking. I did get some descent view of the Exshaw Plant and Lac des Arcs at the beginning, but most of the mountains were covered in clouds. What's funny about this mountain is, the higher you go, the less view you can get. Eventually I hit the summit (basically bushwhacking entirely up), and 99% of the view was just trees, with the exception of a glimpse of Loder Peak and Door Jamb Mountain. After taking a shot of the summit cairn, I bushwhacked down. I tried to find a trail but couldn't. Except for obtaining this named summit, I didn't enjoy any part of this ascent though. And getting my boots soaked (I brought an extra pair so it was okay).

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Steven Song
 
Pigeon Mountain
Jun 24, 2012

On Sunday, June 24, the weather played a joke with me. I ascent Pigeon Mountain in a mix of rain and ...more

white-out, visibility was less than 10m on the summit. But partway down, the high clouds cleared and left dramatic low cloud scenery to me. In the afternoon all the clouds were gone and it turned sunny... With only 5.5 hours daylight time, I did a quick ascent on Squaw's Tit. Considering the forecast of cloudy with showers and thunderstorms, the day went way much better than what was anticipated.

I woke up in the morning in Canmore, looking around, couldn't see anything except for clouds... My window was facing towards east so I was supposed to be able to see Squaw's Tit and Lady MacDonald, oh well... Looking towards the other side, Ha Ling Peak barely showed up, and everything else got hidden in clouds. Checking the forecast in Information Center, it showed cloudy with showers, not constant rain. Under this condition, I knew I had to deal with white-out conditions, since I don't have a GPS, I decided to do a hiker's summit where a visible trail could lead me all the way up. Three choices: Pigeon Mountain, Wind Ridge, and Sulphur Mountain true summit. Pigeon Mountain looks more satisfactory compared with the other two, so after a quick muffin I soon started to drive towards Dead Man's Flat (I was too lazy to go into MacDonald for food).

The approach is via Skogan Pass Trail, which actually follows a cutline. The initial 4.7km went on and on and it was quite boring. Muddy condition was common due to the heavy rainfall recently. After 4-5 switchbacks, look closely to your left and you will find a hiker's sign of trail closure May 1 to Jun 15. Here you have to turn left on a much narrower trail, and follow it all the way to the top. In winter this trail will be snow covered and hard to find. I broke through the first layer of cloud, only to find there were more layers above me. Just below the impressive face of the south summit, I entered the upper layer and white-out the rest of the way. On the summit, the only picture-able stuffs are the cairn, my backpack, and a squirrel. I stayed for about 40min hoping the sky could clear, but it didn't. I couldn't stay any longer due to coldness.

Just after getting down for about 200m elevation, the sky cleared a bit and I could even see a few patches of blue colors. I stopped the descent and waited for another 20min or so. More blue colors started to show up. I soon re-ascended to the saddle between the north and south summit. Towards west was the dramatic cloud scenery, while the view towards east was still white. Pigeon Mountain is just one of the many summits surrounding Canmore and I was not too caring about seeing those familiar mountains again. I can get all the views from McGillivray, Grotto, Windtower, and Collembola, which are the 4 peaks surrounding Pigeon. I was satisfied about the view and started the descent. Not far down I entered the low clouds again, and rest of the day back was just a slog on the never ending trail.

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Steven Song
 
Squaw's Tit
Jun 24, 2012

I wasn't expected to do another ascent though, drove back to Canmore, and refilled energy with a lar ...more

ge fries in MacDonald. I sit beside the west facing window, eating while keeping an eye on the familiar mountains - Three Sisters, Ship's Prow, Lawrence Grassi, Miners & Ha Ling, East End of Rundle. After a quick shower, the sky cleared, totally cleared... That was something I didn't expect. Quickly finishing the lunch, I soon drove to the Info Center, and the weather forecast still said for cloudy with thunder showers... I totally ignored the forecast and my logic was, even just doing a hike was better than staying in MacDonald wasting time. Squaw's Tit jumped into my head very soon. I gave Neil Jones a message to see if he was available, but he was doing a climbing course, so I started the evening scramble solo.

Starting at Harvie Heights, I soon found a trail system leading uphill. I followed the signed Tibits Quarry Trail to the end, crossed the drainage, and started the bushwhacking. There was supposed to be a trail, or precisely, a beaten path, leading uphill, but I was too lazy to try finding it. The bush wasn't too thick either. With good attitude, I soon standing at the treeline, looking down to Bow Valley with BLUE sky above. From here to the top of the triangle shaped base (the start of the ridge) was quite a bit tedious due to scree. I tried to use the solid slab for as much as I could. Once on the ridge, you gonna be surprised about how much of hands-on scrambling involved. However, nothing too exposed nor difficult. There was just one spot of completely slab with exposure and no good holds. I would rate this step a difficult scramble and everything else moderate. The base traverse below the summit nipple was bone dry, and imposed no difficult to me. After 2 hours 20min leaving the car, I was standing on the summit of Squaw's Tit, looking towards the impressive west face of Mount Charles Stewart. I wonder if there is a scramble route up (the true peak). I stayed on the summit for about 15min. On the way down, I enjoyed watching near-sunset over Mount Cory direction, at the treeline. Further down, I stayed more towards skier's right for better scree run, and even found a trail leading down. This trail ended in the drainage with high flow. Except for doing a tens of crossings, there was no real difficulty, but I still got my right foot boot wet...

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Steven Song
 
Mount Lawrence Grassi
Jun 16, 2012

This week's objective changed a dozen of time. Originally I planed heading to Castle with several ex ...more

tremely fit scramblers for a plan of 9-10 peaks in 3 days, however the weather forecast changed much quicker. Because it's a much longer drive, we wanted to do those mountains under clear sky, and the trip was canceled... This year's spring weather is shitty... Heavy snowpack plus massive rainfall. There's a documentation mentioning that the thinner ice sheet on Arctic Ocean is leading to dryer condition in SW North Amerca, ie, California, but wetter condition in NW North America, ie, Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, and Washington... Oh well..

I'm generally less critical about weather. Cloudy with showers and not-too-crazy wind is usually acceptable for less scenic mountains. I wouldn't do Mt Temple under this kind of weather, but I won't hesitate to do Mt Yamuska under this condition. After talking to Neil, we decided to do Windtower + Rimwall on Sunday. Monday and Tuesday looks pretty hopeless, so I had just the weekend, therefore I decided to take my mom as well. Most of the mountains around Canmore are small, plus the longer daylight time in June, I had to do two mountains on Saturday.

According to Arcturus's trip report, Mt Lawrence Grassi is snow free by now. If it's snow free, then its south peak, namely Ship's Prow Mountain, should be snow free as well. Due to the forecasted gusting wind in late afternoon and evening, we decided to start at 6AM. To get to either of these two, you have to start at Ha Ling / Miner's trail head, and walk about 20min around the base of the mountain, until reaching a drainage marked by cairn and flagging. Kane mentions bushwhacking on Lawrence Grassi, but it's actually non-existence. By now, there has already developed a well used trail straight up the slope on Lawrence Grassi. Yow won't have any problem to reach treeline by following this trail. The rest of the route is just tedious scree, rubble and slab. Mom is a strong hiker and snowshoeer, but not a skilled scrambler. She can't deal with any sort of loose terrain, so she stopped at treeline and I continued on the mountain solo. There's not much to describe on this mountain though. Near the summit block the ridge gets narrower with drop off on S. side and steep slab on N. side. The slabs are covered with scree as well, so be careful. Despite the moderate rating, I found this part straightforward. If Lawrence Grassi is moderate, then Rundle should definitely be a moderate. Dragon's Back is definitely more exposed.

Since I started early, I could see a yellow horizon towards SE from the summit. The rest of the sky was cloudy though. Apart from signing register and taking panorama, I didn't linger any longer. There might be a way to traverse directly from Lawrence Grassi to Ship's Prow, but apparently you have to downclimb a series of cliff bands. I've never read a report about this traverse, so I don't want to take a chance. I soon decent to treeline and re-joined mom, and we decent together the treed slope.

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Steven Song
 
Ship's Prow Mountain
Jun 16, 2012

We dropped all the way down to the valley floor where the trail meets the big gully separating Lawre ...more

nce with Ship's Prow. We took a short break, crossed the gully, and started the long tedious bushwhacking up Ship's Prow. There's no trail at all on this treed slope. It's steep and has lots of dead fall. Apart from the bushwhacking, it's just the same as Lawrence Grassi. The scree slope above treeline is easier, and doesn't have narrow slabby section. With a positive attitude, you won't have a problem to get to the skyline ridge, which leads to false summit. Surprisingly, there's a register on the False summit... I think those people who brought the register couldn't do the down-climb to get to the true summit...

By the point when I hit the false summit, the wind already picked up, with mainly about 50kph, gusting to 80kph occasionally. This mountain doesn't have exposed section so I was not too concerned about wind. To get to the true summit, you have to do a difficult 15m down-climb. This appears sketchy from the top, but since Eric Coulthard did this, I knew there must be a way to down climb. I would rate this a difficult scramble. After this section, it's just a walk up to the summit. There's a cairn but no register on it. From the top, I noticed a much easier way up, that is, directly aiming for the summit from the gully below. If you approach from Ha Ling Peak trail head, this will be the gully after passing the main gully separating Lawrence Grassi and Ship's Prow. I'm not sure about the scree quality, but apparently you don't need to bushwhack nor down-climb. This summit gives you a much closer view of Three Sisters. Big Sister still looks snowy and is not in season yet.

Climbing up the crux was less challenging than down climbing it. By this point, the wind speed had already gusted to about 100kph. I had to lean sideways to balance, but thankfully, the ridge walk was mostly done. I soon rejoined mom at treeline again and we bushwhacked down the same way we came up. The total elevation gain of the day is about 1800m for me, mostly on steep terrain. Although I had time, I didn't do a 3rd mountain. I had a plan on Windtower to Rimwall with Neil and Andrea the next day (which turns out to be a more scenic day), so I had to rest and get ready.

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Steven Song
 
Mount Yamuska
May 21, 2012

On the third day of May long weekend, I woke up under a cloudy sky. Grotto, Rundle, Cascade, and Law ...more

rence Grassi were even covered in clouds. In this condition, I was a bit short of motivation and ambition. I abandoned the idea of doing Gap to Fable traverse and chose to ascend Yamuska instead. If you're going here in a weekend day, make sure arrive early...
Kane's book has an excellent route information. The east to west traverse serves the best scree run on descent. However, I would rate the crux step moderate. If you want to down climb, it's definitely a moderate scramble; if you choose the cable route, then it's quite exposed. Not far up, I passed a large Korean group. The leader is Yang, a fellow ACC Edmonton section member, who are going to do rock climb on the following weekend with SIM Course. Small world!! Near the crux, watch for cairns, after the cable section you have to descent a bit to traverse around a cliff band. Other than that, it's quite straightforward. If you have been doing bigger peaks, you will be surprised how short this mountain is. I stayed on the summit for a long time while chatting with other fellow scramblers. The descent via west side offers the longest scree ski that I've done. While traversing below the impressive face, watch for climbers above.
Even though I was doing it at a very slow pace, I still made back to car at 2pm... Oh well, that's too early to call for a day, I decided to head to Baldy for an afternoon ascent.

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Steven Song
 
Morrowmount
May 20, 2012

Morrowmount is a nickname of an obscured peak at the head of Jura Creek. Although it's not the highe ...more

st point in that area, it does tower above the adjacent classics like Yamuska, Wendell, and Goat Mountain. Its location and height guarantee a find view from the summit. Because it's not described in any guide book, I have to thank Marko, Vern, and Bob for their detailed route descriptions, or I wouldn't even have a chance to know this peak.

To describe the approach is very simple: follow Jura Creek to the base of a huge orange shale slope, for about 9km one way. Oh well, anyone who has done creek bed walking knows how tedious it can get. Park at the same spot for Door Jamb and Loder Peak, about 2km east of Exshaw. Follow a trail to Jura Creek, then follow the Jura Creek Trail up the valley. The trail crosses the creek bed back and forth for numerous times. Not far up, you will see a narrow canyon (1st canyon) appears in front of you. I chose to head straight through the canyon, which turned out to be the crux of the day. The water was pretty high due to snow melt, and there were a couple of spots that has only a log to cross. A slip or roll on the log will turn me back to my car to change boots, socks, and pants. Last weekend, mom slipped into a stream near the toe of Saskatchewan Glacier, which directly ruined her day on the Columbia Icefield. With that experience, I know I have to treat streams as cliff bands. No error allows.

About 2km further up from the 1st canyon, you will arrive at the 2nd canyon. At this point, you should have passed Exshaw Mountain to your left, and Loder Peak to your right. Based on Marko's trip report, the 2nd canyon is impassible and I have to skirt around it on the left side. Although negotiating these canyons is definitely slower than walking, it does add variety to the 9km approach. After the 2nd canyon, the orange shale slope soon appears directly ahead of you, but very very far away. From here on, the trail disappears and you have to either walk on creek bed or bushwhacking on the sides. A positive attitude is required. I would like to compare this approach to the Saskatchewan Glacier approach on Castleguard Mountain, while your objective just won't get closer and the views are pretty much the same throughout the entire length... Apart from that, you have to be careful about not twisting your ankle because it's all about boulders on the creek bed. On your left, you're paralleling Exshaw Ridge; on your right, you have to pass Goat Mountain followed by Hassel Castle before the creek turns slight left, then sharply right. The valley floor also narrows considerably after the slight turn towards left, and more bigger boulders come. At a major intersection of two water courses not far up after the creek bed turns sharply right, the ascending slope directly meets valley floor so no bushwhacking involves.

Now it's a perfect place to have a rest to prepare for the length scree slope. The correct route is to follow the slope diagonally up, staying on orange shale and try to gain the ridge crest as soon as possible. I didn't bring a route photo and I have to guess the route. From below, it appears that there're several notches on the ridge crest so I chose to cross several ribs to the gray rock slope and ascent that talus slope directly towards the south summit. The gray rock is much less pleasant than the orange shale. Both the two routes work but the ridge crest route is more scenic and less tedious. At about 30m below the south summit, the terrain gets slabby, and you have to cross a 2-3m slab section. If wet, this can be tricky. From the south summit, it's a hike to the north summit, with slight exposure on your right, but avoidable if you want to side-slope. The best view would be down towards Wendell Mountain and Mount Yamuska. With a pair of binoculars, you should be able to spot scramblers on those two mountains.

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Steven Song
 
Mount Lady MacDonald
May 19, 2012

My original plan of this weekend was to do some last snowshoeing ascents, namely Mosquito Mountain a ...more

nd Emerald Peak, however, as I drove into the mountains, I changed my mind. Marko pointed out that some folks was going to do Lady Mac, while I thought it would be questionable as any cornice on the ridge could potentially stop your attempt... The system on Thursday and Friday also dumped new snow to that area. The temperature would drop to -5 overnight, so logically, doing a snowshoeing trip along Icefield Parkway would be a smart idea. BUT, as I drove to Canmore, the front ranges mountains appear bone dry! The possible explanation is that the ground has already got the heat to melt the new snow very soon. I started to question my plan, yeah, why not just stick to Canmore and tick off a few scrambler's summits? By this way I could also save about 200km driving distance.. Doing solo trip means infinitely flexibility on objectivity. I ended up doing Mount Lady MacDonald on Saturday; Morrowmount on Sunday; Mount Yamuska + Mount Baldy on Monday.

I failed this mountain twice in December 2011, there's no way I can fail it the third time.

A brief note for December 24, 2011:
My fourth day of peak bagging of solo Christmas adventure. I was already short of energy and went up the mountain late (well, 9:30am start in December is a late start). I lost the trail just before a large meadows area and went straight up.. Not far up I encountered a boulder field, in which, I found a large consumed body of goat or deer... Shit there must a cougar around and I wasn't even armed with a spray... I was freaked out and ran down the mountain.

A note for December 26, 2011:
Two days after, I armed with a spray and a knife. This time I found the correct trail. Reaching the final summit ridge imposed no difficulty. This was my first time doing difficult scramble, and I chose Lady MacDonald in winter, went soloing. Just before the true summit there's a slight dip. This is a bit north facing and the narrowest part got double-corniced. This part of the ridge is also slabby. In this condition, it's no longer a scramble.

May 19, 2011:

In dry condition, the ridge imposes no difficulty. I would say my miserable wrong ridge ascent of Midnight Peak and the crux step on St. Nicolas Peak are more serious than the final dip on Lady Mac's ridge. With all of those experience, I could just walk up the summit ridge to the dip before false summit, then a moderate scramble to get to false peak. Then it's a walk up to the final dip before true summit. The rock is very grippy this time so I soon stand on the summit. I used 15min to traverse the entire summit ridge (including taking near 30 photos), while I've heard some people used 1 hour to do so. I'm very satisfied but since I was soloing, I couldn't get a decent photo of the ridge with people on it. It's Saturday so I knew there would be many many people coming up. I waited for about 1 hour. It was pretty chilly on the top and I didn't have extra layer so I had to go back...

Coming back the crux dip is easier for sure. I waited another 15min or so after getting back to the safe side of the summit ridge. Two girls topped out. After talking to each other briefly, I said I can lead them to the summit and I don't mind to re-do the entire ridge. Lindsay stopped just before the crux dip, while Diana and I made to the summit. I did got some good shots of how serious the ridge is..

Overall, if you are confident on exposure, this ridge is for you. There's no loose rock and the slabs are very grippy. If you can walk on the ridge for most part, then you can do it in 15min, if you have to often hands-down, then you probably need 30-40min.. If someday I run out of peak in Canmore area, Lady Mac is the one I want to repeat. With a very popular approach (Teahouse Ridge), you don't need to worry too much about bears if you are soloing. I didn't count but I guess I saw 100 people the entire day.

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Steven Song
 
East End of Rundle
May 6, 2012

This wasn't my plan for the day though. My original plan was Mount Haffner in Kootenay National Park ...more

, but when I arrived there, the isothermal snow condition turned me around. It was 3pm, not a good time to start a snowshoeing trip in May... I didn't want to waste a bluebird day in the mountains so I drove back to Canmore and hopefully to bag a smaller peak.
East End of Rundle is one of the shortest ascents in that area. Park at Whiteman's Gap and look for a man made trail. The trail is very steep but it takes you up high quicker. The forest is not thick so you will have good views towards Ha Ling and Goat Range on the way up. At the treeline, you can either aim for the skyline ridge on your right, or scramble up a steep slope followed by a rock band, directly aim for the summit. At this elevation, there were still lots of snow, so I followed other scramblers' tracks aiming for the rock band. When dry, the band is very straightforward. But I had to deal with wet snow covered slabs. It didn't impose much problem but the wet condition made me suspicious about the foot holds. I couldn't trust the grips sometimes. After the rock band, it's only 5 min away from the summit.
Coming back down through the rock band is even trickier due to the wet condition... The trail on the lower part is steep so all the forces act on your knees, not so pleasant though. My round trip time is 3.5 hours.

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Steven Song
 
Grotto Mountain
Jan 2, 2012

This is the first scramble in 2012, done on my birthday. Although I successfully summited this mount ...more

ain, I should say, I was neither physically nor mentally ready for this ascent. Grotto Mountain was not on my winter to-do-list originally, until I was “fooled” by a local guy met in Grotto Canyon. He summited this mountain in December via direct route (Kane’s Route), well, maybe he is a local mountaineer with tens of years of experience. The direct route involves several steep slab sections even below the treeline, as well as cliff bands, so I decided to give it an attempt via ACC route, a longer but safer route. The scramble section is merely a very steep hike, with several hands-on sections, but avoidable if staying on the ridge. However, the 1425m elevation gain makes it a demanding ascent, even in summer. Note this elevation gain is almost the same as Cascade Mountain’s. In winter, it’s still okay if the trail has already been made by others. But during my ascent, I couldn’t see any trail after gaining about 200m elevation or so. I knew the official trail should be around me here or there, because I knew I was ascending the correct ridge. But due to the snow cover, it’s a completely different story. I could see flags here and there, but they could only help me to ensure I was on the correct route. The rest of the ascent involves heavy trail breaking, bushwracking, as well as, knee-deep post-holing. Even before the bushwracking section, there are two trails that can ruin your day. The first one is the trail to the direct route, which is bigger and has a flag. I went off-route here, and wasted about 20 minutes. The second one is the Horseshoe Traverse, which continues horizontally all the way to Cougar Creek. In these days, it seems like most people are doing this trail, instead of Grotto Mountain. Too bad I went off-route again, and wasted about 1 hour here. When I was back to the correct ascent rib, it was almost 11 o’clock. As I mentioned before, there was no trail. The massive amount of trail breaking and bushwracking is extremely exhausting if you are alone. I really wished I had a partner to share. As approaching the treeline, the snow gets deeper and deeper. The post-holing was about knee-deep, for about 200m elevation gain. It could help if I brought the snowshoes up, but if so, I had to carry that thing all the way up and down, which is probably more demanding than a not-too-long post-holing section. Once above the treeline, I finally can relax a bit. Due to the lack of snow on upper section, the rest was just like a late season scramble (although still a looong way to the summit). I didn’t stay on the ridge during ascending, instead I traversed around several false summits on west slope. The traversing involves several moderate sections. (On the way down, I stayed on the ridge all the way until the last false summit. This route is actually the easier one, as well as, more scenic.) I had to take my ice axe out for a snow slope crossing, because an involuntary glissade would make me slide down about a hundred meter. By the time I reached the summit, it was 2:20pm, which indicates I only had about 2 hours of daylight time. I checked the register, and the last ascent was done on Dec. 27th, so I’m the first people successfully ascended Grotto Mountain in 2012. I retraced my footprints for decending, and I couldn’t believe I made the trail all the way to the treeline. Hopefully there will be people doing this mountain in the following several days, so they don’t need to do the massive trail breaking thing. Even though I tried to run down, I was forced to watch sunset on the mountain again. But it wasn’t too dark by the time I made back to parking lot.

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Steven Song
 
Yates Mountain (Barrier Lake Lookout)
Dec 27, 2011

This is my last day of the Christmas solo adventure. My original plan was to scramble up Mt. Baldy, ...more

a moderate scramble. But the wind speed was approaching the craziest that I’ve ever experienced before. I can barely stand on the ground. So it might not be safe to do scrambles with some exposures. Yates Mountain is a good alternative located near Mt. Baldy, and it’s just a hike, mostly in the trees. The summit is also called Barrier Lake Lookout.

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Steven Song
 
Heart Mountain
Dec 25, 2011

I started very early because of the forecasted storm in afternoon. The scramble is short, but steep, ...more

just follow the north ridge all the way to the summit. Due to the wind, the ridge is almost bare, but the trail, which is partly in the woods, is not. So I decided not to follow the trail, instead just directly climb up. So I faced several moderate sections of steep slabs. About halfway up, I saw the weather was already moved in from west, so I speeded up. The crux, which is a 2m vertical wall, is not a problem at all. I made to the summit in 1.5 hours. I didn’t continue on the ridge to Grant MacEwan Peak because of the weather.

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Steven Song
 
Ha Ling & Miner's Peaks
Dec 21, 2011

This is my first time driving such as long distance just by myself (from Edmonton to Canmore), plus ...more

I had to organize and prepare the entire trip, I mean, a 7-day-trip. Ha Ling and Miner's Peaks are also my first and second winter scrambles. With very little experience in winter adventure, I wore too many layers. So I had to strip off several layers on the trail. Well it was still below zero, but when doing steep uphill hiking, I would soon sweat a lot. The start section of the trail is well marked, but as I approaching treeline, I had to change to snowshoe and do trail breaking by myself, as I couldn’t see any trail going up. So I went straight up towards the summit, which is off route of course, but with experience on scrambling, it’s not a problem at all. The section above treeline gets wind blown, so pretty much just a late season scramble to the summit. The trip continues with an ascent of Miner's Peak. See next album.

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Photos taken by Steven