Steven Song's Peak-bagging Journey

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Crowsnest Mountain

The weather forecast said rainy and cloudy for the second day (Sunday), but sunny for the third day (Monday). Our plan was to do a smaller mountain on Sunday to save energy for a big traverse on Monday. I had a couple of small peaks in mind in Crowsnest area, including Robertson to Tallen Peaks; Turtle Mountain; Bluff Mountain. Both Eric and I hadn't been to Crowsnest Pass as well, so we drove to that area after finishing the traverse of Barnaby Ridge to Southfork Mountain. To get to Crowsnest from west Castle, we didn't need to drive back to Pincher Creek, which saved some distance. We stopped at Frank Slide for photos and food. The next thing was to find a place to sleep, unlike in the Parks, we could sleep pretty much anywhere where we could park. I'd like just to sleep at the A&W parking lot for simplicity however it was too close to the train which was extremely noisy. We drove to Turtle Mountain trail head instead, and that was a perfect place for setting up camp. I slept in car while Eric slept in his bivy sack in the grass field. The only downside was the mosquitoes, as I killed at least 8 of them before sleeping.

The next morning, we woke up in a questionable weather. Well, partly cloudy towards East, but the west was already soaked in. The newest forecast predicted for a clearing up in afternoon and evening. Instead of just doing Turtle Mountain, we were optimistic about the weather, and we wanted something bigger. We can do Turtle Mountain in 2-3 hours so the worst case was heading to Turtle Mountain at 6pm in the rain, just like doing Exshaw Mountain in a rainy evening (the week before). We waited in Tim Hortons in Blairmore.

The clouds lifted quite a bit in the next 2 hours and we could even see Crowsnest Mountain by 11AM. Yeah, why not just fancy up Crowsnest instead. Although it's probably the most significant mountain in that area after Ptolemy and Tornado, it only involves 1100 elevation gain (assuming you can drive to TH), which is even smaller than Squaw's Tit (which I did as a quick evening ascent). We found Allison Creek Road according to Kane's direction, and were surprised that it was even paved... Okay man, it's paved for the first few kilometers only. When it gets gravel, it's all just about finding a way through the potholes... Further up, there was a big groove that requires quite a bit of clearance. I didn't want to risk it so we parked at the side, this way, we had to walk an extra 2km one way with about 100m more elevation gain involved... Thinking positively, we didn't need to walk up the entire road, that was good lol...

The crux was to find the correct trail head. We managed to find a clear cut about 25min after leaving the car, however, according to So's trip report, there was supposed to be an official hikers' sign. Since we couldn't find it, we turned back after walking up about 100m on the cut line. 200m down the road, we found another one, which looked more or less like a trail. Good thing this was the correct trail, as we found a hikers sign about 200m up the trail. The trail eventually joined the cut line we just passed by... Oh well, sometimes it's better just ignore other people's direction and trust your own sense, maybe..

This cut line leads to treeline, with several scream crossings on the way. Upon reaching treeline, we managed to follow a beaten path to a snowfield. The snow was not too hard so we could kick step on it. There was no need to take out our ice axe. (We thought there might be snow in the upper gully so that was why we brought ice axe on this mountain). There were a group of hikers going up a wrong gully. While watching them struggling up, we followed the correct route without problem. I mean, if you have a copy of route photo, there's no way you can go wrong. These three hikers turned around after realizing their mistake, and we managed to catch them up at the mouse of the correct gully. Two of them were wearing running shoes, and didn't bring helmets nor poles. I guess Crowsnest Mountain is a popular scramble for inexperienced scramblers just like Temple, Cascade, Rundle.

The gully was pretty long. Near the top, a chain led us up a downsloping slabby section. Without the chain, I would rate this part a upper moderate scramble. Topping out of the gully, the rest of the route was obvious. Just pick up one of the beaten paths and you will stand on the summit half an hour later.

We arrived at the summit under an overcast sky. 20min later, those three scramblers joined us on the summit and a storm soon moved in. We were treated with white-out condition for the next 20min. They were cold and descent soon, but we decided to wait for views. Luckily, we got blue sky after this storm passed by, with only distant low clouds obscuring the peaks in the Purcells. We stayed on the summit for at least 2 hours soaking in the views. The clouds added up to the scenery. I thought it was better then just a blue bird sky though. Eric was particularly interested to see Mount Ptolemy getting out of the clouds, which kept us on the summit for quite a long time. We finally got a panorama of Flathead Range.

Descending was fast. Getting down that gully was easier than going up. Eric had a fun boot skiing down that snowfield. I also managed to boot ski that snow field, but in an awkward way though. It was too hard on my thigh mussel, exactly what I was feeling while skiing down Hilda Ridge. Need more skiing training though. We followed the cut line all the way down instead of just retreating our ascent route.

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Photos taken by Steven