I bumped into Granticulus on Mount Burstall two weeks ago. We briefly talked to each other on that trip and we found we had lots of similarities regarding peak-bagging. We both love long traverses and multi-peak days. Therefore we scheduled an ambitious trip of Mount Northover to Worthington to McHarg, along with Aster Lake - Northover Ridge - Three Isle Lake traverse in one day. One week ago, I bumped into Kevin Papke on Kiwetinok Peak and he showed the interest on Fisher Peak. Due to the flooding on Aster Lake trail, we decided to head to Fisher on Saturday, August 11. So?? Biking or not? If asking me, then as tradition, of course no bike. And both of them agreed. As the date came closer, Kevin had other plans on Saturday, and the weather forecast was getting worse and worse. A mix of sun and cloud in the morning, isolated showers with chances of thunderstorms in afternoon... Okay, due to the life-threatening experience on Mt Niblock, Grant and I decided to leave Calgary by 4:30.
The weather was much worse than anticipated. I didn't see a piece of sun on the drive in and almost every mountain was soaked in clouds... Oh well, since we were there, we gotta have to go anyway. By this point, I was totally mentally prepared for turning around as I knew how long how high and how difficult this mountain is... Grant was optimistic as he had more experience regarding whiteouts and thunderstorms.
We started Even Thomas trail at 5:40AM, and we soon set up a racing pace up. Glad I was smart enough to do warm-up before. When I go solo, I will consider the first 1-2km as warming up and I will go very slow at the start. But after the trip to Edith with Wil, I know I have to do warm-up when not soloing as most scramblers start fast... There are several side trails but basically you just follow the main branch. I usually don't feel the approach distance on the way in because I have the peak in mind. The trail was poorly surfaced at places due to horse traffic, as well as flooding sections. Grant managed to hop the first major creek crossing, while I forded that because I didn't like to risk wetting my boots this early... We also passed a horse camp. After exact 2 hours in, we were facing the second creek crossing. We got pretty confused by Kane's description and Grant's GPS. The GPS showed 10.5km while according to Kane, we had to start up at about 9km... After a bit of discussion, we decided not to cross the second creek, but directly bushwhack up. The bush was not as bad as thought, and there was not many pushings required. We made our way up pretty fast and soon we arrived at a giant boulder field. We tried to ascend the boulder field but decided to go up the grass on the side which turned out to be a good decision. Because we were in the clouds we couldn't see how high we still had to go to top out on the north ridge, but as I remembered, this section took a long time. Due to the poor weather, I didn't take many pictures on this part.
Note: The north ridge of Fisher Peak can probably be reached from anywhere below so you don't have to be picky about where to leave the trail and start bushwhacking.
Once we topped on the north ridge, we couldn't see anything more than 100m away... We didn't encounter the pinnacle described on Vern's trip report, so that means, we must have topped out before the plateau / bump. Going up the plateau was a bit mossy and feeled like post-holing... Once up there, we still couldn't see the upper mountain due to clouds, and immediately we had to loose elevation. From there on, it was a talus / boulder slog. Sloging and sloging, you will find the ridge getting narrower with increasing drop-off on climber's left. Continue up the ridge until reaching the first crux down-climb. By this point, we got better view towards north (Kananaskis Village direction), but the summit were still covered.
My first reaction when seeing this downclimb was, "is this the crux??" Oh man, that's just like a longer version of the downclimb from Pollinger to McArthur... I quickly figured both Kane's and Vern's route (straight down the nose), and I decided to use Vern's route. Except for the first few moves which was exposed, the entire down-climb was quite straightforward. The easiest line is easy to spot as well. Once I finished, I watched Grant climbing down while taking photos for this section. Another shorter down-climb soon followed this one.
After this bit of fun, we started the trudge towards False summit. Why I say false summit? Because according to altimeter, we still had quite a long way to go. So the one ahead must be false peak. Once up there, the second crux waited for us. Compared to the first one, this is shorter, as exposed, but involves one long reach (according to Alan Kane). I didn't feel the long reach whild down-climbing though, but did realize that move whild climbing up (on the way back). I would say, this is as difficult as the first one. After this part, we had to balance over a 10m long exposed ridge section, and then another short but difficult downclimb.
Then, the final trudge up talus slope brought us to the summit, the highest mountain in the range. Ironically, except for the cairn and register, we couldn't see anything else.... Fxxx, we wanted the views!!!!! Ascent time: 5 hours 15 minutes, without bike. We waited for 35min on the summit but there was no sign of improvement. Grant didn't bring extra closing so we had to get moving. Plus we all had the concern about thunderstorm in afternoon. The entire ridge is exposed to lightning so we had to descend quick. I led up the crux again because I wanted to get scramble photos taken from above.
Now what.. The fun parts had gone, and the rest of the day? One word: Tedious... On the way up I already noticed the entire route was solid, and therefore, the every step going down should be all on the knees. The terrain was mostly talus and boulders. We took our time and carefully made our way down the north ridge. We spotted Vern's pinnacle but we didn't feel like doing a new route down, so we regained elevation to the plateau, where we took a break soaking in the views. The summit was still in the clouds so we didn't regred coming down anyway. We took a slight different line down from the north ridge, and, big mistake... This line was full of boulders. We soon traversed to our original line and we tried to use grass for as much as we could. Once reaching treeline, we bushwhacked diagonally down towards more skier's right. We poped out on the trail just 10m downstream from our leaving point in the morning. Now, a tedious 10km walk back brought us to the car. Very boring and tiring. Round trip time: 10.5 hours including all stops.