Steven Song's Peak-bagging Journey

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Field / Yoho

Steven Song
Yukness Mountain
Aug 16, 2012

It was Thursday and obviously hard to find partners, so I was looking forward to a scenic solo ascen ...more

t. Lake O'Hara - Opabin Plateau - Yukness Mountain - Yukness Ledge - Lake Oesa traverse is definitely the most scenic day trip I've ever done. It can easily beat "Kiwetinok to Pollinger to McArthur to Kerr", "Mt. Northover to McHarg to Worthington", "Newman to Anderson 8-Peak-Traverse", "Saskatchewan Glacier to Castleguard Mountain", and "Mount Gordon to St. Nicolas Peak", to qualify the best view of this year so far. Just look at the location of this peak: in the middle of giant 11,000ers, with tens of alpine lakes surrounding. I took 535 photos during a one-peak-trip and that really means something.

The day started by walking up the 11km approach road. I've no interest to go in Lake O'Hara in bad weather, including cloudy and smoky, therefore booking the bus ticket 1 year ahead sounds stupid to me. Walking up is tedious but I like long days anyway. What surprised me was, the road itself has tens of elevation gain... I thought it was just flat. I think I must have gained 500m or so on the way in. With fast walking, I made to Lake O'Hara in just under 2 hours. Compared with the afternoon view, the morning light wasn't so great to picture the lake, but I still got some good shots.

Circumventing Lake O'Hara was short and soon I arrived at the junction to Opabin Plateau. I took the West Opabin route (the East route is shorter but less scenic), and soon I started to gain elevation up a headwall. Looking back, I got jizzed by the view of Mary Lake and Wiwaxy Peaks, as well as Odaray Mountain and Cathedral Mountain. The back side of Mount Stephen is also visible by this point. The well maintained trail tops out on the plateau, and soon I passed Moor Lakes. Mount Huber looks impressive. And soon after that I made to Hungabee Lake. Then a bit of trudge, I was looking at Opabin Lake, and the impressive Mt Biddle. I managed to catch up two other scramblers at the lake and we grouped together up the mountain.

The ascent gully shows up, straightforward even for novice scramblers. There're cairns here and there and it's hard to get lost. I wasn't keen on the lower north summit, so I went all the way to the col, where I was treated with the head-on view of Abbot Pass / Lake Oesa. I made the scramble harder by trying to stick to the ridge. This way, I would rate my route as difficult scramble. The other two scramblers traversed below and their way is easy to moderate. So why I did this? I was told the scrambling is fun on the ridge.

After soaking in the views for half an hour at the summit, we descended via the moderate route, and except for kicking down rocks, it was very straightforward. To go this way up, you have to look carefully for the cairns, while resisting to gain elevation too soon. By the time we got back to Opabin Lake, the afternoon light made Hungabee Mountain look more impressive.

After saying goodbye to them, I started uphill again towards Yukness Ledge. Because I didn't do the north peak of Yukness Mountain, I missed the view of Lake O'Hara. Well, I made up for it by traversing Yukness Ledge. Lots of up-and-downs on the ledge, and eventually I made to Lake Oesa. After an energy break, I slowly walked back to Lake O'Hara.

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Steven Song
Emerald Peak
Jan 3, 2013

After an exciting day on Mosquito Mountain, Ben and I were looking for another ascent. Temperature d ...more

ropped down to -20 again and we slept in Lake Louise Hostel. Having warm dorm was definitely nice, but having 4 people in one room wasn't that pleasurable. We had lots of discussion regarding the possible objectives. I was hoping for Bow Peak, but eventually we decided to try Emerald Peak. It's usually not done in early season, and it sounds pretty involved in Nugara book.

We woke up in cloudy weather, but given the stable weather pattern, we were hoping for inversion, and yes it did. So we started our day at about 8. There was also a solo skier at the parking lot, but we didn't know where he gonna go. The Hamilton Lake Trail was hard packed which gave us a full relieve, or we could easily spend hours just post-holing up the treed rib. We marched up on a steady pace, and eventually broke through the low clouds. This was motivating enough and we speeded up a bit. It took us more than 1.5 hours to get to the point where I thought we were too high on the trail. Instead of backtracking and losing elevation, we decided to go up the avalanche slope on climber's right side. The next 150 vertical meters or so was the most exhausting part of the trip, snow-whacking up 30-35 degree unconsolidated snow, post-holing knee to waist deep, and there was not much room for switch-backing. I even stepped into one weak spot and spent a good 5 minutes just to pull out my leg (and snowshoe). We took turn breaking trail, and eventually made to south ridge.

We were still in the trees at this point... This is typical for BC climb. You spend what seems like eternity to get to treeline, but after breaking through the trees, you are close to the peak. Ahead of us was the final slope up the false summit. I was slow at this point since I didn't eat anything yet. I quickly took a short break consuming a muffin, while Ben kept marching up the slope. There was an old ski track so we didn't follow the ridge, instead traversing diagonally up towards climber's right. The temperature was well above freezing and we noticed the surface hoar on the snow. Condition would get interesting after the next storm.

The view also fully opened up at this point, and once we were at the false summit, we could see the snowy Mount Carnarvon, Marpole, The Presidents, and they look very impressive. Since we hadn't get our objective finished, we didn't take time soaking in the views. I soon looked down at the first down-climb. I was concerning about descending the slide path, so I packed my snowshoes inside pack, and went down this step. It's moderate scramble. Ben left his snowshoes on the false summit.

The next obstacle was a couple of pinnacles. We circumvented them on climber's left side, easy going. Soon we were at the crux. I immediately noticed this point from Bob Spirko's site. He went through a tunnel in summer. In winter, we couldn't see the tunnel, but climbing directly up the wall didn't look to be that bad. So we ditched our packs here, and took out ice axe. I firstly ascended a steep snow lip on climber's left side, and then traversed towards right over a couple of awkward moves. It's definitely difficult scramble.

After this bit of exciting, we were staring at the summit cairn, and it's only a few minutes' walk. We noticed a solo skier coming up the slide path, and we decided to wait for him. It turned out to be the one we met at parking lot... Well, guess our snowshoeing pace was faster as he got hard packed trail all the way up.

We all had concern of the warm weather, so we didn't stay long on the summit. There were more and more skiers coming up the slide path. Descending the crux was easier than going up it, and Ben went up the false summit to retrieve his snowshoes. We decided to descend the slide path, and the initial slope was quite dicey, but soon we joined the skier's track. I really wished to have my skis on, and the slope wasn't as steep as expected, I could definitely ski it.

There is an outlier on the east ridge that you can bag, but we didn't bother with that. Lower down, the path narrows considerably and the snow was completely destroyed by skiers. We were trying to stick to fresh powder, and were forced to ventured into trees on skier's left side. Thankfully there were enough powder snow to give relieve on our knees. We both enjoyed the fast descend.

Even lower down we entered the clouds and temperature dropped dramatically. We had to get jacket on, and the trees weren't defrosted yet. The slide path goes all the way down to the lake, and we followed skier's tracks crossing the lake. The lake crossing was quite scenic too. Awesome day in the mountains again. Round trip time: 7 hours.

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Steven Song
Mount Schaffer
Sep 16, 2012

This is the second objective of the day, after finishing Little Odaray in the morning. I quickly mad ...more

e my way up towards Lake McArthur, using the Highline Trail. This trail goes through a rock chimney. Another big WOW moment waited for me at Lake McArthur!!

The ascent slope of Mount Schaffer looks straightforward but involves a lot of slog... Good this was, the scree wasn't that loose despite the appearance. I quickly gained the shoulder, known as Schaffer Ledge, where I took the 2nd break of the day (first break was at the summit of Little O). I quickly consumed a muffin. Looking back, Lake McArthur looks like a volcano crater! It's a must-visit area in the Rockies.

The upper ridge looks more than easy scrambling though, but once starting the ascent, you'll find it's straightforward. There's a beaten path, as well as, tens of cairns. I followed the ridge crest which gives some moderate scrambling. All of the difficulties are circumventable on climber's left side though. Soon I made to the summit. It's actually the west end of Schaffer Ridge, but a huge summit register helped me confirming I made to the summit. This summit view is better than Little Odaray and Yukness Mountain. Unbelievable! I also scrambled to the next high point, which is only 5min away.

It was only 3pm and I thought I should hurry up and catch up the 4:30 bus. Therefore I didn't stay long but quickly made my way down the slope. Coming down Schaffer was fast and it only took me 20min ish to descend to Lake McArthur. The afternoon sun is much better for photographing this lake.

Shaffer Lake looks much better in the afternoon! Another bonus for the day. I ran down the switchback section, and quickly made my way down to Elizabeth Parker Hut. Huber looks impressive, as always. At the end of the day, I went to the Lake O'Hara lake shore for quick photos. Round trip time: 7.25 hours bus to bus. Lake O'Hara is definitely the heaven on earth, especially in larch season. I can't recommend more for those who hasn't visited this area before.. The reality is much better than what the photos show, and you gotta have to experience it by yourself. For peak-baggers, there're 4 scrambles in this area: Little Odaray, Mount Schaffer, Yukness Mountain, Wiwaxy Peaks East Tower. I've got 3 of them, and even if I got all 4, I'll come back for sure. I generally don't go on a trip without ascending a peak, but this area is an exception.

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Steven Song
Little Odaray
Sep 16, 2012

I was forced to do another solo trip on Sunday, after finishing Galatea, Gusty, and Fortress the day ...more

before. It's mid September and time to fully take advantage of the larch season. The best time would be the next weekend, but I couldn't rely on it due to the uncertainty in weather. It took me a while to decide my objective, as there were simply too many possibilities.

At 11pm, I found myself driving towards Lake O'Hara TH, and I slept in car at the night. I didn't plan on both of Little Odaray and Schaffer, so there was no mean to wake up early. I decided to do a 8am start. However, by the time I got ready, I was surprised that there were several cancellations so I could take the bus in... Wow! That saved me a lot of time and energy, and I decided to increase my ambition to both of the two peaks. The best 15$ spent ever! The bus dumped all of us at Lake O'Hara lodge. It felt really good to have a starting elevation of 2000 meters.

Everything was pretty much in shade at 9AM, so I didn't bother to take photos of the lake. For picturing Lake O'Hara, afternoon sun is much better than morning sun. This rule applies for all lakes in this area though. I soon started the hike towards Schaffer Lake / Lake McArthur. In no time I arrived at the Elizabeth Parker Hut, and got the first view of my first objective, Little Odaray.

The trail goes into the forest again, but with a fast walking pace, it didn't take me long to reach Schaffer Lake. Again, everything was in shade at this time, so I didn't bother to take photos. I could see most of the larches were turning yellow. This's gonna be gorgeous in the afternoon. I was surprised to see a group restriction on Odaray Highline trail... It only allows 2 parties per day during the summer time... You have to fill out a signature log, but there wasn't a pen around... Oh well, anyway... I continued on. After breaking through the trees, the trail follows the treeline and traverses horizontally towards climber's right side. The view towards O'Hara side fully opened up, but again, the morning sun was very bad for taking photos. I got much better photos on the way down.

The trail turns sharply left and starts to ascend the slope straight up. It breaks through the first cliff band through a weakness, and tops out on a plateau. I think this is the official end of Odaray Highline trail. If your destination is just here, I highly suggest you to come in afternoon. At 10am, you won't get any good photo towards Lake O'Hara and Lake McArthur. But you do can get good view of Odaray Mountain and its glaciers. From here on, the terrain becomes easy to moderate scrambling. Little Odaray is not a walk-up, and you'd better come here with some experience on steep terrain.. I managed to catch up a solo hiker on the upper slope, and he didn't even make to the summit ridge due to the steepness. However, route-finding is easy as you're following paths and cairns, and the route goes straight up. Once at the summit ridge, I was blocked by a huge ice snow scoop... I tried to ascend the snow, but my hiking boots couldn't do any kicking in, and I was forced to skirt around on climber's left side. Skirting around involves a bit of elevation loss.

For those of you doing this mountain in the morning, the best view is towards the west range after you gain the summit ridge. The distant Selkirks and Purcells are also visible, including the infamous Howser Towers, Sir Donald, and Sir Sandford. Mounts Owen and Vaux look impressive as well, and good thing is, they're both scrambles. While admiring the views, I quickly made my up to the summits, my 100th peak of this year! My original goal for this year was to climb 100 peaks, but now, I finished my goal in mid September... Don't know what to expect from the next 3.5 months..

I took a long stay on this summit, hoping to get some better photos of the O'Hara area, but too bad, the sun direction changed very slow. I couldn't wait forever so I decided to descend. I did manage to get some good shots when I got down to near treeline though. I took time shooting the larches on the way down Odaray Prospect Trail. Next objective, Mount Schaffer!

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Steven Song
Mount Carnarvon
Aug 25, 2012

It's late August, and time for some big mountains. When Andrea asked me about this weekend's plan, I ...more

threw out my idea, doing 2 of these back to back: Coleman, Chephren, Sarbach, Stephen, Carnarvon, Daly. I let her choose and she picked Coleman and Carnarvon. Okay, this isn't for the faint heart as both mountains are rated as difficult with elevation gain of more than 1700m... Due to the concern of fresh snow, we decided to do Carnarvon on Saturday and Coleman on Sunday. We knew Mount Carnarvon is doable with snow on because Vern, Greg, Eric, and Marko did it with a good amount of snow 2 years ago.

Emerald Lake is a fairly long drive from Calgary, given the good forecast in afternoon, we decided to do a not-so-early start. We met at Lake Louise at 8AM and started shortly after 9AM. This is the second time this summer I had a really hard time at the start of the trip (last time was Mount Edith). I rested for 6 days since last trip (Mount Northover) but I didn't do any warm-up before going up the steep Hamilton Lake Trail, and obviously, I suffered from that. My muscle almost got cramped... Okay, the trail itself is fairly steep and goes on forever. There's very little view along the way, with almost 900m elevation gain. On the positive side, you gotta gain half of the elevation on a well-defined trail. Despite my not-so-good physical condition, we still managed to get to Hamilton Lake in just under 1.5 hours. The lake itself is a very good destination as well. I need to mention here, there're 2 more smaller peaks doable from Hamilton Lake, Top Hat Peak and Emerald Peak. Obviously we could combine them with Carnarvon to make a full day, but considering the big mountain on Sunday, it was not a smart idea... I plan to go back to finish these two with a bit of snow on (October maybe). Emerald Peak is included in Nugara Snowshoeing book, and is doable in spring if you're comfortable on avalanche terrain.

After some quick photos we started circumventing the west side of Hamilton Lake. There's a trail but at one point it gets dangerously close to the lake. It reminded me the trail around Aster Lake... We soon started the slog up the lower talus / grass slope. We basically followed the verge of grass, but were using talus actually. The ground wasn't loose so it didn't matter which line we picked. Further up, we encountered a cliff band. We tackled it head-on and got some moderate scrambling for warm-up. After this, I went up towards climber's left aiming for less steep terrain, while Andrea aim further climber's right directly towards the ridge crest. Both ways work out and we made up the ridge at almost the same time.

Once topping out on the south ridge, the view suddenly opened up, towards the west range and Columbia Mountains. I won't show photos now as the weather wasn't good at this point. The upper ridge looks inviting and we soon started up. Given the elevation gain and difficulty, we didn't expect this mountain to be that popular. There were tens of cairns guiding the way. After some moderate terrain, we encountered a cliff band that I could remember from Marko's trip report. We followed a faint path towards a cairn on climber's left and circumvented this band. We re-gained ridge crest by going up a gully afterwards. With good route-finding skill, this mountain is merely a consistent moderate scrambling for 500 vertical meters. Even so you still have to treat it as a difficult scramble, just like considering Mount Fox as a climber's scramble because it has consistent difficult terrain for 600 vertical meters. At one point, we detoured slightly towards climber's right, cut back to ridge crest, then traverse horizontally climber's left aiming for another cairn. We followed cairns further towards left and re-gained the ridge by a long loose gully. This part sucks and reminds me about the scree-bashing on Storm Mountain Banff... Now we were treated with a snow field / glacier on the east side of the ridge, and the summit wasn't far by this point.

Once on the summit, the view towards Wapta Icefield suddenly showed up. Awesome view but I didn't get a "Wow" moment because I've done too many mountains in Yoho this August. Kiwetinok Peak to McArthur to Kerr already gave me the similar view of Wapta Icefield and the West Range / Selkirks & Purcells. Wapta Mountain gave me the view of Lake Louise - O'Hara group and Mount Stephen and Vaux, as well. But if Carnarvon is my first peak in Yoho, I would get a big "WOW" moment for sure. The weather was bad due to low ceiling clouds. We had a summit nap and were treated with better views soon.

After the lengthy summit stay, we started moving back. We mostly retrace out steps down except for a few sections where we descended straight down the ridge crest for more fun stuffs. We met a large group of Korean or Japanese scramblers going up. The views were getting better and better as clouds were really lifting up by this time. We used Andrea's ascent gully to descent towards Hamilton Lake. It's pretty steep and loose so I suggest you going further down the ridge and aiming for less-steep terrain. With afternoon sun, Hamilton Lake itself is a good distraction. We took another long break at the Lake. Andrea set up a fast pace descending the Hamilton Lake Trail. The grond is mostly dirt and soft soil which is easier on the knees. The trail really goes on forever and after eternity we broke through the trees and back to parking lot. We went to the nearby Emerald Lake for photos. We felt good on energy so we went to Field information center hoping to bag a permit for Mount Stephen the next day... Too bad they didn't give us as we had to be there 24 hours ahead... Oh okay, we drove all the way up Icefield Parkway towards Rampart Creek Campground then. Mount Coleman next day.

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Steven Song
Wapta Mountain
Aug 15, 2012

Wapta Mountain is rated as difficult scramble, but after a bit of research, I found it was more than ...more

just a difficult scramble. The summit block has a bypass ledge (see Vern's TR) but the on-route crux chimney is actually a 5.4 rock climb. Therefore Kevin and I decided to bring rope and climbing shoes.

We met at 6:15AM in the morning and drove to Little Yoho again. I've been there 2 weeks ago for the 6 peaks in Little Yoho, but to get to Wapta Mountain, we had to park at the Whiskey Jack Hostel, rather then driving to the end. This is also the start for Iceline Trail so not surprisingly, we were there with many tourists (hikers). I did Iceline Trail during the Little Yoho trip, therefore I knew exactly where we should go. Basically, follow the signed trail towards Yoho Lake. The trail starts steeply up the headwall, but after passing the Iceline Trail junction, it levels off and traverses horizontally around the mountain towards SW. During which we were treated with the view of north buttress of Wapta Mountain, and the impressive Micheal Peak. The approach was longer than expected but with fast walking we soon arrived at Yoho Lake.

Circumventing the lake, we soon passed a camp ground. Compared to Little Yoho, this camp ground is much quieter. After that, we had to follow the signed trail towards Emerald Pass. The trail travels beneath the impressive cliffs for a short distance then enters the woods again. Soon after the view opens up and we were in a avalanche gully. Note: This is not the gully you want to ascend. We kept going along the trail for another 5min, then we arrived at the big avalanche slope. There we go, this is the one we want to ascend. By this point, you should be amazed by the view of Mount Carnavon and The Presidents.

We took a short energy break and soon started trudging up the gully. Taking Vern's advice, we stayed at the middle to aim for interesting slab scrambling. It was harder than I thought and involves some hands-on stuffs. After a bit of fun, we traversed climber's right out of the gully and ascended the grassy slope towards the first rock step. Following a path and some cairns, we pretty much walked up the first band. I helped Kevin taking a video for his Summits-for-Seniors Project, but it didn't work out (we took another one on the way down for this part). Another grass slope led us to another rock band. This one is higher and more involved. I spotted a chimney and went straight up it, and it turned out to be more challenging... The hand holds are really good, but there was one overhanging move involved. The smarter Kevin did a bit detour and found a bypass which was only moderate. Oh well, he took the challenge on the way down for fun anyway.

After climbing up through this black band, we were on a upper bowl looking towards another more broken brown band. We chose to ascend steep talus / boulder field to aim for an obvious break straight ahead. It looks like gonna be very loose like the slope on Storm Mountain Banff, but turned out to be very solid. I almost never have fun on boulder field and talus slope, but this time I did. Some hands-on moves were required before topping out. Now we could see the entire summit block. We decided to go climber's left aiming for the left skyline ridge, but what a mistake... Although we had solid ground going towards the summit block, we had to side-slope on crappy talus slope on frozen solid ground around the base of it, which was very tedious...

Traversing over the north corner, we were back on route again. We traversed under the impressive cliffs while keeping our eye on them for searching the possible routes up. At one point we had to wedge in between rock and snow. The correct chimney was hard to miss as it was marked by cairns and flagging. We also spotted Vern's bypass ledge. Kevin tried the ledge but backed off as he thought it was too exposed. Therefore we decided to roping up the chimney. From below, it doesn't look that serious though, probably just like Fisher Peak's cruxes.

Kevin led the chimney up, which in his opinion, a pitch of 5.3 rock. There's one awkward and exposed move involved. After this pitch, there's another 5.4 rock step, but not super exposed. I'm not expert on grading but I feel it's more technical than Fisher Peak's crux, though as exposed. Compared to the crux move on the south ridge of Mount Northover, which I did 3 days later, this 5.3 chimney is for the beginners... After this section we were topping out on the exposed south ridge. I led up that section while practicing placing protection. Soon we stood on the summit.

Obviously previous parties had rappelled down the mountain, which simplified our work quite a bit. However, we didn't trust the webbing so we used our own slings. We had to be extra careful of rappelling as a small mistake can easily lead to tragedy. Kevin pretty much did everything for me as I'm the very beginner in terms of rope work. Putting on my weight on the rope while hanging above the cliff really made me nervous as it was so different from relying on my own hand and foot holds. But on the other hand, this is much safer than down-climbing 5th class terrain.

We had lots of time so we did some extra scrambling on the way down. Kevin also climbed back up the chimney on the first black rock band. We stayed on the skier's left side of the main gully, which forced us doing some unnecessary bushwhacking. We soon cut into the gully and that was much more enjoyable. At the end of the day, we enjoyed a pleasant hike out while soaking in the views.

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Steven Song
Mount Kerr
Aug 4, 2012

The last summit of Little Yoho trip. Mike and I took a necessary energy break at Kiwetinok Pass. We ...more

thought about leaving Kerr for the next day, but I didn't agree with this plan as we were uncertain about the weather... I'd like to get up Kerr in good weather. This is probably the most popular scramble in this area, as there's a beaten path, as well as tens of cairns. With basic sense of route-finding, it was hard to get lost. With good attitude, we arrived at the first summit, the official summit of Kerr.

To make sure we summitted Kerr, we had to make to the next high point, known as the true summit. There's about 100m elevation loss in between, which was frustrating... Minor rock bands on the connecting ridge presented some route-finding issues, and we had to drop usually towards skier's left to overcome them. The final trudge up the true summit reminded Mike about Read's Tower. It's an easy scramble. The summit cairn was huge, and to get a panorama, I had to climb up it, which was a bit sketchy...

We took our time on the way down due to the looseness of the ground. It was easy to twist an ankle when you're tired. We could also find a snow slope which offered great plunge-stepping. The rest of the day back to camp was a slog, but due to the evening sun, we got great views. This is definitely the highlight of summer 2012 so far. Success on 4 remote peaks, difficult fun scrambling, snow climb, great company, and the view like this.

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Steven Song
Mt. Pollinger & McArthur
Aug 4, 2012

After finishing the hardest peak of the trip, Kiwetinok, we started the trudge towards Pollinger. It ...more

's merely a bump on the shoulder of McArthur, and to get there was just a walk. Just beyond the summit of Pollinger, we were facing a nasty looking down-climb, about 15m high... It looks much worse than what Kane mentions in his book.. I carefully led the way down. The holds were good, but the exposure was severe. A fall would be very very badly... We took our time here again, and all of us got down safely. Both Kiwetinok and McArthur definitely deserve the difficult rating. They're much more involved than the other difficult scrambles like Norquay or Burstall.

After this downclimb, the rest of the way to McArthur was a slog, on rubbles and boulders. There's little to describe here, as it's mainly about perseverance. Just keep your mind here, the summit view of McArthur is the best among all 6 peaks in this area.

Because Mike and I still had Kerr in plan, we had to get down quick. It was already past 3pm by the time we got to McArthur. I got pretty dehydrated by this point, but thankfully there was snow here and there. Plunging step down the snow slope to Kiwetinok Pass was very fun and fast. During which we were treated with spectacular views of Kiwetinok Lake and The Presidents.

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Steven Song
Kiwetinok Peak
Aug 4, 2012

This is the second day of our backpacking trip to Little Yoho. Andrea and her group went for Kiwetin ...more

ok to Pollinger to McArthur, while Mike and I went for all 4. We grouped together for the first three though. Normally, doing steep snow climb in August requires early start, like 5AM. But we decided to wake up at 7... Anyway, if we woke up 1 hour later, we would probably fail Kiwetinok due to snow condition...

For those of you who haven't done these peaks yet, I highly suggest you to go Little Yoho in good weather day, not just because of the climbing, but also because of the views. This is one of the areas that can easily take your breathe away, so don't miss the views. Just look at the location, the west boundary of Wapta Icefield! For photographers, I suggest you do the traverse this way: Kiwetinok - Pollinger - McArthur - Kerr. Do Kiwetinok in the morning and Kerr in evening, so that you can get completely different views from these two mountains. That's exactly what we got.

Andrea's group started the day by doing a river fording. I tend to avoid these type of stuffs for as much as I can, so I hiked back to Stanley Mitchell Hut and used the bridge to cross Little Yoho River. This way I added 0.7km distance though. We regrouped and started the trudge to Kiwetinok Pass on a well defined trail, on a slow pace. Apart from several creek crossings, there's no difficulty on this trail. On normal pace you can get to the pass in 1 hour. At the pass, the clear water in Kiwetinok Lake provided good photographing opportunity.

I had the peak in my mind so I didn't take any break at the lake, but started the ascent towards the high col (Kiwetinok - Pollinger col) immediately. By using the snow, I could almost completely avoid the tedious rubble, which was a bonus. I would suggest you taking out your ice axe if you're not confident on snow. The snow was in good condition and I could kick firm steps, so I didn't bother using ice axe, and I felt my poles can give more balance. Snow got harder higher up, we trended more towards climber's right according to Kane's suggestion. From the col, I got the first head-on view of Freshfield Icefield.

The slope on Kiwetinok didn't look as bad as I thought. I took out my ice axe and helmet, and soon started the step-kicking. Andrea and Mike followed me behind, but the other 3 decided to stay below. The climb started easy, but got steeper soon as we gaining elevation. Based on Kane's photo, I knew there should be permanent ice underneath. So later in the season crampons will be required. For us, the snow was deep enough. To gain the rock ledge above, I had to traverse left. Coming up and down this part is the crux of the entire weekend. Even though the slope wasn't as steep as the giant NE face of Mt Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the run-out zone was much worse. An uncontrolled glissade would dump us to the rocks and cliffs below... I had to double check every step before moving to the next. We took our time here and three of us got to the rock safely.

From here to the summit, it was a matter of route-finding. Kane only mentions traversing climber's left upon reaching a rotten band of shale. That's obviously vague. I cannot tell the exact line we took. We first ascended straight up beside the snow, on steep ledges and slabs. Upon reaching a band that looks like the one Kane talks about, we traversed left. This band was loose and very exposed. A slip would end up with a fall, which would be really hurt... Further left, I bumped onto a very wet and slippery section. I had to fingers-down to help balance, while slowly backtrack for about 1.5m to safer ground. I told Andrea and Mike that we had to break through the rock band above now. We took slightly different lines from here up, but we all got to the summit without incidence. The highlight of the view was towards the distant Purcells and Selkirks, including the Bugaboos, Sir Donald, and Sir Sanford.

Due to the concern about snow condition, we didn't linger any longer, but started heading down soon. We had fresh memory of our ascending line, so we managed to retrace our steps down almost exactly, to the snow slope. Again, the terrain was very loose, and I carelessly dislodged a soccer ball sized rock, and watched it tumbled down the snow slope, then the cliff bands below... This is an example of doing an uncontrolled slide... Oh well... The snow got softer but was still okay to descend. I just had to kick further in to be sure. The next 10min was very awkward, as we were facing inwards while doing diagonal traverse. While I got to a safer position, I set a glissade which quickly brought me down to the col. Andrea and Mike followed me behind. We all enjoyed the glide though. Now the toughest part of the trip is over!! I could take a long breathe as I knew our trip to Little Yoho would be a success! We bumped into 3 mountaineers who traversed from Isolated Peak via Glacier des Poilus. They could recognize me though. They are Wietse, Kevin Papke, and Steve. After discussing about the condition on Kiwetinok, they decided to give it a miss due to the snow condition. Kevin talked about the plan on Saturday to Fisher Peak which caught my interest. After saying goodbye to them, we started the trudge towards Pollinger.

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Steven Song
Whaleback Mountain
Aug 3, 2012

From the base of Isolated Peak, we had to trudge up tedious scree slope to a upper col, right of the ...more

rock pinnacles. Once you're on the slope, it gets foreshortened. Once on the col, a scenic ridge walk led us to the summit of Whaleback. Most people say Whaleback is a hike, but I don't think so. I think if the route involves scree slog, ie, loose stuffs, it cannot be called a hike. I had lots of trouble on loose ground when I started scrambling. Also, some route finding is required on the ridge. I stayed on the ridge crest and there're several moderate sections involved.

The walk back was pleasant and scenic. We were facing towards The Presidents for most of the time. Once getting into the trees, we had to use bug spray because of the mosquitos. Once we got back to camp, I wandered around to see where was Andrea's group, but couldn't find them... They showed up about 10min later. They went up via Iceline Trail, and didn't get to the camp until 3pm... Then they did Mt Kerr instead of Isolated Peak. We debated about which is the true summit of Kerr, but anyway, Mike and I would do both the two summits the next day, just to be sure.

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Steven Song
Isolated Peak
Aug 3, 2012

About 1 month ago, Andrea Battistel asked me to join her group for all 6 scrambles in Little Yoho ov ...more

er 4 days. Of course I'm interested in, but doing those over 4 days is a bit luxury so I threw out The Presidents to her group, which was not surprisingly, being rejected. Oh okay, I might gonna shorten the scrambles to 2 days then, and by this way, I could be weather wise and more flexible. Mike Mitchell (Arcturus) also showed interest to this trip, and he agreed with me to do them over 2 days instead of 4. However, we were busy buying gathering camping gears till the last minute. I spend hundreds of dollars buying a Fly Creek UL1 tent, a sleeping pad, and a bulky synthetic -12 degree sleeping bag. Well the tent and sleeping pad are good enough, but obviously I still have to buy a better sleeping bag for the future overnight trips. Mike and I didn't even have a stove, so we didn't pack things that require heating. I packed 8 sandwiches and 6 muffins, and obviously, they're extremely heavy for camping trips. Anyway, the approach is only 10km one way, and I really didn't feel like buying all camping food. Sandwiches and muffins are really cheap compared with compacted food. One week ago, I took several close shots of Mt McArthur area from the summit of Mt Niblock, and not surprisingly, Little Yoho was still snowy. Judging by the difficulty of our objectives, we wisely chose to bring ice axe and crampons. My pack is 70L and I couldn't pack all the stuffs inside (obviously). I had to hang my tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and slippers outside (please don't rain or they would all get wet)... Adding all the factors, my pack feels like a stone. Apart from that, I had to wear my stiff winter boots (-35 degree) instead of hiking boots as my hiking boots are not crampon compatible. (I didn't feel like spending another 250$ to buy a pair of backpacking boots). Anyway, this is my first backpacking trip and I have lots of stuffs to go through.

Obviously the hike in and out would be much harder than expected... We didn't finish the trip in 2 days. It turned out to be:

Friday: Hike in via Yoho Valley, then Isolated Peak to Whaleback Mountain
Saturday: Kiwetinok Peak to Mt Pollinger to Mt McArthur to Mt Kerr (both official and true summits)
Sunday: Hike out via Iceline Trail, then go home...
Monday: Write trip reports, relax. Thunderstorms in the Rockies anyway...

This trip reports is for the first day.

We got a good sleep in Canmore ACC Hostel the night before. Honestly I don't like to spend money on this part, and I always do car-camping. My parents and I even managed to squeeze into my small car for 3 nights in 2009, the road trip to Canadian Rockies, and we felt okay for that. (I'm sure my style will change after I get a job)... But I have to admit that the Hostel is more comfortable than car, for sure. And to get a good sleep before an intense backpacking trip is essential.

We woke up in rain Friday morning... I didn't check the forecast for Canmore though, so I still felt optimistic about the weather in Yoho, which was predicted to be sunny. As we drove west, the clouds indeed lifted up and the rain stopped after passing Sulphur Mountain / Mt Norquay. Patches of blue sky appeared above Bourgeau and Brett which showed positive sign. We arrived at Takakkaw Falls parking lot at 9AM. Because we had done packing, we soon started the first crux, the hike in...

It was not as bad as I thought (I thought it would be the crux for the entire trip)... But it was still very painful. Going uphill with heavy pack was not as bad as going downhill, so that's another factor why I felt okay for the hike in. The Yoho Valley trail is flat and easy to negotiate. In no time we arrived at the Laughing Falls junction. I need to point out here, this approach is very boring and has almost zero view. I'm glad we chose Iceline Trail on the way out. From Laughing Falls, we went up the left branch. A steep 1.6km switchback section brought us to the upper hanging valley, followed by another 3.5km nice gradual uphill hike to Stanley Mitchell Hut. The camping ground is 0.3km past the Hut. We finally could relieve by this point, and we quickly set up our tents and stuffs. I was surprised that Andrea's group hadn't been here yet. After a lunch break, Mike and I started the trudge to Isolated Peak.

We first had to go back to Stanley Mitchell Hut, and we soon found the trail started on the east side of the hut, according to Alan Kane. The trail is well developed and quickly led us to the upper meadows, and we were treated with spectacular views to all directions. As I only brought 1L of water up from Parking Lot, I was glad to find a mini waterfall where I could re-fill. The trail gets faint upon reaching the alpine, but the abundant cairns mark the way correctly. We had to find a way to cross the stream, which could present some problem in early season. Not far up, we arrived at the base of Isolated Peak.

From here, we had to skirt around the base of the peak on its south side. The snow was surprisingly supportive at this time of the day. While ascending the snow, we had to make sure we were not on the adjacent glacier therefore don't venture too far into. We just walked on the edge of the snowfield. A big scree cone coming down from the mountain indicates where we should leave the snow and trudge up the tedious scree.

Soon we were facing the ascending gully that Kane mentions. The description has no details from here on, and we had to find our own route up. The gully was snow filled and we made a poor decision of staying on climber's left of the snow. The gully eventually ended at a 3m waterfall step. It was too wet to climb up. I tried to climb 2m up and to go through I had to force a jump move on wet holds, which was definitely not a moderate scramble... Therefore I backtracked. Mike could see an easier line towards climber's left from below. But to get there, I had to cross a very exposed and narrow ledge, with loose scree and dirt on. This was even more sketchy... So what, we had to cross the snow to the other side of the gully then. The snow was more like ice and we had to put our crampons on (glad we brought crampons up). The terrain on the other side (climber's right) was still uncertain but we have figured out it would be the only possible way. Not far up the other side, we spotted a less steep line to get up the next step, where we found another wider ledge back towards climber's left. We traversed on that ledge for about 30-40m or so, and we were facing another snow gully. This one looked better than the one before, and I carefully kicked step across it without crampons. Mike followed me but slipped and got wedged in between snow and rock. He was able to pull himself out and crossed the gully safely. I felt much more nervous watching others doing exposed steps rather than doing it myself. A cairn helped confirming we were on correct route now.

The next step was going up a narrow gully / chimney. After that, a long loose section brought us to the west ridge. Then it's merely a hike to get to the summit.

We retraced out steps on the way down, and it was not faster particularly because of the looseness. We had to be careful not to kick down rocks to each other, but it was almost impossible. For the first snow gully crossing we carefully used my steps made on the way up. For the second snow gully we stayed on skier's left to completely avoid it. The terrain below is not easy scree run neither, mainly rubbles on solid ground... Getting to the snow below was much of a relieve of our knees, and we quickly made our way down. Now, the second objective of the day, Whaleback Mountain.

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Steven Song
Paget Peak
Jul 9, 2012

After finishing Mt Norquay, Mt Aylmer, and Panorama Ridge in the past 3 days, I was very tired. Desp ...more

ite the good weather, my choices were limited. I was thinking about Mount Field since it's a relatively short ascent, but changed my mind to Paget Peak, an even shorter objective. 5km one way, 1000m elevation gain, easy scramble, this is probably the easiest ascent in Yoho. The trail head is located at the west end of Wapta Lake, and a good trail with tens of switchbacks leads up to Paget Lookout, a popular hiker's destination.

As ascending on the trail, I noticed that some clouds were moving in from the west. By the time I got to the Lookout, the clouds were already near Mount Stephen. Oh no.... I wanted blue sky!!! Anyway, the rest of the route is straightforward, just follow one of the several beaten pathes, and you will stand on the summit 40min later. There's an option to continue on the ridge to two higher unnamed summits, bue since the weather were moving in, I just went down as soon as possible. The best view of the trip is towards the impressive north face of Mount Stephen, Mount Niles, and Cathedral Mountain. Stephen and Niles are on my list for this year.

I met 3 groups of hikers on the way back. Only one group's destination was the peak. Overall, a short and easy objective if you're short on energy or time. After the scramble, I drove back to Banff for food.

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Photos taken by Steven