Steven Song's Peak-bagging Journey

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Smith Dorrien / Spray

Area accessed by Smith-Dorrien Road. This area is at the westernmost of Kananaskis Country, so often holds lots of snow. Scrambling season generally won't come until July. In winter and spring, it's a good destination for snowshoeing.

Steven Song
 
Smutwood Peak
Feb 10, 2013

None of us got exhausted after Opal Ridge and Little Chester, and we were hoping for another ascent ...more

on Sunday. Weather forecast was calling for a sunny day, and avalanche condition was moderate/low. Perfect! Then we would just keep our original plan, Smutwood Peak, with the option of traversing to Snow Peak. Before last weekend, there was only one online trip report for doing Smutwood Peak in winter, from Nugara. He didn't make to the summit and still called it as a mountaineering peak. Based on his photos, I didn't agree with the "mountaineering" part, but still, I wanted more beta on this route. So despite the superb view, Smutwood was on my "maybe" list, up until last weekend when Vern, Bill and Wietse successfully ascended it. Their photos suddenly raised this peak to my "must-do" list. I guess someone else was thinking the same way!

I know it would be another insanely long day if we do traverse to Snow Peak, so we set up alarm at 5:45, and got to trailhead before 8. Sky was crystal clear and I was very excited. We were treated with some alpenglow view while crossing the swamp area. (Of course there's no swamp in winter time).

The approach should be pretty easy to follow given the fact this is a very popular area for skiers. However I was a bit paranoid about getting too far climber's left to Commonwealth Lake.. So at the first major junction, we took the right hand side fork... BIG Mistake! This trail eventually goes to Engadine Lodge. I recognized this when we got down to Commonwealth Creek, and we started the bushwhacking and post-holing up the creekbed. Obviously the creekbed was not easy to follow. We had to hop over some questionable snow bridges in order not to wet ourselves, and the trail breaking definitely was definitely not enjoyable. After 20-30min of these stuffs I thought we must be off-route. We ascended the bank on left side and soon found the real trail. It was in such a good shape... Oh man, we shouldn't waste time and energy here. Once got back on track, we soon made to the open area, and the morning view of Smuts and Fist was gorgeous.

From here on the route parallels with the summer trail, and it was a long way across the flat area. Make sure you constantly have eyes on The Fist. At one point it looks like Roche Miette. The steep gully on climber's right side of The Fist was apparently skied recently. Further up the valley, we crossed a huge slide path coming down the east face of Mount Smuts. This path goes all the way from summit to valley floor. I think if you are crazy enough, you can bag Smuts on skis. After this bit we were directly aiming for the big face of Birdwood, doing another creek-side traverse, and then we almost arrived at the base of steep slope up Smuts Pass.

The slope was definitely steep and obviously, avalanche prone. The ski tracks we were following was too flat for snowshoeers, and we decided to shoot straight up. The snowpack felt like spring condition and was very supportive. We gained elevation very quick, and it didn't take us long to top over this hill, and then we were staring at the infamous Mount Smuts. The summer route up Mount Smuts requires you to aim for the big pile of scree cone. But this time, we could stay high on climber's left avoiding losing elevation. On the meantime, we got better perspective of its scramble route. On the meantime, Mount Birdwood was trying her best to compete against Smuts. But as for now, Smuts was the winner.

Once we topped over Smuts Pass, we got our first head-on view of Smutwood Peak. It looked to be awesome. The alpine bowl was also very inviting if you're a skier. But for us, the side-sloping on hard snow was almost a nightmare for our ankles for the next 20 minutes. We kept looking back and the awesome view helped to reduce pain. We did a short break (perhaps the first break) at the pass between Birdwood and Smutwood. The view towards the other side fully opened up. Oh man, it was gonna be awesome! It was already awesome!!

We tried to keep snowshoes on for as far as possible on the ridge, but soon a short climbing section required us ditching shoes and switched to boot travelling. I also took out an ice axe for this bit. It wasn't too hard but there exist easier lines if you want to traverse further climber's left. And then we simply followed the ridge crest up. Miner rock bands were blocking our way, and we could just by-pass almost all of them on climber's left side, but we didn't bother. One of them was extremely hard. Ben and I had to swing ice axe to hook a hold and pull ourselves up the snow covered down-sloping slabs. Mike and Andrea found a much easier line on climber's right, but this would bring you closer to the big cornices. We were forced to stay below other rock bands up towards the false summit. I tried to climb up one band but gain, it involved hooking with ice axe. I was pretty tired and wasn't in the mood of challenging unnecessary stuffs. We cut back towards the ridge crest and followed it to the false summit. The connecting ridge to true summit looked to be inviting. Looking back, we noticed a group of 3 approaching Birdwood/Smutwood pass. We immediately dropped down to the col and started the final slog. The summit ridge was actually pretty easy. There was one section requiring probing, but mostly just a walk-up. Near the top there were some interesting cornice scenery. The summit itself was actually a big cornice. I took out my probe and carefully probed the safe boundary.

We had some discussion whether traversing to Snow Peak or not. There's a substantial elevation loss towards "Birdwood col", and then we had to drop down below treeline to the other side, and regain the elevation towards Burstall Pass. There wasn't enough time allowing us to do so, and we did a quite long summit stay on Smutwood Peak, soaking in the views. Eventually we started the descent.

It was much easier than going up, and in no time we made back to the col below false summit. At the meantime the group of 3 were coming down from the false peak. They turned out to be Golden Scramblers and their friend, Evelyn. Nice to meet them again! We had some nice discussion about some future plans, and after saying goodbye our group decided to skirt around to save some elevation regain. There was ice spots on SW facing slope and we had to take out crampons to traverse. The rest of the descent back to our snowshoe ditching are was nice and fast.

We had lots of extra time. There's a bump ahead of us and we decided to go up there and check things out. We ditched snowshoes and backpacks at its base, and scree slogging brought us to its highpoint. Mount Birdwood looked to be rather a Himalayan Giant. Mount Smuts were trying its best to compete, but this time Birdwood is the winner. I highly suggest everybody to do this variation if you still have time after Smutwood, or if you cannot go up Smutwood Peak. This gives a better perspective for Smuts, Birdwood and the surrounding alpine environ.

We plunged step down the fresh powder to the bowl below, and re-ascended back up to Smuts Pass. We met another 2 skiers at the pass, and soon after that, we started the even faster plunging step down the big slope. It was very fast and enjoyable. At one point I stepped onto a thin snow covered hard slab and started to glide on the surface. Some sort of snowshoe skiing?. Well.

The rest of the way back was scenic and fast. Round Trip Time: 8 hours including all of the stops, variations and detours. Overall, this is a very satisfactory day out. The view ranks high on my winter adventure list. I highly recommend Smutwood as a winter ascent. I didn't get good view from the nearby Burstall Pass Peak and Mount Smuts, and this made up for the loss. I'll definitely do Snow Peak in winter, under crystal clear sky!

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Steven Song
 
Little Chester
Feb 9, 2013

The weather looked to be hopeless when we finished Opal Ridge. However, it was only 12:30 and we had ...more

the entire afternoon ahead of us. I didn't want to just call it a day, and we started to plan our next objective. Andrea had left her car at the Casino, and given the condition we figured out that Ben and I should do King Creek Ridge, while Andrea and Mike should go for Little Lawson. But we didn't want to split up and it was hard to find a peak that none of us had done. Little Chester, there we go... This is rated as the most dangerous ascent in Nugara snowshoeing book, well.. Of course we were not going up that big avalanche gully. I did spot a less ambitious line from the trip to Fortune and Fortulent. Our route would be going up the SW slope.

So we drove to Chester Lake parking lot. Weather did improve somehow around Lower K-Lake, but got back to snowing as we approaching the parking area. I got near perfect weather from the nearby Little Galatea and I was just wishing to tick this off my list. I personally was not quite interested in this ascent but since I'm a snowshoeer, I have to finish Nugara snowshoing list someday, and this is not a one that I can omit. It is overall rated as the hardest.

We quickly strapped our snowshoes on, and started the busy-as-usual Chester Lake trail. About 20min we entered into the trees and started the tedious and endless post-holing and bushwhacking. The first thing to do was to lose about 20m elevation and cross a (snow covered) creek. Once on the other side, heavy duty trail-breaking up a very steep treed slope was required. We post-holed to knee deep and travelling was not fast. We kept going towards climber's right diagonally. There was not much to describe here except for post-holing and bushwhacking. The weather was actually getting worse and we were hit by several quite heavy storms.

After what seemed like eternity, we finally could see the snowy upper slope. It looked to be quite steep, and yet, quite far away. But since we were there, we would give it a go. The sky magically cleared up once we hit treeline. Oh man, we were LUCKY. We spent the bad-weather periods on the descent from Opal and on the ascent up Little Chester, but we did get good weather on both peaks' alpine sections.

The slope was pretty steep. It reminded me both Mosquito Mountain and Ramp Peak. We were forced to do some switchbacks. It was also very foreshortened. The elevation is marginally lower than Little Galatea, but apparently I didn't realize this until I was on the summit. We could see another storm quickly moving in. Ben and I were not far from the summit at this point and we hurried up and successfully beat the storm. We got some interesting views but apparently Andrea and Mike were not as lucky. They were treated with white-out...

We were in a complete white-out storm roughly about 2 minutes after leaving the summit. We passed Andrea, and then Mike on their way up. Sky magically cleared up again, but only for maybe 30 seconds. It went back to white-out again... The strong wind and blowing snow was smashing our faces and after quickly strapping snowshoes on, we started the fast descent. Plunging-step down the face was very enjoyable and quick. Mike somehow disoriented himself and ended up too far skier's left. Luckily he spotted us and we regrouped together at treeline. Weather was gradually improving again. The rest of the descent went by nice and quick. Once we got back to the trails, Ben and I took off snowshoes and walked down the hard-packed tracks. Weather was even much better now, oh well. Round Trip Time: 4 hours.

While finishing a very satisfactory day given the not-so-good weather forecast, we drove back to Canmore and hoping to have good weather on Sunday. (And we did.)

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Steven Song
 
Mt. Fortune & Fortulent
Jan 20, 2013

Weather and avalanche forecast looked to be okay for this weekend, so Ben and I decided to head to t ...more

he mountains again. Originally Anthony, Ben's friend was going to join us. Ben and I preferred to leave Edmonton 3AM in the morning to avoid sleeping in car at -17 freezing temperature, or sleeping in hostel with unknown roommates (possibly noisy), and to save 30 bucks... Anthony isn't used to doing intense trips with 1-2 hours of sleep, so we eventually booked hostel in Canmore. Anthony cancelled the trip at last minute, so it was only Ben and I leaving city 8pm Saturday evening. Blizzard condition all the way from Edmonton to Innisfail, and driving condition was marginal. There were about 20 cars driving into the ditches, in addition to 2 large trucks. Visibility was minimal due to the heavy snowfall and blowing snow. Apparently Ben has experience dealing with this condition and he managed to drive his small car at 80-100kph. I have done driving in even worse condition near Kamloops and Merritt back to 2 years ago, and I was prepared to take over the driving if the condition was like that the entire way. It totally reminded me the intense drive from Edmonton to Vancouver in March 2011, dealing with heavy rain, heavy snow, heavy fog, and almost everything you can experience. Thankfully we passed the storm quickly. The sleep in Canmore hostel was far from enjoyable. We got a noisy roommate who was videoing with his buddy at 1am. As a result we only got roughly 4 hours of sleep...

So we started the day at about 8AM, when there was enough light. As described in Nugara book, the first thing was to negotiate the maze of ski trails. We tried to follow Nugara's direction for while, but soon got frustrated by the switchbacks and up-and-downs, and eventually decided to shoot straight down towards Spary Lake, and this proved to be the fastest way for snowshoeers. Bushwhacking and plunging-step downhill was fast. Once we dropped down to the lake, we were surprised to find no wind, which is very unusual for this area. Temperature wasn't too cold neither, and weather was clear. We all enjoyed the alpenglow and then morning light while crossing the lake. The view made this supposed boring hour very enjoyable. And it was so good to see the colours changing from purple to red to orange and yellow. I highly recommend crossing the lake in sunrise hour. There was no visible tracks and we aimed straight towards the SW corner of Mount Fortune. It was a long way cross.

Apparently there once was a forest fire in this area, going up the field of burned trees reminded me Vermillion Peak two weeks ago. I'm pretty sure Mount Fortune can be skied and there's enough space between burned trees to do turns, but there wasn't enough snow, and deadfalls were only partially covered. The second problem was the shitty snow. It has a somehow hard crust on top which couldn't hold our weight, and we had to punch down the crust, then post-hole to knee deep. The snow was very sugary and even our MSR snowshoes couldn't get a grip. We slide backward every step forward. The only evidence showing we were actually moving uphill was seeing our pole marks. The snow combined with deadfalls made our progress very, very slow. It would be very frustrating if we had plan on Monday, but for a one-day trip, we don't mind to do more work-out, as long as it doesn't prevent success. We are both very fit and we shared trail-breaking half half, and after 2 hours of heavy duty work, we made to treeline. The terrain above treeline was severely wind blown, and we had to take-off snowshoes. We carried snowshoes because we couldn't see Fortune/Fortulent col. It turned out be a good call. The high point ahead of us was actually false summit, but the true summit was only minutes away, and soon we stood on Mount Fortune. The view was already outstanding, and I agree with Nugara that this is the highlight of snowshoeing around Spray Lake, 3.5 hours from car.

We didn't stay on Fortune, but immediately dropped down towards Fortune/Fortulent col. It turned out that we indeed needed snowshoes. The col is below treeline and it perfectly holds snow. We didn't lose much elevation before starting up again. The entire slope was blown bare on climber's left and center, so we ditched snowshoes at snowline. Slogging up frozen scree and some snow, we quickly gained elevation. There are a couple of easy to moderate scramble sections before the summit. They could be circumvented on climber's left side, but we didn't bother. Once we topped out on the summit, the other side fully opened up, and Mount Turbulent appeared to be a true slog. It can certainly be done on snowshoes or skis, but that would be a long day with Castleguard style approach. I'm actually interested in this. Fortulent has twin summits, and we checked the other one as well. The view down towards Spray River valley is much better from this summit, and looking back to the first summit reveals some cornice scenery, so make sure you don't give it a miss. We briefly considered continuing the ridge towards the next high point, 1.5km away, but decided to go back. We certainly had time to explore, but didn't bother as we didn't want to claim that peak...

Once we got down the scrambling section, we took the snow on skier's left and got a great glissade. Once down the alpine section, we all enjoyed a super fast plunging step. It only took us roughly 20min to descend back to the lake. For snowshoeing downhill, we want it to be as slippery as possible so we can glide. Except for the deadfalls, it was very enjoyable. The afternoon sun provided some different view on the lake. Again, there was no wind. Once making back to the other side, we retraced our tracks to parking lot. There were lots of cross country skiers.

We decided to drive home via Highway 40. I spotted a less exposed route to Little Chester. I actually made to its summit in summer, but didn't count as it was only a 10min side trip from Mount Chester. I suggest to follow the west face/SW ridge line, rather than Nugara's dangerous gully.. Commonwealth Ridge and Tent Ridge both appeared dry on upper ridge/slope. Opal Ridge (true summit)'s entire slope was dry. Another peak that appeared dry was West Baldy West Ridge, a Nugara climber's scramble. It was feasible last Sunday, oh well... We eventually made back to Calgary before sunset. Good timing for a moderately long trip in January.

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Steven Song
 
Mount Burstall
Jul 28, 2012

On Saturday, July 28, I joined Andrea Battistel and Shaun Luong for a short ascent to Mt Burstall. M ...more

y original plan was to do either Snow Peak or Commonwealth Peak afterwards simply because Burstall is so short. But due to the forecast of thunder showers, we decided to do only Burstall. This way, we could also save energy for the next few days' big plans.

According to So, Burstall should not be treated lightly. We all gave it a full respect. By the way, if you want to save weight, you can take a picture of Alan Kane's description, rather than bringing the entire book with you... Apart from Kane's route description, I suggest you to remember two features for this little peak, the rock rib in Vern's trip report and the slab crack in Bob Spirko's trip report (I will mention both later).

We met in Calgary at 7AM, and arrived at Burstall Pass trail head by 8:40AM. I remember there's a maze of snowshoe / ski trails in winter, but this time, the main trail was clearly marked. The partly cloudy sky in the morning granded some nice photos along the trail. After 20-30min walk, we arrived at a large boulder (you won't miss this giant rock). 5-7 minutes later, look carefully for a trail with a cairn on your left. Although you might start to see the correct ascent gully, it's better to continue to this cairned trail to minimize bushwhacking. We could tell there was a heavy rain last night because all the vegetation was wet. Even though this trail is easy to follow, a light bushwacking on some overgrown parts is unavoidable. As a result, we got soaked pretty quick... 10 minutes later, we broke through the trees.

Now, we were treated with this view. Going further up climber's right on the obvious scree ramp was attempting. In fact, it's the worst... I knew from Vern that the easiest line up is the mini rock rib on the left side of this picture. Indeed, it offered the least resistent line uphill. The black scree on both sides of this rib offers great ski run down, but not up. The view is foreshortened. It was still a slog to get up this gully. When we arrived at the saddle, we were treated with a spectacular view to Cegnfs - Murray - Smith Dorrien - Robertson, as well as the upper slope. We took an energy break there.

A well troden path led us up the next section, a tedious rubble slog... Keep a positive attitude, as the fun scramble section will soon arrive. After we topped out on the summit ridge, Mt Sir Douglas - Burstall Pass area showed up. Too bad we started to lose clear sky from here...

Now comes the fun part. From there to the summit, you pretty much either follow the ridge, or drop slightly down climber's right and traverse. I need to point out here, you shouldn't experience anything that's more exposed than Mt Lady MacDonald. If so, look for a faint trail to your right and traverse below the ridge crest. Even though the photos look serious, I would rate this mountain as lower to middle range of difficult. There's no serious move involved. Soon you will arrive at the crack / gully mentioned in Bob Spirko's trip report. Scrambling up this crack is straightforward. There're tens of holds and the crack is wide. Once topping out of this crack, climb up an exposed step (2m high), followed by balancing over the most exposed section of about 2m long, then you're just 10 second away from the summit.

Mt Burstall is surrounded by giants so you're guaranteed a good summit view. By the time we got there, it already clouded over so we didn't get the best view though. We stayed there for 30min having a lunch break. The register is missing... As we were watching the dark clouds getting closer and closer, it started to rain / hail... We knew thunderstorm would come soon, so headed down. Lower down, we could see a guy going up solo. Surprisingly he cound recogonize Andrea, and he thought I was So. Small world though, he is Granticulus and he's also a member of CT. He did Snow Peak in the morning, what a big day though. Getting down the upper slope was as tedious as going up. Those rubbles were unpredictable. Some look stable but actually not, some look solid but will slide or roll if you step on them... Once down to the col, we decided to go bag a small outlier which involved some interesting balancing. Form there, we got better perspective of the upper slope on Burstall. We chose the black scree on skier's right of the rock rib, which offered really good scree run. Granticulus managed to catch us on the way back on Burstall Pass Trail. It's very nice to meet great scramblers on the mountains! He told us that the other side, Chester Lake trail was closed due to bear activity...

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Steven Song
 
The Fortress
Sep 15, 2012

After coming down from Gusty Peak, we took no break and soon started the trudge up The Fortress. The ...more

scree was easy to ascend, and there was a snow slope that offered better footing as well (thank Neil for kicking the steps). It didn't took us long to make to the Fortress/ Chester col. Compared to the other two summits, The Fortress is much more popular. It makes sense as it's the easiest ascent in this area.

From the col, we simply followed the paths up the slope. Once at the base of summit block, we chose to directly ascend the block, which proved to be extremely difficult and exceeding our comfortable level. We were forced to awkwardly backtrack after being blocked by an overhanging and wet step... After circumventing the block on climber's left side, we each found another difficult chimney to gain the summit.

We decided to use Chester Lake valley to exist because we all had other plans the next day. Doing Headwall Lakes valley is for sure more scenic but it adds more distance. Scree running down the black scree band was fun and fast and we quickly made back to the valley floor, and then leisurely walked down to Chester Lake. The trail wasn't easy to follow, but basically we just followed the valley floor out. I took several panoramas at Chester Lake and the meadows. Neil managed to somehow lose his camera, and thankfully I was able to spot it on the trail...

Overall, this a very enjoyable and satisfactory 3-peak-day, and a big thank to Neil for accompanying. We covered 2400m elevation, and round trip time: 11.5 hours.

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Steven Song
 
Gusty Peak
Sep 15, 2012

After a morning ascent of Mount Galatea, Neil and I continued our day towards Gusty Peak. Instead of ...more

dropping down to Chester Lake, we took a highline traverse hugging around Gusty Peak while side-sloping, in order to save some elevation loss and regain. Once getting around the corner, we had to down-climb a tricky section, followed by losing about 50m elevation. It's okay. Now we were officially at the valley leading to Gusty and Fortress. For those hikers who don't like scrambling, you'd better venture in this valley and the Three Lakes Valley, and they give a much better perspective than the tourists' Chester Lake. The trail eventually disappears into rubble field. Soon we arrived at the base of Gusty Peak.

The slope looks like a true slog, as described on others' sites. Instead of following Kane's line, we decided to ascend the rocky rib on climber's right side, which turned out to be a very good call. The ground is much more stable on this side, and the scrambling is moderate at most. Once we cut back to the main slope, it was purely rubble slog to the summit. We were surprised to see 4 others descending this peak, as Gusty isn't a popular mountain. Some of them didn't bring poles and as a result, they had to descend very awkwardly. The most eye-catching feature on this ascent is to look back at The Fortress's shear east face.

We took a necessary break on the summit, while soaking in the views. Both of us felt good on energy so we decided to bag The Fortress at the end of the day. Coming down Gusty was much better than expected as we could manage to surf at most places. It was not fine scree, but still easy to descend.

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Steven Song
 
Mount Galatea
Sep 15, 2012

While doing the Big Traverse one week ago, Neil (Travelin' Jones) and I were already planning on thi ...more

s weekend's plan, namely Mount French... However, a snow storm made things questionable. We still wanted to give it a go, and if things don't look good, we had Mt. Jellicoe as the back-up plan. We met at Burstall Pass trail head at 6:45am. Things were far worse than anticipated. Almost all of the 3000+ peaks had snow on, especially those around Mt. Sir Douglas. Neil had failed French last year due to verglass, snow, and white-out, and there's no way to fail it twice. I'm not in favour of doing Jellicoe from French Creek side due to obvious reasons. I prefer doing Jellicoe from Turbine Canyon side. That side is much more scenic, and more important, doesn't involve bushwhacking, nor glacier travel. So, after some discussion, we finally decided to set our eyes on another nearby high peak, Mount Galatea, with the option to grab Gusty and Fortress.

So we all drove across the dusty Smith Dorrien road, and parked at Chester Lake parking lot. For scramblers, you should be able to get to Chester Lake in one hour. While circumventing the lake on the north side, watch for a well defined but unmarked trail that leads to Three Lakes Valley. Looking back, the morning light shown on Sir Douglas and Birdwood was gorgeous.

Not far up, we broke through the trees and arrived at the first lake. We could see the yellow larches, but because we were in the shadow, I decided to save photos for the return. The trail becomes less and less distinguishable as we venturing further in the valley, and finally disappears in the sea of rubble and boulders. Now we were at the base of our first objective, Mt. Galatea.

I would say, following the exact line given by Kane, 90% of the ascent is a rubble slog... I don't want to describe too much here, as it was all about preserving. We got our first sunlight of the day about half way up the slope, and thus our first break - sunscreen break. After what seems like eternity, we popped out on the summit ridge. Now, the fun part began. We tried to stick exactly to the ridge crest for as much as we could. At places, we had to expose ourselves to the entire NE face drop-off, probably 1000m relief. The scrambling gets very difficult at other places. But the trick is, every "climber's" section is avoidable on climber's left side if you don't mind to side-slope on rubble, so we didn't have a feeling of doing a serious ascent at all. Soon we made to the summit, 3 hours 20 minutes after leaving our cars. The view would be much better if there was no forest fire on-going... But too bad, we got a smoky summit view.

We did a long summit stay, probably more than half an hour, before heading down. We went around all of the difficulties and simply picked the easiest line on tedious rubble. This way, the mountain is moderate at most. There's very little scree run so descending was very hard on the knees. After the endless rubble slog, we eventually made back to Three Lakes Valley. Now we could focus on the views.

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Steven Song
 
Mount Chester
Jul 22, 2012

I've been talking to Dan Kim via facebook for a long time, and finally got a chance to climb a mount ...more

ain with him. He wanted something in the short to medium range as he had to get back to Calgary by 5pm. Because this would be my 100th summit, I'd like something bigger. So? A big mountain but also a short ascent? I threw out several possible objectives, Mt Galatea, The Tower, Mt Rae, Mist Mtn, Mt Chester. We agreed on Mount Chester, the shortest of these.. Because Chester is so short, we just decided to meet at 8AM at Baldy Pass parking lot (TH for Midnight Peak, as both of us have done that), then car-pool to Chester Lake parking lot.

The ascent of Mount Chester can be divided in 3 sections: 1 hour to Chester Lake; another 1 hour to Chester - Little Chester col; the final 1 hour to the summit. Compared to the day before, I felt much more energetic, oh well, probably the weather is really a factor. The trail to Chester Lake is not steep and provided a good warm up. Because we talked a lot, this section passed by very quick. We passed another group of 4 also heading to Mt Chester at the start. Surprisingly we didn't see any bear digging nor bear scat... Is here supposed to be an active grizzly country?? I've snowshoed to Chester Lake in winter, and the view in summer is totally different. Actually, I like the summer view more.

At the lake, we followed an obvious path / trail skirting around the lake on west side. This trail led us directly to the bottom of the big gully. I don't know why Nugara writes Little Chester to the snowshoeing book. Man, this is dangerous in winter... Anyway, there was still some snow in the gully now, and it actually provided better footing than the nearby scree. Getting higher, the snow got icy and we traversed climber's right to the muddy scree. The scree wan't bad neither and we were able to keep a steady pace. 1 hour after leaving the Lake, we arrived at the col. My suggestion for this section is, you gonna keep your eyes on Little Galatea, as you have to get up almost that high when you finish the gully. The gully itself is very foreshortened.

I took a short energy break at the col, eating one muffin, and we soon started the trudge up the west face. Again, this slope is foreshortened. If you want a real perspective of it, I suggest you go Little Chester first to take a view of that. By this time of the day, both Dan and I were getting faster. From the col to the top, we kept a fast pace almost without a break. Sometimes we ignored the beaten path and just used the slab / rock, which was easier on the way up. By the time we almost reached the summit, the group of 4 topped out on the col..

The view was amazing!! Impressive mountains to the west, from Mt Joffre to Mt Assiniboine, too many names. I've already got similar views from Little Galatea and Rummel Ridge in winter so it was not that surprising. Towards the other side we were able to see the front peaks east of Kananaskis Valley. Mount Galatea looks impressive towards north. We also walked down the north ridge for about 20m to see Chester Lake below. On the other side, we could also see Headwall Lake. Too bad the register was missing.

We stayed for more than half an hour, and started the descent. Honestly I didn't want to leave the summit, but since Dan had to get back early we had to descend now. We followed one of the several beaten paths, and we were able to find scree run here and there. At the col, we decided to give Little Chester a shot. Although named, I don't consider this as a separate summit, unless I did it as a snowshoeing ascent. The reason is obvious, there's only about 20m elevation gain from the col to the summit... However, we did get some good perspective of the west face of Mount Chester from Little Chester, so this extra 15min is worthwhile. Also, if I start to see Little Chester on other peak-baggers' summit log, I will consider this as a separate one :)

Getting down the gully was easy. We could use either snow or the scree. The scree wasn't a perfect scree run but still easy on the knees. The snow was too hard to plunge-step. Dan was able to boot-ski down, while I just used the scree. Lower down, we both started using the snow as it softened quite a bit. Soon we were back at Chester Lake, where the afternoon sun made the view more beautiful. On the way back we got better view of our objective, Mt Chester. Coming down Chester Lake trail on a Sunday afternoon provides a perfect example of "Hi"king... Kananaskis Country is getting busier now.. It's good as more people are getting out.

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Steven Song
 
Read's Tower
Jul 11, 2012
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Steven Song
 
Mount Sparrowhawk
Jul 11, 2012

After finishing Norquay, Aylmer, Panorama, and Paget, I took a day off in Canmore to rest. During wh ...more

ich I met Clayton (Candy Sack). We were planing on doing a scramble on Wednesday, and his objectives were either Cirque Peak or Mt Niblock. Cirque Peak is my first scramble in the Rockies and I don't have the interest to repeat it. If Niblock, I won't do it without doing Mt Whyte, and Niblock to Whyte sounds a perfect solo objective due to the amount of tourists on the trail. They will scare away the bears for me. Therefore, I threw out my objectives: how about doing Storm Mountain or Mount Inglismaldie, which are characterized by miserable bushwhacking and tedious scree bashing. Not to my surprise, he wasn't interested in these. So, Mount Sparrowhawk? Yes, that works for both of us.

I like the way of driving on Smith Dorrien road at 80kph. Well, Clayton has a truck so that's why. I usually just drive at 30-40...

We made a not-so-early start at 8:45AM, especially under the forecast of afternoon thunderstorms. However, Sparrowhawk is short and easy so it was okay. I suggest you not to follow Kane's description. Alan Kane says do not follow Read's Ridge trail as it leads to cliff bands... Oh man, there's no cliff bands at the end of Read's Ridge Trail (which we found out later)... His direction is always vague as by just following, people ascended Ship's Prow instead of Lawrence Grassi. Okay, after following Read's Ridge trail for about 15min, we started the bushwhacking, traverse towards climber's lift, trying to find the scream Kane mentions. The bush wasn't bad at all (well, having done bushwhacking on Barnaby Ridge, I will probably say any bushwhacking in this area isn't bad). We crossed the drainage and went up the ridge on the other side. Surprisingly, this eventually led us back to Read's Ridge. "Damn it... We should have just followed the trail then". At the base of Read's Tower, we found that there's no cliff bands at all.

After a quick break, we started the traverse diagonally up beneath Read's Tower. We should have just drop down a bit and ascend the bottom of the gully. By that way, we could avoid side-sloping on loose stuff. The snow in the gully helped us a lot. (I didn't even use an ice axe until near the summit, so the snow is easy). There's not much to say for the rest, as it's merely a simple slog on snow or occasionally, scree and slab. Be sure to look back at the impressive face of Read's Tower on the way up.

Near the summit block, we had to cross a steep snow slope. It was steep enough to take out my ice axe for security. A slide on that slope would send me down the other side of the mountain, where big cliff bands exist. After some tedious scree bashing, we stood on the summit, more than 3100m high. We stayed for almost 1 hour to soak in the views and to escape the heat. The register was in bad shape as it was wet.. I took several close shots of Mount Lougheed's alternate route (moderate route), and it's bone dry now.

Descending on scree and snow was really effortless. Except for a few isothermic sections, the whole way down to Read's Ridge was fast. Since I haven't done Read's Tower yet, I decided to give it a go as well. I made a promise of coming back in 1 hour. It took me 25min up, 5min summit stay, and 15min down. You can get a very good perspective of Mount Sparrowhawk from Read's Tower, so it's not that worthless as I thought. Instead of bushwhacking, we just decent via Read's Ridge trail, which was miserable. It's the type of just a loose layer on top of firm ground, so use caution here. Round Trip time 8 hours including all of the stops and detours.

At the end of the day, we enjoyed the cold water in Spray Lake. That was awesome, as the temperature was 31 degree in Canmore...

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Steven Song
 
Mount Lougheed
Sep 2, 2012

On Sunday, I woke up in Canmore, and the next thing I saw was the new snow on the mountains... Oops, ...more

my original plan, Big Sister, wasn't doable then, due to the slabby terrain. Oh well, I thought I gonna do Mount Nestor then, despite not having a bike with me. On the way drove up the bumpy Smith Dorrien Road, I saw several cars on the Big Sister parking lot... Well, good luck to all of those. Two of them were actually preparing for the ascent. I drove up the parking lot, and discussed the situation with them. We agreed on Mt. Lougheed eventually. It's an easy scramble so we thought it was okay with snow on.

The ascending drainage was easy to locate. It's the first obvious drainage after passing Little Lougheed, and also the last drainage before Sparrowhawk Day Use area. After about 2min bushwhacking, we managed to gain the trail on the left side of the trail. The weather was overcast and we didn't get good view on the way in. The trail basically parallels the the creek. Near treeline, it gets faint, but the route is obvious as you still have to follow the drainage up. My partners went uphill too soon and they were forced to side-hill after realizing their mistake. After side-sloping across a large meadow, I dropped to the creek bed and followed it through a "narrow gate". Further up, I started to gain elevation on grass slope, and we regrouped at the base of the huge scree cone.

The route up should be obvious, but the scree cone is very foreshortened. You gotta gain a good portion of the entire elevation gain by trudging up this cone. Thankfully the footing wasn't too loose, or it would be really bad. Looking back, we were amazed by the impressive north face of Mt. Sparrowhawk. You should know Lougheed is almost as high as Sparrowhawk, so don't get lured by the foreshortened view. The entire mountain is foreshortened once you start the scree cone. At the end of the cone, we looked carefully for cairns on climber's right side. It was obvious and we quickly started the traverse. Going up the miner rock band provided some challenge to us, due to the snow and verglass... Verglass and wet rock was the major theme of the rest of the ascent... Oh well... I thought this was the only challenge. Really? No, it was just the start.

We followed cairns through the rock band. The correct route from here is to traverse horizontally to the ridge on climber's right side and gain that broad ridge. However, due to the last minute decision, none of us knew this important point. We decided to go straight up. It should be just moderate scramble in dry condition, on down-sloping ledges and slabs... But with verglass and snow on, it felt like doing upper difficult to climber's scramble at places, not because of exposure, but purely due to the lack of reliable holds. We all managed to get through. A slip would probably just result some sort of hurt, as you would be stopped by the scree below the slab. But even though, non of us wanted to start a slide... Just before topping out on the west ridge skyline, we were blocked by another slab step... This one looked really bad with snow on, and we couldn't safely went up. I managed to find a small ledge on the left side. I figured out after this step, I could make to the summit and use the correct route to descent. The holds were solid but this step exposed me to the entire north face drop-off. It only took me 10 second to get through. My partners felt this part over their head and they decided to slowly retrace. I would say this step is only difficult scramble though. 1000m drop-off is the same as 30m drop-off, because both are deadly... I quickly made to the summit afterwards...

Because I got separated with the other two, I didn't do Lougheed III instead quickly made my way down the correct line. Oh gosh, that was sooooo easy!! It was mostly a scree run to get down, then a horizontal traverse on a path. We regrouped somewhere on the talus slope. On the way down the lower rock band, the verglass were gone but the rock was still wet... After this last obstacle, we made back to the big slope. We could manage to scree ski here and there and we quickly made back to the valley floor. The strong wind was another theme of the day. It wasn't too crazy but we did got pushed around though. The sky briefly cleared a bit and I got some good photos of the impressive rock faces surrounding.

We followed the nice trail back to car. If you are not a scrambler, this alpine bowl is still worth a shot. The trail isn't shown on any map but is very easy to follow. I guess it's one of the secrets in the Rockies. If you know the route, this mountain isn't more difficult than the nearby Sparrowhawk. So for those who don't like scrambling, you still can get Lougheed and Sparrowhawk, two of the greatest viewpoints in Kananaskis Range.

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Steven Song
 
Mount Smuts
Sep 3, 2012

With the amount of snow I've just experienced the day before on Mt. Lougheed, I didn't really expect ...more

a success on this peak. However, Grant and I still decided to keep our original plan. At least we had Smutwood Peak and The Fist in that area, so it wouldn't be a fail if we couldn't get up Smuts. As usual, we met really early in the morning, 5:15 in Canmore, and quickly made our way up Smith-Dorrien Road. (Honestly if I chose the objective for this day given the condition, I would go for Mt. Jellicoe via Turbine Canyon, which was also on my radar for a while).

By the time we started, it was bright enough so we didn't need to use headlamp. The approach went by very fast. It was overcast and dark, so we couldn't get distracted by the views. There weren't any good view neither. Actually, except for the NW Ridge of Mt. Birdwood and the SW Ridge of Mt. Smuts, I didn't get any good view at all during the entire day due to the bad weather... Anyway, we made to the base of the big hill in 1 hour.

Once we started the big hill up Smuts Pass, Mount Birdwood started to look more and more impressive. I'd definitely want to get up it someday. Grant was a little worrying about the wind and he was right. Once we topped out above the trees and staring at the scree cone, we got pushed around by the strong wind... Oh well, Smuts is mostly chimney climb which gets less affected by wind, so we kept going. Trudging up the initial scree cone was tediously tedious. It's the worst part of the ascent in my opinion, but thankfully, it was short. We soon made to the infamous staircases. Oh my god, this part was so good and yet so long. We ascended the staircase all the way to the end where we couldn't go up anymore.

A cairn on climber's right side indicates we had to cross over to the ridge crest. I have to point out here, the correct way to go is to cross over further to the obvious gully / chimney rather than ascending the ridge crest. We made the mistake of ascending the slabby ridge, and as a result, we made our ascend much harder. I did realize the mistake and managed to cross to the chimney when I encountered a high angle slab. I would appreciate climbing shoes to ascend comfortably. I did brought my shoes but based on other scramblers's TRs, I shouldn't encounter anything that requires climbing shoes. To get to the chimney was also quite tricky as I had to use very small foot holds / friction holds, and finger holds to traverse 3 meter. Grant went straight up that slab section (well, he's done Northover without climbing shoes so he's good for this). However, he did get some intense moments on that route (rated as 5.5). The chimney I took (on-route chimney) got steeper and steeper and near the end, it got almost vertical. The exposure is real here and the climbing is very difficult (rated as 5.3). We both made through our own lines. Looking back, Mt. Birdwood looks very impressive, as usual. It's impressive from all direction... Now we had done what's so called "Step 1".

The step 2 involves two separate chimney, with the second one involving one tight 5th class move. Both of them are on climber's right side of the ridge crest and should be clearly spotted. To get to the 2nd chimney, we had to cross a downsloping exposed scree covered slab ledge.. We used extra caution on our footings here. This chimney has one really tight move about 2/3 way up. I chose to squeeze in and pull up use arm strength. Grant chose to firstly ascend the ridge side, which was probably easier but much more exposed. According to Bill Kerr, this part is rated 5th class as well. After this bit of excitement, the hard part on the ascend route was over. We could took a deep breathe. It was very cold and windy and we quickly made to the summit. There're exposed places on the ridge but nothing serious.

We didn't stay long except for eating one sandwich, simply because of the coldness. I should have taken out my copy of Bill's excellent instructions, but to some reason I didn't. I thought the descent gully would be obvious... I made a huge mistake by taking the first obvious gully down. It looks doable from above and I slowly moved down. It got steeper and steeper near the bottom and the last 2 meter was very technical due to lack of holds. However, this step isn't exposed as it's chimney climb. I could just jump down this 2m but I chose to down-climb it. This step is 5.5 for the least in my opinion. If the gully didn't work out and I was forced to backtrack, I would need my climbing shoes to get up this step. Grant patiently watched me getting down this steep gully but he didn't follow as he would knock down rocks to me. Further down, the terrain levels out a bit then became steep again. I managed to get down for a while but the gully soon became over my comfortable level. Thankfully the slabs on the skier's left side were doable. I butt-shuffled down these slabs and got back into the gully again. I crossed the gully and got to the infamous series of ledges... Now what, I realized my mistake of taking a wrong gully down, as the way I had to traverse was towards skier's right. (If you take the correct one, you have to traverse skier's left)... Oh well, I carefully down-climbed these ledges and got back to safe terrain. Looking back, I couldn't believe that chimney is doable... I waited Grant for 15min and he came down the correct one. He gave the correct chimney a loose upper difficult rating, while I gave mine upper difficult to climber's scramble with one 5th class step. However, my route has much better rock quality. So I guess I discovered a new route down Smuts. But I really hope I won't make any mistake like that anymore. It could get very dangerous and frustrating if I had to backtrack... I ascended wrong gully on Roche Miette, Isolated Peak, and Mt. Edith, and descended wrong gully on Mt. Smuts. Glad they all worked out but I really need to improve my gully-identifying skill...

Scree run brought us to Smuts - Smutwood col. The weather didn't show any sign of improving. Assiniboine area was already soaked in and we decided not to do Smutwood Peak. We want a blue sky view of the NW ridge of Mount Birdwood. I might gonna do Snow to Smutwood traverse one day. On the way back, we passed several groups of hikers, as well as fresh bear droppings...

Now, I've done Mount Fox, Kiwetinok Peak, Fisher Peak, Wapta Mountain, Mount Northover, and Mount Smuts in just over 1 month. They're probably the most serious ascents in Kane List, and here's my thought and ranking.

1. Mount Northover: slab face climb + ridge climb. Severe exposure and very technical crux move

2. Mount Smuts: chimney climb. Lots of serious hands-on, complicated, and lots of route-finding. Much harder descend as well.

3. Wapta Mountain: techinical and vertical rock band for 20 meters

4. Fisher Peak: 2 big down-climbs; 2 smaller down-climbs. Less technical than Wapta but as vertical and exposed.

5. Mount Fox: 600 vertical meters of difficult scrambling with a harder crux step. Less technical than the others.

* Kiwetinok Peak: Steep and exposed snow traverse, serious route-finding on the upper slope. It's the snow that makes things harder, so I can't compare it with the other 5. I felt it's the most serious among these 6, but skiers might feel it's the easiest.

Northover and Smuts look similar and sound similar, but once you've done both, you'll find they're totally different. They test your different skills so you can't really say because I've done one, I should be good for the other. On your 1st try, they are equally serious. On the 2nd try, of course Smuts will be much easier as you don't need to do route-finding. Let's keep it this way, if I do Northover again, I'll appreciate climbing shoes for the crux, but if I do Smuts again, I will use neither rope nor climbing shoes.

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Steven Song
 
Rimwall
Jun 17, 2012

On the way down Windtower, we studied the route up Rimwall. Because we are confident scramblers, we ...more

didn't want to lose too much elevation to traverse around the rock band, following Kane's direction. From distance, it looks there might be a treed ledge runs diagonally across the bands. We wanted to try this route.

Not far up, we encountered the first difficult section, a 3m rock band. This provided a good warm up for the later use. Soon we saw two scramblers ahead of us, who were willing to attempt the treed ledge as well. Catching up them, we found out they were from Calgary. The ledge was mildly exposed, and 5 of us didn't have problem to traverse it. At this point, we had a high hope that this route would work. However, soon after traversing around the ledge, a big wall appears in front of us... It's about 15m high, with no apparent ledge or weakness.

Since we already reached this point, we didn't want to turn around unless it's practically impossible. Well, it's only 15m high though. Even if it's a lower 5th class rock climb, I would rather solo it then turn around. None of us brought helmet so at the base of the band, we each took a different line up. Andrea took the rightmost line, while Neil descent slightly towards left and found a way on that side. I took the most direct line which is a crack. The crack it self is climber's scramble, with generally solid holds. Due to the potential fatal consequence if I fell, I tested every hold before grabbing of stepping on. At the top of the crack, I had to traverse slight right with very small holds on solid rock, followed by a friction move to get through. This part is definitely a 5th class terrain. I felt more like doing bouldering in gym on vertical wall, except for no protection and questionable rock quality. I can't command on Neil and Andrea's route. Andrea's route might be the easiest as she topped out the first. The two Calgarians traversed further right but we never saw them after the rock band, so I'm assuming they didn't make it through.

We all relieved after finishing this section, but what was waiting for us was, a long tedious rubble slog and side sloping. The brisk sized rock is the worst type. You gonna be patience here. After a long slog we crossed the alternate descending gully, and after that, the rock quality improved dramatically. However, looking back, we could see a storm was coming in. The summit was already soaked in. We tried to beat the rain, but looks like it gonna beat us. 10min later, we were in a white out, and surprisingly what was felling on us was snow, not rain. There are several 2m rock bands on the summit ridge, but nothing tricky. Another 10min later we were standing on the summit. Now, the miracle happened. The sky started to clear and the layered clouds added drastically to the view. There was no summit register and we did a long summit stay before heading down. We talked about the Gap to Fable traverse and we all agreed to do the ridge both way to avoid the tedious creek bed walk.

On the way down, we took the scree ski route, which was just like the scree on Yamuska. At the treeline, the terrain got slabby and the gully soon narrows to a canyon. It reminds Neil about Isabelle Peak, and it reminds me about the false fault in Jura Creek. There's a 15m water fall that has to be skirted around in the trees on the left side. If wet, don't venture too close to the edge, as only friction grabs you. If you slip, there's nothing to stop you. Lower down, there are more interesting rock formation in the canyon, and it's much fun than simply bushwhacking in the trees. At the bottom, the canyon disappears into thick forest, and we lost sight to each other. I was falling a bit behind since I wasted too much time taking pictures so I thought they must be far ahead of me, and I speeded up in the forest to try catching them. About a few hundred meters later, I reached the road. Walking back to car, I didn't find them. I thought they might went to lake shore for views so I walked down to Spray Lake and still didn't find them... Damn... I though there must be something happened to them, as it makes no sense to take that long to descent. I walked back again and shouting, and thankfully they soon appeared. There was nothing happened and in fact, after we lost each other, Neil went back to the canyon to see if I was still there, so that's why it took them that long to get through the forest.

On the way walking back to car, we got showered. Perfect timing! Overall, a good two-peak-day under questionable weather forecast, with great companies.

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Steven Song
 
Windtower
Jun 17, 2012

On Sunday, June 17, I joined Neil and Andrea at Canmore on a 2-peak-day trip. Due to the forecasted ...more

thunderstorm in afternoon, we decided to meet at 7am, and start scrambling by 7:30. That way, we should be able to at least summit Windtower. The unsigned trailhead is just before reaching the Spurling Creek. There is a pull off on the right side of highway which can fit about 5 cars. Seeing how much snow left on the upper slope, we left ice axes in the car.

Neil is extremely fit and he set up a super fast pace on the initial West Wind Pass trail. I felt a bit short of energy due to the 1800m elevation gain on Saturday, and I had to push myself hard to catch up his speed. Apart from stopping at several viewpoints to take pictures of Spray Lake, we reached West Wind Pass in no time. The wind speed was about 30-40kph, and we continued a bit further towards the pass to take in the view of the other side. The most eye-catching feature is the green Wind Ridge.

There are several ways to get to Windtower. The hardcore route will be directly approaching from the Pass, which involves overcoming cliff bands. So, Shuan, and Dan did this in winter and the route looks sketchy. In June, the trail is clearly visible, and we decided to do the normal way, which initially contours around treeline for about 1km, while overcoming several 1m rock bands. After the last band, the trail turns sharply left and the rest is just a numbing slog up scree slope.

The weather was still cloudy as we got to the summit. We could see the impressive east face of Rimwall and the north face of Mount Lougheed. We discussed about Lougheed and none of us has done it. I will do it when the snow melts. Spray Lake and Goat Range fill in the view towards southwest. This is my first time seeing the melted Spray Lake, which is quite different from winter.

We didn't stay too long and soon started the descent. The scree was generally comfortable to descent and we soon got back to West Wind Pass. On the way down, we studied the route up Rimwall.

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Steven Song
 
Little Galatea
Apr 22, 2012

The standard route up Little Galatea is from Chester Lake via a huge avalanche gully (obviously aval ...more

anche prone). The route we took is from Rummel Lake via an interesting ridge. I have to thank Marko for pointing out this route option. It makes perfect sense to combine this with Rummel Ridge to make a day. The approach is the same as Rummel Ridge. Just before dropping down to Rummel Creek, head directly south, uphill. Work your way through the trees and choose the least steep line. You might consider doing switchback for a few sections. But anyway, it's much steeper than Rummel Ridge. If you are a beginner snowshoeer, you might have some hard times. The section above treeline is very likely to be wind blown. If so, ditch your snowshoes at the treeline and start scrambling. You can follow the ridge all the way to the summit. Carry an ice axe and possibly crampon if icy, as there are two very steep slopes that you have to ascend. Be very careful about the cornices on your left. It is also possible to scramble up the west ridge of Mt. Galatea to the next high point, but again, you cannot reach the summit from this side.

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Steven Song
 
Rummel Ridge
Apr 22, 2012

I don't know why university decides to give us exams on Saturdays. I have physics final on Saturday ...more

and Chemistry final on Monday. Sunday was forecasted to be a sunny day. Because I'm confident on the exams, I decided to do a hike on Sunday. It's better to tick off two summits together if you decide to go to the Rockies for only one day, so Rummel Ridge + Little Galatea jumps into my mind. Well, the standard route up Little Galatea is from Chester Lake, described in Nugara's Snowshoeing in the Rockies book, but I found out it's also doable via Rummel Lake side, according to Marko's trip report. At this time of the year, the snowpack is very hard and literally there is no boot penetration. The crampon system grips on the surface perfectly.

To get there, park at roadside at Mt. Engadine turnoff, which sits right at the center of Smith-Dorrien Road between Canmore and Kananaskis Lakes Junction. The trail is well described in Nugara's book. Basically you want to go uphill to a open area, from which you can see Rummel Ridge appears as a treed bump on your SE direction. Then you have to work your way southward into the trees, skirting around the bump while staying on the SW side of Rummel Creek. The trail then turns sharply left (east), and crosses Rummel Creek. From there, leave the trail (which goes to Rummel Lake) and head directly towards the summit. While you are in the trees so you cannot see the summit, the main goal is to go uphill. If you don't need to post-hole, you will be topping out of the trees about 40min later. The last tens of meters is avalanche prone depends on condition. From the summit, Sir Douglas, Birdwood, Smuts, and Assiniboine are the mostly eye-catching peaks towards North and West. Mt. Galatea dominates the view to South. Towards NE is Mt. Engadine, and The Tower sits directly East. If Rummel Ridge is the only objective of the day, it's also possible to scramble up the west ridge of The Tower to elevation of 3000m, but you won't reach the summit though. The scenery won't change much as the view towards East is still blocked by The Tower. Since I still have Little Galatea to do, I didn't give this ridge a go.

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Steven Song
 
Burstall Pass Peak
Feb 12, 2012

I have to "thank" the weather forecasters first.. "Thank" you for your prediction of sunny sky. It d ...more

id got sunny, but only for 20 minutes. 99% of the day was snowy and cloudy. I wouldn't go for this peak, the top winter scenic peak in Kananaskis Country, if I knew the nasty weather before leaving. Also, dear University, please stopping giving us examinations on weekends.. Man I have to go to the mountains during weekends lol...
Okay.. After the long complaining, now it's the trip. Nugara points out that the round trip time would be about 10-12 hours. Well, it makes sense, since the total distance is 20km. However, I think he refers to, if you have to break trail all the way up. I did manage to finish this trip in 5 hours 50 minutes. I didn't even use the snowshoes for a long portion of the trail, just because the trail was extremely well packed. This speed up my pace significantly.
At the beginning, I tried to follow an official snowshoe trail, which led to wrong direction. Lol, I forgot Burstall Pass trail is not an official snowshoe trail, so if there exists one, it must not be the one I want. However, this trail led me to a steep canyon, which looks somehow similar to the approach canyon to Bow Hut. The steep cliffs on both side are pretty impressive. So this "wrong turn" was not too bad. After gaining the main trail, I set up a peak bagging race's pace towards Burstall Pass. The weather was moving in quickly, and then it started snowing. Ohh NOOOOO!!! On the way in, I also searched a bit for the French - Haig - Robertson Traverse, which is definitely on my to-do list for this year. After crossing one marsh area, it's the first significant elevation gain to a narrow area. After that, Burstall Pass is in sight. Thank God Burstall Pass Peak was not covered in clouds. I really don't like to summit a peak in a whiteout condition. Because, having absolutely no summit view means, I have to come back. Near the steep climbing towards Burstall Pass, I began to post-hole, so I had to snowshoe-up.
My ascent route is to traverse to South Burstall Pass first, then ascend the not-too-steep slope right towards the summit. Mt. Sir Douglas did clear up for about 3 minutes. Together with Mt. Birdwood, they are the most eye catching giants nearby. Once on the ridge, it was only about 5 minutes to the summit. The view towards BC side fully opened up. Despite the not-so-good weather, the low clouds on the other side added to variety. Well, you cannot picture these sceneries in sunny days for sure though. Mt. Assiniboine never showed up for me on this day. There are three summits on this peak that are 3-5 minutes apart from each other. I don't know which one is the highest, pretty close though. So I traversed all of them to make sure I summit the mountain. I traversed further north before descending. I highly recommend to retrace my ascending route if the avalanche condition is high, because the north part of the peak is a bit steep. Even with the nasty weather, this trip still qualifies one of my favourite winter trips. On the way back, I saw at least 15 skiers and 3 snowshoe-ers in several groups trudging up the pass, some of them were going for the peak. I was quite surprised about my speed on this peak. So after estimating my round trip time would be somewhat about 6 hours, I decided to speed up, to save more daylight time. In that pace, I would still have 3.5 hours of daylight time, which means, I could definitely finish Chester Lake, maybe including one of the smaller summits near the lake. Overall, Burstall Pass Peak is definitely one of the highlights of winter travel in K-Country, and as a peak bagger, you should try it.

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Steven Song
 
Red Ridge
Jan 29, 2012

The day after the miserable ascent of Midnight Peak, we decided to do something less demanding, so o ...more

ur original plan was to do either Mt. Yamuska or Mt. Baldy. However, due to the howling chinook wind, the wind speed on Mt. Baldy's summit was forecasted to be approaching 150km/hr. Well, that's not gonna work... So our only choice was to drive on Smith Dorrien Road, although not good for our car. We chose Red Ridge, a moderate to difficult snowshoe objective. The stats don't look demanding though (9km distance with 950m elevation gain), really? NOOOO!! we had to break trail right at the beginning. But we did manage to find a snowshoe trail after 30min trail breaking, which saved a lot of energy. My mom couldn't keep up with my pace, so I pretty much ascent in a leisure pace. After 1 hour 50min, we broke the treeline. The wind speed suddenly increased from zero to almost the strongest speed I've ever experienced in the rockies... My mom couldn't even stand alone on that wind, so she decided to wait for me at treeline again. It's only half way though, at this point.
With the 100kpm wind?, I started the trudging towards the summit. The sky was grey but at least it was not a whiteout, so I still can see most of the mountains except the highest ones. Although I didn't have the clear sky, the views were fine. The ridge itself, I would say, it's endless false summit ridge... holy crap, after you climbing over a hump, there are always more to come. It's pretty discouraging, especially under this strong wind. I had to ditch my snowshoe after the first hump, then it's a mix of easy and moderate scrambling. I hate the snow covered boulder field completely, as you could start a all-the-sudden knee deep post-holing without even a clue. Without care, you would easily break you leg or ankle. It took me 1 hour 40min from the treeline to the summit. I didn't find a register, and the cairn wasn't big at all, but i'm sure it's the summit. Although not perfect, the views were still fine at that time. I could take a panorama. I didn't linger any longer, but started descending ASAP..... TOOOO windy and cold. Due to the snow-ice-covered boulder field, I couldn't descend much faster. It took me 1 hour 10min to get back to treeline. By the way, the cornices on Red Ridge are amazing, but also dangerous though. I almost stepped onto one of them. Avalanche is not a problem on this day.
It took no time nor energy to snowshoe back to our car. Since we still had daylight time, we decided to give Spray Lake a visit, that is, snowshoeing on to the lake to soak in the views... (Well, the views were obscured by the clouds though).. Anyway, pretty successful weekends.

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Photos taken by Steven