Steven Song's Peak-bagging Journey

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Mount Lougheed

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