Porcupine Tower (Porcupine Loop)

Interesting Facts: 

Porcupine Tower is a continuation of Porcupine Ridge - a ridge splitting the North and South forks of Porcupine Creek in the front ranges of the Rockies just west of Tiara Peak.

Trip Category: 
SC - Scrambling
Technical Difficulty Level: 
6
Endurance Level: 
High
YDS Class: 
3rd Class

Mountain Range: 
Mountain Subrange: 
Attained Summit?: 
Yes
Trip Date: 
Saturday, May 19, 2018

After enjoying the summit of Porcupine Ridge, Wietse and I turned our attention towards it's extension summit - Porcupine Tower. I have to admit, things get a bit interesting as far as naming and claiming summits, especially on long ridge traverses such as the Porcupine Loop. Wietse and I spent more than one occasion chuckling at the fact that likely NONE of the "summits" on this loop are official, yet we were planning on claiming at least 5 or 6 of them on our respective summit lists. blush

 

Despite the fact that nobody really cares about nebulous, unofficial, front range "summits", it's still an interesting point to ponder. I'll reason our points for claiming the summits we did, on this loop but YMMV and you are welcome to scoff at our choices and not claim them for yourself. It's a free world. In 2017 Mike Mitchell and I did a similar long ridge traverse in David Thompson Country (the Landslide Traverse) and also claimed a bunch of summits along the way. It helps to motivate tired legs and minds when you know you can at least pad your summit stats with these silly long days of undulating ridge lines and exhausting vistas!

 

Porcupine Tower is fairly easily claimed as a distinct summit from Porcupine Ridge. While the ridge is essentially a hike or easy scramble, the tower is much more engaging and demanding. After losing height from Porcupine Ridge, we were pleasantly surprised to find some moderate (exposed) scrambling along the ridge towards the tower. Wietse initially tried to avoid the ridge crest (we thought it was supposed to be only easy terrain) but after running into very slabby terrain which was also wet, he joined me on the ridge proper and we negotiated the crux terrain without issue. We both commented how unexpected and fun the crux was. I'm surprised that folks do this in the winter - it must be clear of snow and ice all year around or it would be very sketchy. We certainly didn't see any easy or safe way to avoid this section but we commented more than once that we must have missed something. Whatever. When dry, I highly recommend sticking to the ridge crest as it's fun and the views are great.

 

 
[Looking back along the crux section of ridge after I'd already done it. The Pinnacles near the summit of Porcupine Ridge are visible at left in the distance here. ++]


[Wietse on the crux.]


[Another slightly exposed slab corner section which was fun.]

 
[A wider view as Wietse descends off the end of the crux section. This ridge can likely be avoided at lower left (climber's right) but we found wet slabs there and didn't want to lose too much height. ++]

 

After the narrow ridge section the rest of the way to the summit of the Tower was fairly benign. The weather continued to be perfect and our views started opening up as we ascended higher.

 


[Generally for the rest of the day we always choose the ridge crest rather than any traversing and it worked out wonderfully despite some dead ends.]

 
[Another narrow section which first Wietse tried to avoid but he ended up coming back up and taking it as it was fun and worked out perfectly well. Hikers may not like these sections! ++


[Losing more height on our way to Porcupine Tower.]


[Steep, rubble slopes towards the second summit of the day.]

 
[Summit shot from Porcupine Tower looking back over the approach ridge at left with Crown and Tiara at right. Boundary, Midday and Midnight at center. ++]

 
[Porcupine Ridge splits the south (L) and north (R) forks of its namesake creek. Wasootch Ridge runs up valley at left.]


[Looking over Wasootch Ridge towards Old Baldy and Mount McDougall.]


[Kananaskis Peak.]


[Looking west towards Mount Lorette, Skogan and Mary Barclay's.]


[The Three Sisters.]


[Mount Lougheed rises over Mount Allan.]


[Mount Sparrowhawk and Wind Mountain (R) rise over Wasootch Peak in the foreground.]

 

Wasootch Ridge was starting to look close to the same height as our position as we left the second summit of the day and started towards the third - Crown Peak.

Summit Elevation (m): 
2,260
Summit Elevation (ft): 
7,415
Elevation Gain (m): 
1700
Round Trip Time: 
10.50
Total Distance (km): 
21.00
Quick 'n Easy Rating: 
Class 3 : you fall, you break your leg
Difficulty Notes: 

The scrambling from Porcupine Ridge to Porcupine Tower is at the very least moderate. There are no-slip zones where we were.