Whistler Mountain (Whistler Loop)

Trip Category: 
OT - Off-Trail Hiking
Interesting Facts: 

Naming: The mountain is named after the hoary marmot, also known as the whistling marmot. Official name. (from peakfinder.com) We did this peak as part of the so-called "Whistler Loop" - first documented by Dave McMurray on peaksandstreams.com.

Technical Difficulty Level: 
4
Endurance Level: 
Med
YDS Class: 
3rd Class
Mountain Range: 
Mountain Subrange: 
Attained Summit?: 
Yes
Trip Date: 
Saturday, October 29, 2016
Summit Elevation (m): 
2,210

As part of the "Whistler Loop", Wietse and I first bagged two unofficial summits, both of which are higher than either of the two official summits they sit between! Table Top is located south of Table Mountain and the two Whistable Peaks are between Table Top and Whistler Mountain. Despite not having official names, we enjoyed the gorgeous views and sublime weather as we sat on top of each of them on our way towards the extremely under whelming apex of Whistler Mountain. After reading the controversy on the exact location of the summit, I'm still not 100% sure which it is, but since we bagged every high point on the ridge, I know we stood on top of Whistler at some point! :)

 

 
[The elevation profile map for the Whistler Loop including the three summits and the lookout. It's sort of amusing that the only official peak is lower than any of the others. ++]

 

We made quick time down from the second of the Whistable Peaks towards Whistler Mountain - at least until hitting some old, weathered trees along the ridge. The snow was thankfully supportive through the short section of trees and soon Wietse was proudly standing on what we assumed was probably the summit of Whistler Mountain - on a snow bank buried in the stunted trees. We also made sure to stand on the next high point that was slightly lower along the ridge, this is likely where Sonny claimed the summit but we didn't see a register at either location.

 


[The colorful ridge leading from Whistable II to Whistler Mountain - which is even lower than the peak in the distance here.]


[Classic Castle Wilderness views off the ridge.]


[As we get lower, the ridge becomes somewhat treed in sections.]


[Looking back at our descent route with an unnamed - but interesting - peak at center distance. That peak must have stunning views of the north face of Castle Peak.]


[Looking back at Whistable Peaks.]


[Looking over Lys Ridge towards Jake Smith Peak and Scarpe Mountain.]


[Mount Matkin lies to the south.]


[Amazingly, the snow held our weight!]


[Looking back at Whistable II (L), Gladstone, the two unnamed peaks and Castle Peak (R).]


[The summit of Whistler Mountain is pretty unremarkable. As a matter of fact it's by far the most unremarkable part of the entire Whistler Loop. Even the lookout is far better for views.]


[Looking towards Whistable II from the summit of Whistler Mountain.]

 

Our views of Lys Ridge and further south towards Waterton and west towards the Divide were awesome as we started our descent to the Whistler Lookout site. The lookout was apparently built in 1966 and decommissioned the year I was born, in 1975 due to the nearby Carbondale Hill lookout and the extreme winds that usually blast this ridge (from Mike Potter's book). At the lookout we enjoyed more great views and the warm weather before continuing down the ridge. Here's where we had a few options. I had mapped out a route down to the ascent drainage to the east, that we had used on ascent, early in the day. This route would surely have worked, it was a reasonable angle and I knew that Dave had descended somewhere nearby. We descended some thick alders and stubborn, stunted trees before finally reaching the last high point along the ridge proper.

 


[Our views start improving again as we leave the summit of Whistler Mountain towards the lookout.]


[Great views off the ridge to the north towards Centre Peak.]


[Castle colors on the ridge in a view towards Table Top Peak - our first summit of the day.]

 
[Most of the Whistler Loop is visible from the ridge now. ++]

 
[Now that is a bloody long ridge! Lys Ridge is at left with West Castle closer to center. Click the photo for the approximate route from the Castle River below. It's about 9km from the north to the south end of the ridge. Barnaby Ridge is to the west (right) of Lys.]


[The path to the lookout is well worn from sheep and people.]


[All this height gain and loss and gain is getting a bit old - but how can we care on such a gorgeous day?!]

 
[Looking south along Lys Ridge towards Waterton Lakes National Park.]

 
[Click to view the Whistler Loop. ++]


[Lys Ridge.]


[Castle Peak.]


[Table Mountain.]


[Table Top Peak.]


[The Lookout.]


[Looking south from the lookout.]

 
[The shadows are getting long already at around 15:00 in this view along the Whistler Loop and north towards the Crowsnest Pass area. ++]

 
[A distant panorama from the Flathead Range on the left to the Livingstone Range just right of center and the prairies at far right. ++]

 
[Looking down the ridge to the end. Options include following it right to the cliff bands on the nose, or choosing a descent path through trees to the right.]

 

Wietse wanted to see what the nose of the ridge looked like, so we continued along the spine until an obvious cliff band blocked our straight line descent. Oh well. I thought we could probably sneak down very steep scree to our right (east). It looked gnarly from above, but once we got our noses into things, it became quite a bit more reasonable. This is the only section of the entire traverse that I thought probably snuck into "moderate" terrain. Since it's avoidable by descending through bush earlier, the Whistler Loop should still only retain it's "easy" scrambling rating IMHO.

 

 
[A flock of birds flies through my shot in this view looking back up to the Whistler Lookout.]

 
[We have some bushwhacking to "look forward to" just ahead on the ridge. Thankfully it's dry at least.]


[Yeah... This was as much fun as it looks! This reminded me of our Alexandra approach. That's not a good thing.]

 
[Wietse hikes to the end of the ridge where we are blocked by cliff bands. We will descend slopes just under where Wietse is, down to the right. Beaver Mines Lake in the background here. ++]


[Our steep exit.]


[Thankfully the scree wasn't frozen here despite being in the shade.]


[Beginner scramblers may not like this slope. :)]

 

Once down the steep exit slopes we followed an ingenious sheep trail that deftly avoided more alders before plunging back into matchstick forest to the drainage and our approach track which we followed back to the car.

 

 
[Home free! We followed the terrain at center to our uptrack before continuing north to the campground and our vehicle.]


[Wietse descends a bank in the forest as we near the drainage on return.]


[The cold water in the drainage was very refreshing.]


[What a glorious day for late October!]

 
[Looking back from the open meadows just before the campground. Table Mountain at far left, the end of our ascent ridge in the middle and our descent ridge just right of center.]

 

Overall, I can highly recommend the Whistler Loop as an easy scramble and perfect day hike for the off season. You will find much more enjoyment on this outing if you can time it with light winds, but that's true for any Castle or Waterton area peaks. This is a great way to bag three fairly easy summits and enjoy views that are only the norm in this special area of the Southern Canadian Rockies.

Summit Elevation (ft): 
7,250
Elevation Gain (m): 
1150
Round Trip Time: 
7.50
Total Distance (km): 
13.00
Quick 'n Easy Rating: 
Class 2 : you fall, you sprain your wrist
Difficulty Notes: 

No major difficulties for seasoned off trail scramblers. An easy, but loose and steep scramble from the creek to the Whistler Loop ridge. Our descent route was fairly steep but there are other options.