Ship's Prow Mountain

Trip Category: 
SC - Scrambling
Interesting Facts: 

This peak, like Ha Ling Peak, is an eye-catching outlier to Mount Lawrence Grassi. The "Ship's Prow" is heading directly east and is very noticeable from the Trans-Canada Highway west of Dead Man Flat. The prominent ridge that forms the prow was first climbed by Chic Scott and L. McKay in 1965. (from peakfinder.com)

Technical Difficulty Level: 
6
Endurance Level: 
Med
YDS Class: 
3rd Class

Mountain Range: 
Mountain Subrange: 
Attained Summit?: 
Yes
Trip Date: 
Monday, April 17, 2017

Monday, April 17 I slept in until 08:30 with no intentions whatsoever to bag a peak. Ten minutes later I was backing out of the driveway, headed for Canmore with the plan to snowshoe Ship's Prow Mountain. The weather forecast was too nice to stay at home but I could see that the weather was going to change that afternoon and wanted to beat any rain / snow that was threatening to come in.

 

I parked at the recommended spot just over the Goat Pond aqueduct and started down the road running along its east side. Josee from goldenscrambles.ca started up the slope only around 100m from the parking spot and I did spot some ribbons in the trees there, but decided I'd rather search for a broken trail from Phil and Cornelius in early April. Around 500 meters from the truck, I turned right up an obvious, large gravel pit / clearing and found old snowshoe tracks - almost certainly from Phil and Cornelius. This was great news! I would not have to break trail in bottomless sugar snow and didn't even have to worry about route finding. My day just got a LOT more efficient.

 


[At the clearing - Ship's Prow is just visible at upper right.]


[Starting up the clearing towards the forested lower slopes. The route goes right of center to the top ridge before heading straight left of center to the high point.]


[There were a few ribbons here but I was following old 'shoe tracks so I didn't pay much attention to them.]

 

The snow was nice a supportive just as it had been the day previous on Tent Mountain. The sky was much clearer than I expected and soon I was sweating profusely. It felt great to workout on the steep, treed slopes. There is no long approach on Ship's Prow - it's pretty much straight up from the road. There were a few cliff bands in the trees that Phil and Cornelius had to navigate around and up, and I faithfully stuck to their tracks. As I approached the upper shoulder, where the trees started to thin out, the track was covered in snow and soon it completely disappeared. This wasn't an issue, however, since the way forward was pretty darn obvious.

 


[Thinning snow in the trees, but I was glad to have a clear trail to follow.]


[Nearing treeline my nice 'shoe track disappears. Oh well. At least the snow is fairly supportive here.]

 
[Looking across the big gully towards Mount Lawrence Grassi in the distance. Ship's Prow at center right and the false summit at upper right. ++]


[An unexpectedly white, blank canvas at and above treeline. This is usually wind-blasted scree but I would keep the 'shoes on all the way to the summit - visible at left.]

 

There was a lot more snow on the upper mountain than I expected. I broke trail in the crusty layer (about shin deep) all the way up to the summit ridge. I was giving slightly nervous glances over at the crux summit gully the entire way up. The traverse from the cairned false summit to the summit didn't look easy either, with huge cornices on one side and avalanche slopes on the other. Fresh snow that reverse loaded the entire traverse ridge during the last storm cycle complicated things a bit. I was here now and the weather was fantastic so I decided to stick my nose in it and see how things progressed from the false summit. The views behind and around me were fantastic at this point, but I could see thickening clouds to the west and north and didn't linger.

 

 
[Looking back down at Goat Pond and my tracks with the Goat Range and Goatview Peak in the background. ++]


[First I have to gain the right directly above me to avoid traversing avalanche slopes and cliff bands, then I have to traverse the upper ridge over the false summit visible here at upper left.]


[Looking across avalanche slopes that I'm obviously not interested in traversing. Ship's Prow just right of center, Lawrence Grassi left of center and an unnamed slabby summit between them.]


[This slope was interminable. Especially with a slabby, punchy crust that made going up very slow and inefficient. Coming back down was fast though.]

 
[Another great view back to the Goat Range.]


[Good thing they still have their winter colors - spring hasn't sprung here yet.]

 
[Stunning views from the point where I finally topped out on the ridge. The false summit at left and Three Sisters at right. ++]

 
[Views up the false (hiking) summit with Ship's Prow Mountain looking non-trivial at center.]

 
[Views back towards Faith, Hope and Charity from the false summit. I suppose this was worth getting out of bed for! ++]

 
[Views back along the ridge from the false summit to my ascent slopes. Old Goat visible in the far distance left of center and Goatview at right. ++]

 
[There's a giant cairn on the hikers summit. The ridge and high point are starting to look a bit spicy now.]


[I'm keeping the snowshoes on.]


[The cornice and wind loaded ridge leads to the crux chimney and summit above.]

 
[Looking back at my tracks along the ridge. Note the huge cornice fracture at left? Caution is required on this traverse.]


[Care must be taken to stay well back of the cornices.]


[Not a great objective if avalanche ratings are high and there's low visibility as there are some steeper slopes to traverse.]


[Looking up at the crux gully. It can be avoided if there's no snow by going down and to the left of the summit block but with snow sitting on slabs this isn't the safest option in winter.]

 
[From the bottom of the chimney looking back along the ridge towards the Three Sisters as the weather starts to deteriorate.]

 

Within 3 hours of leaving the parking lot I found myself struggling up the crux gully / chimney on snowshoes. It wasn't nearly as exposed as it looked from afar, but I was glad not to have any beginners on the traverse or the crux. A slide on the crux could prove nasty with a long run-out on very hard snow slopes (with big avalanche potential). If you attempt this peak in winter you should bring crampons and an ax. I was lazy so I just bulled my way to the summit in snowshoes but there was a few moments were crampons would have been much more safe and secure. Views from the summit were pretty good but the weather was moving in quickly. I snapped some photos and quickly made my way back down the crux and along the ridge to the false summit.

 


[Not too bad but you wouldn't want to initiate a snow slide as it would carry you over some nasty terrain - and the snow can build up pretty good in this terrain feature.]


[Some slabby snow to the summit.]

 
[Summit views over the Bow Valley towards Dead Man Flats at right and Grotto, Lady McDonald and many other familiar front range peaks at center. Lawrence Grassi looks impressive at left. ++]


[Skogan Peak (L) and Mount Lorette (R).]


[Looking over Engagement Peak and the Lafarge Exshaw facilities (including the new "EcoDome") to the foothills.]


[One of my first scrambles - Grotto Mountain lies to the northeast of Ship's Prow.]


[Mount Charles Stewart at left with Buffalo Point at right. ST almost hidden in front.]


[Lower ridge of Lady Mac at left, looking up Cougar Creek at Cougar and Fable at center and right distance.]


[Peechee, Girouard, Aylmer and Inglismaldie (R to L). Princess Margaret at right foreground.]


[A telephoto of Inglismaldie, Aylmer and Girouard.]


[Looking past Mount Rundle towards Cascade Mountain.]


[Old Goat Mountain is impressive.]


[Mount Lawrence Grassi was one of my first winter scrambles. It took me two tries on subsequent days to make the summit!]


[Looking back at the crux. I avoided the snow loaded slopes at left for obvious reasons but this is the route to access the easier west approach to the summit.]


[Looking back at my track avoiding the cornices.]

 

After a quick water break (first one of the day) on the false summit, I plunge-stepped quickly and easily back down to treeline. The march back to the road down the steep treed slope was interesting in places but was very quick. I had to talk three moose off the road just before my truck but thankfully they were not aggressive and listened to me eventually. Overall this was a quick "bang for the buck" trip that proved a lot more involved than I expected thanks to all the fresh snow on the summit ridge. I highly recommend it for competent snow scramblers or mountaineers as an exercise day when you're tired of the hordes on Ha Ling or EEOR. Beware that many parties take 7-9 hours on this diminutive peak thanks to a horrendous snow pack that usually sits on her lower slopes - timing is everything on this one.

 

 
[Descending to treeline with rain clouds approaching.]


[One last shot of the crux showing why a snow slide down it wouldn't be pleasant.]


[The forested lower slopes are extremely steep in spots, including some low cliff bands which are easily avoided.]


[The three moose near my truck weren't so easily avoided. But I managed to talk them off the road eventually.]

Summit Elevation (m): 
2,607
Elevation Gain (m): 
1050
Round Trip Time: 
4.50
Total Distance (km): 
8.00
Quick 'n Easy Rating: 
Class 3 : you fall, you break your leg
Difficulty Notes: 

When dry I'm sure this is a moderate scramble at most. When snow covered this is more of a snowshoe mountaineering objective, especially near the summit.