My first ascent of Midnight Peak was well before it became the very popular front range peak that it is nowadays. Way back in October of 2010 I enjoyed a pretty nice fall hike from the Baldy Pass approach. My second ascent was slightly more tiring as was from a slightly different angle too!
After taking a short break on the summit of Midday Peak, Wietse and I started our descent towards Midnight Peak - noting three figures standing on top watching our progress. As the three tiny figures slowly dropped down the alternate west ridge egress from the summit, we slowly made our way up our last peak of a long day spent traversing the Porcupine Loop from Porcupine Ridge to Tower to Crown to Boundary to Midday to Midnight. Although our progress was slower than earlier in the day, we still only took around 50 minutes to drop down to col and reascend Midnight. Looking back at Midday, it's slopes looked much steeper than they were and much more dramatic.
[Wietse starts down the NE ridge of Midday towards Midnight Peak.]
[Definately some exposure to the east here!]
[A somewhat narrow section of ridge, maybe avoidable on scrappy slabs to the left?]
[Love this view back up Midday Peak.]
[This should be the final major grind of the day!]
[Another great view back towards Midday Peak. ++]
[Approaching our last summit of the day.]
The views from Midnight were somewhat familiar with the views we'd been having all day already. The summits of Baldy Peak looked pretty cool from here, as did some of the other front range and even not-so-front range peaks such as Fortress and Gusty way over by Chester Lake. We didn't linger as we were 8.5 hours into our day and still had some unknown terrain ahead of us.
[Familiar views over our entire loop starting and finishing at the end of Porcupine Ridge at mid-right and looping left before coming towards Midnight Peak. We'll exit to the right before cutting back down left into the valley and the north fork of Porcupine Creek far below. ++]
[Most people descend this way to Baldy Pass but Wietse and I found a better way - assuming you start at Porcupine Creek.]
[We start our descent of the west ridge.]
We easily and quickly dropped down the west ridge of Midnight Peak and soon caught up with the three folks that we'd seen earlier on the summit. They were quite lost. Color me grumpy but I don't have much patience for folks who force themselves up a peak (they were already uncomfortable with the easy ascent from Baldy Pass) and then take an alternate, much more convoluted and difficult route down to avoid their initial mistake by making a worse one! Oh, and they don't have a map or even a free GPS app on any one of their 3 iPhones. We gave them some route hints and cautioned them very strongly NOT to follow us, since we were going down the opposite side of the ridge than they should be.
[The valley is greening up with warm Spring temperatures. Find Wietse on the ridge below with Nakiska Ski resort drying out in the distance.]
[A good perspective on the Porcupine Creek (L) and Baldy (C) drainages from the west ridge of Midnight Peak.]
[Spot the people just ahead here. They were lost at this point - not spotting the obvious trail through the easy rock band at center.]
[Past the rock band on the ridge our easy and fast escape is just below and to the left.]
It turns out that the south slopes of the west ridge of Midnight leading down to the North fork of Porcupine Creek are fantastic! We descended very quickly on a dirt / scree mix of soft ground and easy, light forested slopes right to the creek. This was very unexpected given some beta we'd garnered from others who'd descended around my initial intended route directly off of Midday's summit block. Our route worked so perfectly I have no idea why anyone would bother going up (or down) the Baldy Pass trail to access the Porcupine Loop traverse. The exit down North Porcupine Creek was also quick and unobstructed by any debris. The best part was that there was actually water flowing - unlike my experience in the Wasootch Creek drainage.
[Easy, soft, and fast descent down a drainage just west of some rocky cliffs.]
[More of the easy descent with Porcupine Ridge rising over the valley below.]
[We trended slightly to our right (west) here to avoid the rocky drainage since the forest was open and fast - not to mention the ground was nice and soft there.]
[Very light forest made for more quick travel.]
[In the north fork of Porcupine Creek drainage.]
[Nice creek scenery with fresh, cold running water in the creek. Heaven.]
[Despite narrowing near the forks, the creek remained easily navigable.]
[A mysterious atmosphere.]
[Looking back at the end of Porcupine Ridge where we started up 10 hours ago.]
We arrived back at the truck around 10 hours and 20 minutes after leaving it. I enjoyed the Porcupine Loop Traverse much more than expected and can very highly recommend it as an early season objective as long as the crux sections are dry or at least melting and snow free.
Original Trip Report
On October 30 2010 I decided to get up early and try to get some sunrise pictures from Wedge Pond. Of course I also had an idea that maybe I could whip up and down a peak while I was out there anyway... ;-) I had to be back in Calgary early so that's why I had to 'whip' up and down rather than 'stroll'.
Driving out to Wedge Pond I realized two things;
I was way too early.
There wasn't going to be a great sunrise because there wasn't a cloud in the sky!
Oh well. I was up now and so I decided I might as well keep driving. Sure enough, I stood around a froze for about 45 minutes before the sun started to come up at Wedge Pond. The silver lining was some low cloud hanging over The Fortress. I managed to get some nice zoomed images of that at least.
I was the only one parked at the Baldy Pass trailhead at about 09:45. I have never been up the trail to the pass and was pleasantly surprised by it. I mean, it was nothing really great but it wasn't as mind numbing as I was afraid it would be either. Once the sounds of highway 40 diminished behind me I felt pretty lonely out there and made sure to do some 'bear yelling' every once in a while.
[Looking at the south ridge on Baldy from the Old Baldy Pass trail.]
[At the pass, looking up at Midnight Peak. I just followed the ridge from left to right.]
Like I always do on small mountains, I imagined that when I reached the pass I was almost at the summit. WRONG. I was maybe 1/3 of the way but if you go up the north ridge / fact it's pretty loose. I also couldn't really follow the trail since there was snow covering it. I managed to scramble up rather awkwardly. The whole time up the slope I thought I was looking at a false summit but apparently it was the actual summit, so that was a pleasant surprise.
[The treed sections had cairns and obvious trails. More bushy than I expected though!]
[Looking behind me at Baldy Mountain.]
[The moon and the summit above.]
[Looks pretty green to the east! Lusk Ridge in the distance here. ++]
[Getting higher than Baldy now.]
[Nice views to the prairies.]
[The slope was loose and fresh snow made it slippery.]
[The Fortress doesn't look so good now (this is how it looked earlier). The views are still nice from the summit though!]
[Looking towards Canmore.]
[Looking over Nakiska.]
[Another shot looking west - more wide angle.]
[Vern on the summit of Midnight Peak.]
[Summit panorama. ++]
[Summit panorama including (L to R), Fortress, Gusty, Galatea, Bogart, Ribbon, Sparrowhawk, Wind, Lougheed III, Allan, Lougheed II, Collembolla and Lougheed I. ++]
[Looking at the other summit to the south - now called "Midday Peak". Groan. ;)]
[I was thinking of descending this way - straight down to the gully where there's an obvious trail on skier's right but it wasn't worth it. I descended more to skier's right of this picture on my ascent line.]
[Looking back on my way out.]
[Baldy Pass trail is almost a road in places.]
I'm not sure it's worth doing the various other routes that are suggested. My round trip time, including all breaks, was 3.5 hours so it's not like this is a long outing! Worth it as a solo or half day objective, especially when the Chinook winds are howling.