Back in 2012 we approached and climbed Devil's Head via a long, undulating ridge. At the time, I had no idea that this was part of an official (published) summit called "Bastion Ridge" by Gillean Daffern in the third volume of her epic hiking tomes known as the Kananaskis Country Trail Guides. In 2016 (!) I was cruising online topo maps and realized I had another peak to add to my list. Love it when that happens... ;) What follows is an excerpt from the Devil's Head trip.
On Friday, September 14 I joined Wietse, Kevin and Dave for a hike / scramble / climb of Devil's Head in the Ghost River Valley. This mountain has been on my radar for years already but I've never gotten around to actually climbing it for various reasons. I've done a lot of front-country peaks over the first 10 years of my peak bagging career so lately I've been more interested in peaks a bit more remote and a bit bigger.
It turns out that Devil's Head is actually pretty remote (considering it's front-range) and is a lot of fun despite being pretty lowly in stature. We approached the mountain via the "South Gullies" route along Bastion Ridge. We drove to marker 39 (apparently a lot of people ignore the seasonal closure of the road beyond this point) and walked about 1km upstream to the first gully on our right (aka "Valley of the Birds") . We had to cross the river 3 times just to reach this first gully, despite conjecture from others that it would only be once. This necessitated a walk back to our river crossing gear since we dropped it after the first crossing thinking we were done. The river has re-routed against some steep terrain that results in the two extra crossings. Best to keep your river crossing gear on until reaching the correct access gully / trail!
[A gorgeous fall day as we approach the Ghost River Wilderness Area - the sunlit peak is Phantom Crag or Devil's Fang.]
[Our first river crossing.]
[Note the river abutting the cliff? This necessitated another two river crossings... :)]
[The team is thrilled to change socks again.]
There was flagging marking our steep route up the left (west) edge of the drainage - it was that or immediately start scaling waterfalls (again - these are known as the "Valley of the Birds" ice climbs in winter) so it was an easy decision where to start. :) We grunted our way up the trail - it was obvious all the way until it broke out of the trees. From here the route remained obvious - simply gain the ridge on climber's left and follow it all the way around to the east and south cliff faces on Devil's Head. The only issues with the route were some height gain / loss along the way but nothing too serious. It was a very pleasant fall hike all the up to the base of the cliffs. The wind gusts were quite strong at times but again, nothing serious, especially for this area.
[The drainage can't be followed very far - this is the Valley of the Birds! Go to climber's left on an obvious trail right from the river flats.]
[Looking down at where we started our scramble - waterfalls to the left here which make up the Valley of the Birds ice climb.]
[A surprising and pleasant walk in light forest under the ridge.]
[Kev breaks tree line after a steep grunt through the trees.]
[Our first head-on view of Devil's Head with Bastion Ridge pretty obvious leading right to left towards it. ++]
[Looking back at Kev as he descends the first bump after breaking tree line on the first ridge.]
[On the left, just out of sight is the bump we had to descend after coming out of the trees and gaining the ridge. On the right is our objective. Costigan Peak is the impressive summit left of center. ++]
[Looking back at the highest 'bump' on the ridge also called "Bastion Ridge" by Gillian Daffern (right side). Black Rock is the peak in the distance. ++]
[Getting a bit closer the views are awesome up here! ++]
[There are sheep / human trails all around DH. It sure looks impregnable from the east!]
[The ridge coming off DH to the left is another ascent route. A bit shorter but more convoluted than the one we used. ++]
[Looking at Castle Rock to the west.]
[Looking back at our ridge walk along Bastion Ridge (right) and the awesome valley to the north. We had our lunch break here. ++]
[Johnson Creek Valley deserves some exploration I'm thinking. Lots of nice looking rock walls in there.]
From just under the east cliffs of Devil's Head, there are a few choices for the hiker. The best choice is probably to head back down the route you approached from as any other route will be more scrambling than hiking. You can follow the terrain SE of Devil's Head back out but this is best done on ascent due to route finding challenges.
[Getting ready to drop back to the Ghost River.]
We met a party of sheep hunters on our way out. A bunch of campers / backpackers were making their way to the Ghost as we barreled home (Kevin found the gas pedal!) - the road was pretty darn rough. A highly recommended hike / scramble for the more adventurous who like something a bit more off the beaten track with amazing views of an area mainly travelled by hunters and (ice) climbers.
[Detritus in the forest on descent.]
[Just this steep descent and we're back at the river. Devil's Fang in the bg.]
[Done the hard stuff! Looking back at the last descent section to the river with VOTB on the right.]