Thrift Peak has been on my radar for a while now, it was cemented as an objective while on a drive back from Cabin Ridge (Twin Peaks) with Wietse in November of 2015. I didn't even realize this was the Livingstone Fire Lookout until doing some research later! There are three approaches to this summit, two of which require a crossing of the Oldman River. One goes up the south ridge from near the gap with Thunder Mountain. The second goes up a fire road from the west. A less well known and less traveled route that does not require a river crossing at all, was discovered by the indefatigable Bob Spirko in April of 2008 when he also 'discovered' Camp Creek Ridge. This is a longer route, but potentially involves another summit / ridge which is always nice.
I debated labeling Camp Creek Ridge a distinct summit, but due to several factors, I've decided that I'm going to count it separately. The main factor is that while Thrift is accessible from many sides, Camp Creek Ridge isn't. Also, the ridge is pure hiking whereas Thrift is easy scrambling and won't be for everyone. YMMV, but for me these two summits are very different, thanks to the conditions we had on the Thrift Peak section and the nature of the two. The ridge is very comparable to many other front range ridge hikes including Channel Ridge which I also did this winter, and is likely in shape almost year around. Thrift Peak may look innocent enough from the road, but it has some steep avy slopes and is certainly not as 'in shape' as Camp Creek Ridge year around! On our approach drive down highway 22, we were surprised by the amount of fresh snow on all the peaks. As we got closer to the Thunder Mountain area, we were relieved to see that Thrift had the least amount of snow we'd seen all day.
We followed Bob's directions and GPS track to find the parking spot near Camp Creek via the approach roads on the north side of the Oldman River. There is a lovely ranch up the main gravel road off highway 22. Soon after passing the ranch, we did a tight switchback and then we spotted a much smaller track going towards the mountains on our left. It didn't look like much, but it was the correct road. We drove about 100m before spotting a yellow sign at a cattle trap / gate. The sign told us to stick to the main road (not really a "road" at this point...) but didn't say "no entry", so we continued on. Eventually we descended a hill before the track got into "4x4 mode". I shifted gears and we continued. A large herd of elk was a nice distraction as we bumped our way along - never exactly 100 percent sure how far we should keep going. We descended a loose / steep track towards Camp Creek before squeezing through a narrow treed section and finally recognizing the parking spot from Sonny / Bob's trip reports. A large sign also greeted us here, letting us know this was the entry point to the Bob Creek Wildland Provincial Park. The morning air was biting thanks to a stiff wind so we quickly geared up and started hiking down the ATV road into the park.
[Lovely shot off the main road on the north side of the Oldman River (at lower left). The ranch is just ahead here and our destination is in the far distance with snow.]
[Looking back along the approach 'road' from just past the gate with the yellow sign. The road deteriorates greatly from this point.]
The first few kilometers were lovely and easy hiking, including a frozen crossing of Camp Creek. After the crossing, we loosely followed Bob's track to find the correct ascent ridge. This ridge worked excellent and before long we were sweating our way to the crest with amazing views of Thunder Mountain and the valley between Camp Creek Ridge and Livingstone Ridge (Thrift Peak).
[Looking for an easy / frozen crossing of Camp Creek. We found one just ahead of Wietse here.]
[Easy hiking - very pleasant! At this point we assumed snow wasn't going to be an issue for us.]
[Some minor height gains / loss as we approach the ridge.]
[This large rock is a great landmark to know you're on the right ridge (above us here). Thunder Mountain is snow covered to the left. ++]
As we gained the ridge proper, the wind picked up but so did the views. Thrift looked pretty close at this point, but there were a lot of intervening bumps / dips and traverses still ahead. We pushed on, mostly on bare grass with some bits of old snow. The height gains / losses started adding up at one point and I decided to use sheep trails to the east to circumvent some of them. Before long we were at the col with the descent ridge and looking up at the last section to the summit of Camp Creek Ridge. Again, looks were a bit deceiving here with more distance and more height gain than we anticipated.
[Looking back from the lower part of Camp Creek Ridge - notice the rock from the last photo at lower right. Behind us is another ridge with our alternate descent ridge coming down from the left. Our approach came from the valley at bottom and from the right (south). ++]
[Telephoto of Center Peak - the highest in the Livingstone Range. It's north coulior reminds of the "banana coulior" on Mount Arras that Trevor Sexsmith skied in 2015.]
[Wietse heads up the south end of Camp Ridge - the south end of Livingstone Ridge in the bg and Crowsnest Mountain visible at far left. ++]
[The ridges in this area all have very interesting rock features on their west sides which make for great scenery. This is the lovely valley between Livingstone Ridge (Thrift Peak at far right) and Camp Creek Ridge. This valley can also be used to approach the Camp Creek Ridge / Thrift col - but you'll still have to cross the Oldman at left. Thunder Mountain at left. ++]
[Thunder Mountain rises over the Oldman River to the south.]
[Great views north along Camp Creek Ridge - it's much further than it looks to the summit. Livingstone Ridge and Thrift Peak at left. ++]
[Another great view down south over the Oldman River towards Thunder Mountain. ++]
[Note the sheep trails that avoid all the bumps on the ridge! We weren't that smart... ;) This is looking back along the ridge.]
[From the col with the descent ridge (oos to the right), looking up at the summit of Camp Ridge. Again - it looks much closer than it is.]
From the col with the descent ridge, we again followed Bob's track and tried to be smart about avoiding unnecessary height gains but we were only partially successful. We wanted to avoid snow to our right in the trees, so it worked much better to stick on the ridge crest which was blown clear. We did manage to avoid one obvious intervening bump via a good trail on its SW side to our left. We followed a set of wolf or coyote tracks up forested (icy!) slopes until we finally stood on the treed summit of Camp Creek Ridge. Views just off the summit were great though! After a quick break we set our sights on the very snowy looking east aspect of Thrift Peak.
[Wietse comes up Camp Ridge behind me - we are now at the col with the descent ridge. ++]
[Looking down at the Thrift Peak col and across at Thrift Peak - the lookout just visible at upper left. We thought we'd made it at this point. Yeah right...]
After our interesting and exhausting scramble of Thrift Peak we finally arrived back at the summit of Camp Ridge and started back along the ridge. At the Y intersection of ridges, we went left and had a very enjoyable time on the alternate descent, making a nice horseshoe hike. The terrain, conditions and weather were great - I highly recommend descending this way.
[Wietse descends off Camp Creek Ridge - Center Peak and Thunder Mountain on the right.]
[Great scenery on the descent ridge - lots of dead and gnarled trees and shadows.]
[Wietse works his way up to the high point on the alternate descent ridge.]
[A cool escarpment on the alternate descent ridge made for some really great views. This is looking south - our ascent ridge at right and approach valley in the distance left of center. ++]
[This tree must get a TON of wind! Surprisingly, it's still alive though.]
[Wietse descends the gentle south end of the alternate descent ridge.]
[Four 'sentinel' birch trees guard the exit ATV track.]
I really enjoyed the Camp Creek Ridge hike - much more than our snow slog up Thrift! ;) I think this hike is unique and well worth a hiker's time if they don't mind a 4x4 track to the parking lot, or walking extra kilometers down a dirt road. I would also highly recommend doing this hike in the off season to avoid ATV traffic that may be encountered lower down. Once you're off the track though, I think you'll be surprised how solitary this hike feels - there is no major signs of human activity on the upper stretches of Camp Creek Ridge.