It's a been awhile since I've been out with my friend, Ben Nearingburg - great times on Mount King Edward - but he has just completed his incredible 5.5 record push to complete all the 11,000ers in the Canadian Rockies! This is an amazing feat and beats Nancy Hansen's previous record by 2 years. This would already be a helluva thing on its own but Ben made it much more difficult by refusing to use mechanical assistance (i.e. helicopter) for any of these peaks, including the most remote and his last one, Mount Tsar. He even managed to climb another very remote giant and one of only four Rockies peaks over 12,000 feet, twice - Mount Clemenceau. I really don't think most people can understand the level of commitment and pure drive an accomplishment like this takes. 6 or 7 years ago, Ben hadn't even worn crampons as far as I know! He practiced his climbing skills both indoors and out, including a ton of ice climbing last winter to prepare for climbs such as Robson and The Helmet. He made himself into an alpinist through sheer will and drive and practice.
All I can say is WOW. Congrats man, you've managed to do something that will be very hard to best, and in a world of very driven and competitive people you're one of the nicest mountain folks I know which makes your accomplishment even sweeter. You can read all about Ben's many incredible climbs and adventures at his website, BenThereClimbedThat.ca.
I've been asked many times for a list of my top 10 hikes, backpacking trips, scrambles, climbs and so forth. I thought about it for a bit and decided that it would be best to separate my top 10 lists into several categories, so here goes. Please note that I will update these lists as I continue to find "better" options. ;)
Despite being in the midst of the worst stretch of Fall weather I have ever experienced in the Rockies, the first day of the Thanksgiving long weekend was shaping up to be a stunner and Wietse and I were determined to take advantage of it somehow, some way. I have to be honest with you. I was SUPER depressed at the thought of snowshoeing so early in the season.
I was feeling let down by the dismal September weather and with one last day off before going back to work for the winter, I decided to risk a crappy forecast and drive down to the Crowsnest Pass area to try my luck with a few last summits on Monday, October 1 2018. On the drive down hwy 22 I noticed a lot more snow than only a few days previous.
As indicated in the "Interesting Facts" above regarding this peak, Phil and I weren't sure where "RA" Peak actually was! After returning from the summit of Jake Smith Peak, I was feeling a bit more energy than before the short scramble and we decided that since we were in the area, we might as well tag both Red Argillite peaks.
From the summit of Three Lakes Ridge we had a choice to make. Despite the gorgeous weather Phil and I were obviously enjoying, it was already past 14:00 hours and we were a long way from the parking lot. We knew we didn't have time, or possibly the conditions (too snowy) to do Scarpe Mountain and it is best off combined with JSP and RA rather than done on its own.
After approaching the Middlepass Lakes and scrambling up Rainy Ridge it was time to traverse towards the creatively named, "Three Lakes Ridge" - the professional cartographers must have been on holidays when these peaks were monikered. Nugara mentions the traverse between Rainy and Three Lakes Ridge as doable but not highly recommended.
A day after ascending close to 1800 vertical meters and biking / hiking and scrambling almost 30km up and down Mount Coulthard and McLaren in the Crowsnest Pass area, I was back at it with Phil Richards. We were planning a very full day of biking, hiking and peakbagging in the South Rockies within the newly formed Castle Wildland Provincial Park.
Whenever I looked into the Mount Coulthard scramble, I always ended up wondering why nobody seemed willing to combine it with its easy neighboring peak, Mount McLaren. I decided it was time someone tried it and posted it as a good idea - provided it was a good one of course. As it turns out - it was a very good idea.
September 2018 was not the best ending to a hiking and scrambling season that I've ever had - not even close. To be blunt, it was pretty crappy and the worst end of season so far for me! September is usually my favorite time of year in the Rockies. The combination of clear blue skies (no more wildfires), snow-capped peaks and bright vegetation is usually what keeps me going for the next 5 months of winter. Not this year.
After a great bivy at the lovely Lyall Tarn, Wietse and I awoke at around 06:00 to an extremely windy, cloudy and dark sky beneath the brooding rock walls of Mount Lyall. We both commented on the quality of our sleep - the night was very calm and quite warm for September and we both got over 9 hours of shut-eye.
After our ascent of Beehive Mountain, Wietse, Phil and I started a delightful traverse across brightly colored alpine meadows leading under towering cliffs to the west towards the NE shoulder of Mount Lyall.
Once our original plans fell through for the weekend of September 7-9 (thanks to forest fire smoke), Phil Richards, Wietse Bijlsma and I had to think fast on Thursday night to come up with an alternate trip that still satisfied on some level. I remember years ago, Wietse telling me about a few peaks in this area including Beehive Mountain, Mount Lyall and Mount Gass.
I spent 2.5 days over the 2018 September long weekend on a canoe trip with two brothers-in-law (Mike and Calvin) and our sons on the Red Deer River, canoeing from Content Bridge to Tolman Bridge. This is a fairly nontechnical, low consequence river canoe trip that is perfect for families or novice canoeists.
The only "peak" remaining along the ridge after scrambling up Mount Townsend, Epic Tower and Mythic Tower was about as unofficial as a peak can get - "Little Mythic Tower" - so dubbed by Bob Spirko back in July of 2008 while on his scouting trip to find and document the Mythic Towers mentioned by Gillean Daffern in her famous Rockies hiking guide.
After the easy to moderate ascents of both Mount Townsend and Epic Tower, I turned my attention towards the much more involved traverse and ascent of Mystic Tower. I was not about to take this peak too light after hearing from Cornelius that it was one of his most difficult ascents - he usually makes difficult terrain look pretty easy!
After approaching and scrambling Mount Townsend, I descended its slabby summit block and down the only obvious break through its intimidating cliffs before heading along a sheep track towards Epic Tower. Initially I worried that I might have to gain and lose some elevation on this traverse, but it went much quicker and easier than I expected.
My first good look at Mount Townsend was from Cougar Peak earlier in 2018 upon reaching its summit after a fun, early season scramble in mid May with Wietse - and it looked pretty darn impressive! After getting home and doing some research I also became interested in two unofficial peaks next to Townsend along the ridge towards Mount Fable dubbed, "Epic" and "Mythic" towers.
After bailing on my original plans for the weekend thanks to an unstable weather forecast, I was sitting at home in front of my computer with a long face when my wife, Hanneke walked downstairs and said, "why don't we go for a hike instead"? Indeed. Why not go for a hike instead of moping around the house all day?
After the easy (hot and lengthy) scramble to the summit of Pyriform Mountain and its fly-covered summit cairn, Wietse and I turned our collective attention to the alluring ridge joining it to Junction Mountain. I was feeling "on point" for this traverse for some reason.