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.
Ever since I first backpacked into the Mount Assiniboine area in early September 2008 from Mount Shark, I've wanted to go back in prime larch season - sometime in the last two weeks of September. In 2015 I thought I'd be going back and for some reason or another it didn't pan out. In 2016 I was absolutely determined to make the hike and scramble trip work out.
I wasn't sure if I had the energy or weather to do another scramble on Wednesday, September 21 but I had the day off and decided I might as well make the most of it. The week previous I'd summitted Park Mountain near MacArthur Lake in Lake O'Hara and noted the larches were especially stunning this year.
After getting over a serious lack of motivation and summiting Southfork Mountain, I decided to give myself an hour towards Barnaby Ridge to see where that would take me. The weather seemed to be clearing a bit but the wind was pretty strong so I bundled up in my Gore-tex layers and trundled off, south along Barnaby Ridge towards it's unseen summit.
I've been interested in Southfork Mountain and the traverse to (or from) Barnaby Ridge for a while now since reading multiple trip reports on it over the years. It seemed to be the type of trip that is more effort than you expect - which describes a lot of the Castle Wilderness Area peaks and trips that I've done over the years.
As I watched the giant snow flakes fall gently and silently all around me and settle onto the yellow and red fall foliage before slowly starting to melt, I was struck by a thought that has hit me square between the eyes more than once while solo trekking on various trails and routes through the backcountry of my beloved Canadian Rockies. The beauty that I'd experienced on this long and tiring day - and many long and tiring days before it - was not there for my benefit. It was simply there.
I've been eyeing Park Mountain before I knew what it's name was. The first time I hiked up Mount Schaffer I wondered what that nice mountain to the south, across McArthur Lake was and whether or not it was a scramble. Over the years I learned that it was called "Park Mountain" but never did read any detailed online trip reports from anyone who'd done it.
The weather forecast for the Alberta Rockies wasn't looking great for the 2nd weekend in September 2016. Big surprise. Not! I had a choice to make, and it was harder than it should have been. Stay home and sleep in or drive 3+ hours to Waterton Lakes National Park where the forecast was quite positive.
After summiting McGillivray Ridge in better-than-expected weather conditions, Wietse, Dave and I turned our attention to Ma Butte - a nice looking ridge to the west of McGillivray, sitting pretty in front of the impressive Crowsnest Mountain massif.
Wietse, Dave and I were approaching the trail head for Southfork Mountain and Barnaby Ridge when we noticed dark clouds and rain on the windshield. Since nobody felt like hiking or scrambling in the rain, we started searching our minds for easier objectives that could be done in the rain and wouldn't involve driving too terribly far.
Some days are thrown off track even before reaching the parking lot. On Friday, August 26th 2016, Wietse Bylsma and myself started our day with similar missteps to my infamous Cockscomb trip and continued to stumble and bumble our way towards and then up and then down and then up Mount Brewster. Ironically, Brewster is Cockscomb's twin across the valley.
On Friday, August 19th I was joined by the indefatigable Phil Richards and Wietse Bylsma for another longish day trip in the Canadian Rockies. After two previous off-trail adventures to Breaker and Molar, Phil and I decided that it was time for a mostly on-trail objective. We settled on The Monarch, located between Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park and Kootenay National Park in British Columbia.
There are some mountains that really stir my gut when I think about doing them. For some reason Molar Mountain has been one such peak ever since I first saw a trip report and the corresponding stunning photographs from Andrew Nugara back in 2007. Without a doubt this is a top favorite scramble for me and worth every ounce of suffering that reaching it's summit might entail.
A wonderful off-trail scramble to a rarely visited and rarely seen area of Banff National Park, hidden high above Mistaya Lake and nestled between peaks on the Great Divide that runs between Alberta and BC. The Capricorn Lake area is a magical place of rushing streams, brilliantly colored lakes and soaring snow and ice covered mountains.
A 16 day father / son wilderness canoe trip into the heart of Woodland Caribou Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. We traveled around 140km in two loops from Onnie Lake through Glenn, Haven and Mexican Hat and then Telescope, Hatchet, Douglas and back to Onnie Lake. For the first 12 days we were just with the two of us. The last 4 days we joined up with a group of friends to finish our adventure in good company.
I was happy with the outcome of Friday's scramble up Devil's Thumb and instantly began planning another objective for Sunday. As the weekend progressed, the weather deteriorated for the Bow Lake area and soon the date slipped to Monday. Kaycie and I agreed that we'd get up at 04:45 and try to be off the mountain by around noon - hopefully beating the mad holiday weekend traffic rush from the mountains to YYC.
If you've read my Cockscomb Mountain trip report, you should not be surprised that it's been weeks since my last summit! I jest. Although my mountain mojo was a bit depleted in June / July, this isn't the real reason I haven't summitted a mountain in the last 7 weeks.
Cockscomb Mountain has a few things going for it. No matter how many peaks you've done, as long as it's more than one, you will have a best one and a worst one. I never have to worry about encountering my worst one now - I've apparently just done it. Another thing in Cockscomb's favor is that I will never ever, ever, ever have to repeat it.