As the first peak of my 40's, I thought it would be nice to tag an 11000er that's been on my radar for many years. Mount Athabasca looms over the Columbia Icefields center along highway 93 - otherwise known as the Icefields Parkway. I'm sure it has the most tourist photographs of any 11,000er, except maybe Mount Temple in Lake Louise or Robson to the north.
Josh Wharton is an elite alpinist from Rifle, Colorado who has done big, bad ascents all over the globe. In 2011 he finally turned his attention to the Canadian Rockies, not expecting very much. He got a good taste of how badass / good they are and came back in 2012 for some serious climbs.
The wind was forecast to be strong all over the Rockies on Sunday, March 29, 2015. The forecasts were right. I woke several times in the Bighorn Campground near Ya Ha Tinda by the sounds of a gusty west wind. When the alarm went off at 04:00 it was still gusting pretty strong but at least the sky over us was clear and the air temperate was quite warm at around 5 degrees Celsius.
It wasn't looking good as I sat in the Tim Horton's in Sundre on Saturday, March 28 2015. It was around 11 in the morning and it was pouring outside! Not just a mist, but a full on down pour. I was waiting for Steven and Ben to arrive from Edmonton before we continued our drive to the Bighorn Campground in the Ya Ha Tinda area of the front ranges.
Lookout Mountain is a no-brainer for peak baggers doing the Youngs Peak Traverse in Rogers Pass, Glacier National Park. It is actually lower than the Illecillewaet Glacier, which you'll be traversing past the peak on your way to Youngs Peak anyway. The views from the peak are excellent and well worth the 30 minute side trip.
Finally the weather, our schedules, and back country avalanche conditions lined up over a weekend, allowing Ben, Steven and I to plan a 2 day excursion to the northern end of the Wapta Icefield. I am rapidly closing in on a long-sought summit list of all the Wapta peaks and only one peak remained for me on the hard-to-access northern end - Peyto Peak.
The weekend of January 17th found me with a mountain itch. The last outing for me was on December 31, when I snow shoed up Rawson Lake Ridge in Kananaskis. A month is a long time between summits for me.
After looking at our options for the weekend, Ben, Steven and I decided that it made the most sense to try for a hiking or snow shoe trip on Sunday, December 14th. Considering the snow conditions everywhere, we settled on Maze Peak in the Ya Ha Tinda Ranch area of the Rockies, west of Sundre Alberta.
I don't like to advertise my age, but suffice it to say that I'm getting to that point in life where I no longer throw things in my pack "just in case" I might need them. ;) My knees / back and shoulders have taken quite the beating over the past decade and after hundreds of Rocky Mountain summits, many canoe trips and thousands of kilometers of walking and skiing with everything from light day packs to huge expedition sized (90+ litre) back packs overflowing with gear.
As we ascended Evangeline Peak, I noticed a nice looking horseshoe ridge / route running south from her summit and back down around to the west from a subsequent summit. Based on a antler-sign that we passed on our approach trail, we thought this was the summit of Poplar Ridge, but after descending and looking at maps we realized this summit is actually an unnamed peak rising above both Poplar and Rum Ridge.