I wasn't sure I was in the mood to go out on Sunday, October 19th. I had a pretty bad head cold and some motivational issues on Saturday evening. I slept in 'til around 08:00 on Sunday and awoke feeling pretty good - and the weather was pretty sweet too. I dashed around the house like a mad man and managed to get out the door by 08:25, heading down to the Kananaskis Lakes area hoping to either scramble Rawson Lake Ridge or The Turret, depending how I was feeling and how much snow there was.
I noticed on the drive that there wasn't a ton of snow, and most of it was above 2,500 meters so it wouldn't be much of a factor on either objective. I settled on Rawson Lake Ridge because I was solo and figured there'd be more people hiking to Rawson Lake and less chance of a solo grizzly encounter. For some reason, as I drove down to the lakes, I changed my mind and pulled into the Elk Pass parking lot. I think I changed my mind based on the low cloud bank that was pouring over Elk Pass before hitting the dry Alberta air and vanishing. I was hoping for some good pictures of these clouds from the summit. Two other people were leaving the parking lot, but other than that it was pretty quiet. Of course there was also yellow tape on the north end of the parking lot with dire bear warnings and the mention of a 'trap'. Apparently this grizzly was causing problems. Great. Hopefully this bear would have the sense NOT to cross the yellow tape, in which case I'd be fine. ;)
I've lost count of the number of times I've hiked / biked / skied, snow shoed along Fox Creek from the Elk Pass parking lot. The big hill never gets smaller, but soon I was approaching the turnoff for Fox Creek. The floods of 2013 heavily damaged this section of trail, but recent work has been done to fix it up and new bridges and even cut sections are almost complete. It was about 2km up this trail that I realized a bike would make The Turret a 4 hour day. I don't know why I didn't think of it earlier but oh well, I highly recommend biking this approach.
[We are experiencing one of the nicest falls I can remember. This is taken at the top of the first hill from the parking lot, looking back at Mount Indefatigable.]
[Lots of damage along Fox Creek from the 2013 floods, but it's being worked on and fixed.]
[The Turret is just barely visible in the far distance from the start of the side ski track after it leaves the Fox Creek trail.]
Bob Spirko mentions a lot of bushwhacking in his trip report from The Turret. This is because he used So's decent track for ascent. I used So's ascent track for both ascent and descent, and while it adds around 4km to the trip, it also makes the bushwhack pretty much non-existent. Being solo, I didn't want to push my luck with too much bushwhacking. I'll mention it again - you should really bike the approach along the ski trail, it would make descent a blast (other than the big hill). I felt very alone as I branched off the Fox Creek / Elk Pass trail and started up the ski track. There was no fresh bear sign here, so that was good, and I kept up the yelling. For some reason I've been nervous about bears this year, in part due to a number of friend's close encounters and the recent death of a solo hunter in the nearby Picklejar Lakes area.
[The Turret shows up as I continue along the ski track to the start of the bushwhack]
[A pretty tame bushwhack]
[The larches have lost their needles. The summit is above me here, but I have to work my way above the krommholtz and then over to climber's left before I can access the summit block from the south.]
The bushwhack was pretty tame compared to most of the bushwhacks I've done this year - perspective is everything! :) Soon I could see the cliffs on The Turret's east face and started contouring around the cliffs to the south, above thick krommholtz and avalanche slopes, just under the cliffs on a well used goat path. I followed the goat path around to a beautiful alpine bowl between The Turret and Mount Fox to the south. I was about a month too late, there are a lot of larches around this area. I hiked over recent grizzly diggings, trending up to the ridge above on steep grass and over short cliff bands. On hind sight I probably could have ascended a bit sooner, but I wasn't sure about the steep terrain directly under the summit. After a very steep grunt I crested the ridge to climber's left of the summit block to some amazing views. I made my way over to the summit on a narrow ridge and was soon enjoying a very impressive view of the Kananaskis Lakes, the Opal Range and Mounts Fox and Sarrail. The weather was amazing for mid October, warm, sunny and windless.
[Now I'm traversing south on the goat path, above the krommholtz and towards Mount Fox.]
[The clouds were pouring over Elk Pass and then drying out when they hit the dry Alberta air. By the time I was at the summit, the clouds were completely gone. This is looking back at my approach, I came around the cliff at the far left. Mount Fox out of sight on the right. ++]
[Mount Fox and the cliffs you have to get around.]
[On hind sight you can go straight up from here. I traversed more to the left before going up on slightly easier slopes.]
[Looking back as I ascend to the ridge, Mount Fox across the alpine meadow. ++]
[Amazing views from the ridge over Rawson Lake Ridge to Mounts Foch and Sarrail and the Kananaskis Lakes. The Turret on the right. ++]
[Another pano on my way to the summit block. ++]
[Getting closer to the summit, steep walls on every side but the south - there's a reason it's called "The Turret" I guess... ;) ++]
[Amazing views from the summit. ++]
[Elpoca Mountain looked awesome from this angle in the light I had. Gap Mountain on the left.]
[Mount Jerram towers over an outlier of Mount Wintour (the mountain on the left) - note that I am actually almost as high as Wintour. The Turret is higher than I expected.]
[More Opal Range peaks including King Creek Ridge in the forground and Mounts Evan Thomas, Packenham, Hood, Brock and Blane from L to R in the background.]
[Looking down hwy 40 over the Lower Kananaskis Lake towards Little Lawson.]
[I'm almost as high as Mount Indefatigable across the Upper Kananaskis Lake. The Spray Lakes peaks rising in the background, including Kent Ridge and Mount Inflexible.]
[Mounts Beatty, Maude and Putnik among others.]
[The impressive summit walls of Sarrail]
[Rawson Lake Ridge with the huge east face of Mount Sarrail looming behind]
[One more summit pano - sorry but this is what scrambling The Turret is all about! :) ++]
[Vern on the summit with Elk Pass and the Highwood Range behind]
After snapping a bunch of photos and enjoying a leisurely lunch I began the descent. It went quickly, but I was really wishing I'd biked on the long hike out down a good trail to Fox Creek and then all the way back along the wide trail to the parking lot. I met two folks on well-packed mountain bikes who reminded me again that I am NOT hardcore at all. They were biking from Alaska to Argentina!! When I asked the girl when they expected to be finished she calmly replied, "in about two years"! Wow. That is hardcore. For a nice (non-hardcore) scramble with amazing views I highly recommend The Turret. Using a bike on approach will save you at least an hour and elevates this into a half day or summer evening outing.
[Traversing back around the cliff bands on descent.]
[The distinctive and gorgeous east ridge of Mount Fox, a difficult but very enjoyable scramble.]
[More traversing - there's a long stretch of this, which makes winter access a bit dangerous for this area.]
[One last pano before the trees are too thick. It was hot in a t-shirt on this lovely fall day. ++]
[Lots of larches in the upper valley - it would be gorgeous in late September.]
[Walking on larch needles]
[A look towards The Turret from the Fox Creek trail.]