After a hiatus from the mountains due to motivation issues and cold weather, I decided to return for an easy outing up Wolverine Ridge with a group of friends on Saturday, January 14th. I knew it would be a ridiculously short day, but what the heck! Sometimes all you need is a short break to get the mojo back.
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.
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 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.
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.
I've been dreaming of climbing the highest peak in Banff National Park and 8th highest in the Canadian Rockies for many years. I'm not 100 percent sure when I first laid eyes on the hauntingly beautiful northwest face and dramatic summit pyramid of Mount Forbes but I do know that it probably terrified me the first few times I looked at it.
On Sunday, January 24, 2016 I was joined by Mike Mitchell for a long ski tour up Unity Peak in the Skoki region of Banff National Park near Lake Louise. Due to a 'considerable' avalanche rating, specifically around ridges and wind loaded, faceted slopes, we had to be very choosey with our choice of ski tour.
Despite a very chilly forecast, Wietse, Bill and I decided that we'd brave the -20 degree temps near Sunshine Village in Banff National Park to give the Monarch Ramparts a go on our skis. Wietse and I had been up Healy Pass Peak almost exactly 2 years previous and at that time we'd gone up the north end of the Monarch Ramparts, but not far enough to claim the summit which lies towards its south end.
I'll admit it. By the end of September 2015 I was getting a wee bit desperate to finally see some fully turned larches. Despite getting out a lot in the middle of the month, especially to Waterton Lakes National Park, I'd yet to run into the full fall golden goodness of larch heaven that I've come to crave at the end of each scrambling / hiking season in the Alberta Rockies.