When we were in the small valley, just before heading up Caldron, after already ascending Mistaya Mountain, I glanced at my altimeter. What I saw was not very encouraging. Instead of a 300 meter height gain, we now had over 500 meters! I guess all those ups and downs add up eh?! I decided not to tell Raff until we were half way up - that way he couldn't turn around anymore. What are buddies for right? :-) So we plodded on and on, taking a good number of breaks. The scrambling was very easy - except where the scree was loose. That almost killed us. We didn't have the energy to be sliding around on really nasty scree. I forced myself not to look at my altimeter again till we were an hour from the base of Mistaya. It felt good to see that now we did only have around 300 vertical meters to the summit. I told Raff and he looked a bit shocked. "From here?", he asked. "Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you that it was 500 meters from that basin...", was the blatant lie he heard back. Lying to your buddy so you can bag an extra peak - good times! LOL.
[Sublime views of Peyto Peak over Caldron Lake as we traverse from Mistaya (oos on the right) towards Caldron Peak. ++]
[Looking back at the access gully we used to access Mistaya Mountain (OOS on the upper right).]
[Looking across Delta Creek to Mount Weed across hwy 93.]
[Looking across a small tarn towards Caldron's easy-but-long scree slog to the summit.]
[Raf descends (!!) towards Caldron with Patterson in the background.]
[Finally at the bottom of the ascent slope - we roughly followed the line between light slabs and dark scree to the summit.]
The final 300 meters passed without incident. My heart rate was through the roof after 15 or 20 steps and each time I'd stop and tell Raff he could pass me if he wanted. He never did, so I guess his heart wasn't any happier with the abuse than mine was. Once we finally hit the ridge it was a straight-forward and very pleasant walk to the summit. One thing we did notice was that if you headed up the wrong slope on Caldron and got to the first summit, you'd probably have a nasty down climb to complete the traverse. We weren't sure if it would go without a rope. There was a big cairn on that first (lowest) summit so we also wondered how many people simply gave up at this point? It couldn't be too many because this mountain isn't climbed very often.
The summit views from Caldron did not disappoint and made the suffering on ascent totally worth it. Peyto Lake wasn't quite as visible as I was hoping, but the mountains around us were clear and majestic. Traversing a bit off the summit was the most exposed scrambling we did all day but revealed more of Peyto Lake and offered a great (airy) place to sit and contemplate how the heck we were going to get back before dark. Jumping off the summit would have been really quick but crossing the lake with shattered limbs would have been slow. Jumping wasn't a great option but next to the walk back it was surprisingly attractive. The tight time line didn't stop the crazy Pol and I from taking more pictures of the same mountains we already had digitized from Mistaya though. That's why I like climbing with the crazy Pol. He takes almost as many pictures as I do! In his words, "it isn't worth the effort of climbing something only to get no views at the top". I couldn't agree more. If I just wanted exercise, I'd get a gym membership or something. I want views. Great mountain panoramic views. I'm addicted to them (obviously).
[Great summit views across and up and down hwy 93. Patterson on the left, Noyes, Weed, Observation and Peyto Lake in the middle. ++]
[A great shot of Raf with Peyto Lake far below.]
[The Murchison Group]
[Raf with Observation rising across hwy 93 opposite our peak.]
[Mount Temple shows up through Crowfoot Pass - Bow Peak rising to the left.]
[Looking north from the summit with Patterson on the left and Weed on the right.]
A quick look in the register (hardly any snow or ice on Caldron) revealed just how remote and off the beaten path this pile of rock is. In the last 20 years there's been less than 20 ascent parties. Some years didn't see a single summit party. For a summit as easy as Caldron, that over-looks one of the most photographed lakes in Banff National Park this is quite surprising. It was neat to see all the who's-who of local climbing celebs like Don Forest, the Grizzly Ground and Rick Collier in the register. Apparently they thought this little peak was worth the effort!
[Now that's a great register!]
[Views towards the Wapta Icefield over Caldron Lake include (L to R), Thompson, Olive, Gordon, Rhondda, Habel, Peyto, Ayesha, Baker and Trapper.]
We finally tore ourselves away from the summit and started the long trek back. It had taken us only 2 hours to reach the top of Caldron from the bottom of the snow gully on Mistaya but since we lingered at the summit for almost an hour we now had less than 3 hours till dark and a long trek ahead. As long as we were near the trail back up to the Peyto Lake lookout but sunset, I wasn't too concerned about hiking the trail back from there. Except for the whole height gain thing. But why waste time on negative thoughts? We managed to run down most of the scree on Caldron (the dark scree was loose, the orange stuff was nasty) and within an hour we were back at Caldron Lake.
[Looking down at the Caldron Lake flats, across Delta Creek Valley with Patterson in the bg.]
[Raf descends the massive scree slope on Caldron behind me.]
[Very interesting Karst pavement near Caldron Lake. This would make an excellent bivy / hiking destination.]
[Very few trees manage to survive near Caldron Lake - it's simply too high.]
After refilling our water supplies at Caldron lake we started up on the trail back to the moraine that would take us down to Peyto Lake. Yes, you read that correctly. UP on the trail... Thankfully it was short. But it was painful just the same! Going down the cemented moraine was a bit trickier than going up. The key to not slipping and getting nasty moraine-rash was looking for larger rocks to place our feet on. Every once in a while we would lose concentration (fatigue was setting in) and do the nasty moraine dance where we'd flail around like a dying chicken, desperately trying not to be the first idiot to fall off and get seriously hurt on a moraine! Sorry if this has happened to you - I guess I just called you an "idiot" but don't take it personally.
[Crossing the Caldron Lake outlet stream.]
[Looking back at Caldron Lake (L) and Peak (R) as we traverse back to the Peyto Glacier moraine.]
[Looking down the moraine towards Peyto Lake - note the setting sun!]
We crossed the bridge over a raging stream (the glacier must have retreated quite a bit while we were gone) and started the long plod back to the car. As we approached the final trail up to the lookout, complete darkness started to settle in around us. Raff got a second wind at this point and started up the trail at a slow but steady pace. I told him to wait for me a few times, because I couldn't go on without resting every minute or so. The crazy Pol decided to be nice to me and waiting while I dragged my arse up that stupid trail behind him. The trail went on forever and you have no idea how good it felt to finally reach that lookout! That must be how it feels to summit Mount Everest. I should probably be more thankful than I am for the experience, because it didn't cost me $100,000 USD and a bunch of Sherpa's to feel like I was going to puke and then die after a day of peak bagging. All it cost me was a day off work!
[A last photo looking back at Peyto Peak (L) and Caldron Peak (R) before complete darkness settles in as we cross the Peyto Lake flats.]
According to my altimeter we had gained almost 300 meters from Peyto Lake back to the top of the trail near the lookout. (Don't say I didn't warn you. That trail is not as fun as it sounds at the end of a long day.) We don't know exactly how much total height gain we did, but we do know that it's somewhere in the area of 2300-2400 meters with all the height gains / losses throughout the day. That's almost 8,000 feet or enough to make me tired again, just thinking about it.
Was it worth it? Oh HELL ya. It was most definitely worth it.