On Thursday, July 30 2009 I joined Eric Coulthard from Edmonton on a trip up Mount Coleman in Banff National Park. In order to facilitate an earlier arrival back home to Calgary after the scramble, we both stayed overnight near the trailhead and agreed to leave the parking lot around 0530. This was my first scramble with Eric and we proved to have much in common, including our love of the mountains and our method of ascent.
[The evening before climbing Coleman I took some pictures near the Rampart Creek Campground. I heard rustling behind me and saw something along the highway. Sure enough! It was a bear.]
I met Eric at the trailhead and we started up the trail in the dim light of a mountain morning. Eric was in great shape and we chatted and climbed up the rather steep trail to Sunset Pass. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this trail. It would be a bugger with a big pack on but got 500 vertical meters off the ascent in short order.
[Eric at the sign showing the directions to Normal Lake campground.]
Once at the pass the sun was coming up, but there was still frost on the surrounding vegetation! We hiked through an empty Norman Lake campground and continued for our objective which was clearly to our left. We weren't sure if we should go all the way to Sunset Pass or not but soon itchy feet won out and we started crossing the open meadows / marsh area that makes up the Sunset Meadows. This is a beautiful and remote area - I'll be back for sure sometime to explore it more.
We ascended an obvious gully up the left shoulder of Coleman. The vegetation was wet from the morning frost and as we got higher into the warm sunshine we experienced the only negative part of our day - the bugs! I've heard rumors about the bugs around Sunset Pass and they're true. If you're in that area during a warm summer day I highly recommend that you bring some bug spray along.
[We've already done 500 vertical meters and are crossing the meadows towards Mount Coleman. We went up the obvious gully on the left and then crossed over into the larger gully straight up to the col. It really doesn't look like it from this angle but it's almost 900 vertical meters to the col and 'only' about 350 vertical meters from there to the summit.]
As we got higher on the shoulder we realized that we could either traverse high above the gully on climber's left or descend slightly and go right up the gully. I voted for the gully for two reasons - there was snow which would provide easy step kicking and the higher traverse looked like it could get very tricky after a bit. Eric agreed with me and we descended slightly and began the grunt up to the high col.
As you gaze at the high col from the Sunset Pass trail you may not realize that you have to gain almost 900 meters just to the col but you will feel it once you start going up to it! :-) Eric did a great job kicking small steps in the snow patches that we came across and finally we reached the col to some fabulous views. Looking south was smoky because of fires but the views to the west and north were incredible. It was also very nice to realize that we were only about 300-400 vertical meters from the summit at this point and this was the fun stuff.
[Crossing to the larger gully on our right which obviously leads to the col.]
[Using snow to easy our journey up to the col.]
[As of 2016 I still haven't climbed either of the impressive peaks in this photo despite being on my 'summit list' every year since 2009. Bryce in the bg and Saskatchewan at right.]
[From the col, the view of one of Cirrus Mountain's spectacular outlier peaks.]
From the col to the summit I found the scrambling very enjoyable and not that difficult. We basically followed the crest of the ridge and eventually started finding the occasional cairn. I would caution against wandering too far to climber's right in search of a 'gully' because Kane's gully is the shallow one right next to the ridge crest on climber's right.
[Mount Alexandra is a long ways from Coleman!]
[As we climb the ridge to the summit, this is looking back over the col and our approach from the left. ++]
[Eric poses on the ascent ridge - spectacular views towards the Columbia Icefield opening up behind us now. ++]
[Great view of the Lyells partially hidden behind Willerval Mountain.]
[Still a classic scree grunt for the most part...]
[Looking northwest over one of Coleman Tarns far below.]
[Eric on the ridge with Norman Lake and the Sunset Pass area below.]
[The scrambling terrain turns more serious near the summit ridge.]
[Some cairns to guide our way.]
[Clear view of Norman Lake at lower left and Mount Amery across #93 at center. The Alexandra River valley at right.]
After some upper-moderate scrambling we popped out on the ridge and could see our short traverse to the main summit. We chose to carefully make our way along the glacier on the north side in order to access the final summit bump on the way up but it is avoidable on climber's right if you want to avoid it - there are some massive holes on this glacier and there's a good chance that some of them are right at the col so if you do venture onto it make sure you probe carefully. Because of our early start time we were on the summit of Coleman shortly after 10:00.
[Spectacular view of Cirrus' winged outliers.]
[Mount Cirrus (Huntington) is another peak that Eric and I climbed together in 2014.]
[Still some moderate / difficult terrain before the summit traverse.]
[Great summit views of Cirrus and its wings.]
[Gazing back on our ascent route and Norman Lake.]
[Eric on the summit ridge with Coleman Lake far beneath.]
[Incredible view of Alberta's highest mountain, Mount Columbia, which I finally summitted in 2015.]
[The summit ridge stretches before us - the glacier route joining on the left.]
[Eric follows me along the summit ridge.]
[Some exposure and hands-on scrambling!]
The summit was small but we both fit no problem. After 30-45 minutes in the very cool wind with some mind blowing views, we were ready to start heading down.
[Summit view looking back along the summit ridge traverse and north to Cirrus and Mount Stewart - both of which Eric and I climbed together in later years. To the left of the panorama is Mount Amery and the spectacular ridge traverse that Eric and I did to the 2nd ascents of Hooge and Monchy peaks in 2012. This Coleman trip inspired our trip up Amery. ++]
[From R to L, Bryce, Saskatchewan, Columbia and other Columbia Icefields peaks at right.]
[Beautiful Cirrus Mountain]
[Kitchener, Stutfield and Stutfield NE]
[Andromeda with Androlumbia on the left.]
[Mount Saskatchewan is a near 11,000er]
[Mighty Mount Bryce]
[Still one of my favorite peaks I've ever had the pleasure of standing on - Mount Alexandra at the head of the Alexandra River Valley.]
[In 2015 I climbed 4/5 of the Lyells, including all the ones visible here. From L to R, Christian, Rudolph, Edward, Ernest. The other one, "Walter" is hidden behind Rudolph and Edward in this shot.]
[A wider view of the Alexandra River Valley including (from L to R), Willerval, Lyells, Farbus, Oppy, Alexandra and Queen.]
[Mount Wilson is another huge peak to the south of Coleman that Eric and I did together.]
[A Collier register]
[Some good reading in the summit register.]
We encountered no other problems except for the black flies lower down, which were merciless. We returned that attitude back on them several times. We chose to follow the main gully rather than our smaller ascent gully on the way down and that worked well. At first we traversed on animal trails alongside the skier's right but after a while we simply dropped right into the gully and enjoyed some very refreshing stream water in the increasing heat.
[The summit ridge on our retreat - there is some pretty serious exposure if you're not used to this sort of thing.]
[Eric on the summit ridge.]
[Back on scree to Sunset Meadows.]
[Back into the green meadows.]
We chanced on Twin Falls which was a nice distraction on the way back to the Sunset Pass trail and had a nice walk back to the parking lot. This is a rarely ascended peak that deserves your attention if you like more remote scrambles with great views and no highway to the summit.
[Can't beat these views! Twin Falls with Coleman in the bg.]
[A lovely walk back through Sunset Pass Meadows with Amery tempting us in the distance.]