Hawk Mountain


Trip Details
Mountain Range: 
Mountain Subrange: 
Attained Summit?: 
Trip Date: 
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Summit Elevation (m): 
Summit Elevation (ft): 
Elevation Gain (m): 
Total Distance (km): 
Difficulty Notes: 

The crux can be bypassed which makes this more of a 'moderate' scramble but the terrain above the crux involves a lot of 'no slip' zones.

Trip Report

After bagging Roche a Perdrix and Morro Peak the day before, we were ready for an easy day out. So, naturally we chose the 5.5 hour trip up Hawk Mountain. Of course we knew that the 5.5 hour time is actually only ONE WAY but still, it sounded short. :-)


[A friendly neighbor likes my morning cup of mocha.]

[Mount goats on the road to the trail head.]


After negotiating our way through the usual hordes of sheep (!!) at the Overlander's Trail head we were on our own. I was feeling very tired. Our friendly teenage neighbors from the Whistler's Campground had done their best to thwart our sleep and in my case it worked wonderfully. I had maybe 4 hours of restless sleep. Good thing Hawk is a long and difficult outing.


Kane mentions a creek that you cross about 40 minutes in from the trail head. Then there is a trail on the right side of the creek heading up towards Hawk. At about 35 minutes you will cross a trail that comes down from the left side of the creek. There is a ribbon on a tree about 10 meters up the hill. I suggest you take this trail. This trail is much more traveled than the one Kane references and should take you across the stream near a waterfall and back up the other bank to the right side. Follow this trail to the crux - you may get slightly confused by all the sheep trails on the lower mountain but this main trail is pretty obvious. A pleasant diversion exists for anyone who wishes to look down at the canyon separating Hawk and Morro Peak. Good thing we didn't traverse into it the day before!


[Looking back at Wietse on the very well traveled Overlander Trail with the Athabasca River at left.]

[Looking up the SW face of Hawk - our route is somewhere up there.]

[Neat canyon terrain between Morrow and Hawk.]

[Wietse follows me up to the crux with the long Palisade Ridge in the bg.]


I'm not sure what I think about the crux on Hawk Mountain. On the one hand it's pretty tough but on the other the real 'Kane' crux is by-passed quite obviously on climber's right. Most people mention that the by-pass is 'easy'. This is a bit misleading IMHO. The by-pass is easier to get up than the crux, but it's much more exposed. A slip on the crux would hurt. A slip on the by-pass would probably kill you or hurt even worse! I'm calling it "class 3" but there are more than one no-slip zone on and around this crux.


[Looking down at Wietse coming up the crux bypass - note the sling that assists greatly with one move.]


The other thing that I don't think is clear from other trip reports that I've read is how nasty the terrain above the crux is. I actually think that this terrain is getting worse, the more people that use it. Instead of just loose dirt and rocks (like the guidebook says), you now have hard-pan dirt, basically dried clay with sand on it, and very loose scree and larger rocks. I knew already on the way up that this was going to be a much harder section to come down than the crux, simply because one tiny misstep and you would plunge down the SW face of Hawk - there is no room for error on this section, which makes it 'difficult' in my books! It's also quite sustained. There are trees to hold on to for some of the moves, but even they are showing signs of stress with all the traffic. We sent some pretty big rocks down this section on the way back so I would not ascend this part of the route without a helmet, or if anyone else is coming down it. I prefer crux's that are steep, exposed rock to ones that are loose and sandy slabs!


[Bearberries on route.]

[Loose, no-slip zone above the classic crux section.]


Once above the crux section, you can breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy the rest of the trip up the spine of the mountain. We knew that Morro Peak was around 700 meters so we weren't surprised when we realized we still had a long ways to go once on the ridge. It was good to look back at Morro getting smaller and smaller and we continue on. There are lots of flags and cairns the rest of the route - no worries about getting lost! Where the first ridge ran out we spotted two mountain goats on the west face, scampering around. It was pretty cool the way they handled the exposure.


[Done the tough stuff - for now - pleasant hiking from the top of the first ridge to the second one.]

[Wietse on the surprisingly treed SW ridge.]

[Looking back down the second ridge at the first one with views opening up to the west.]

[Finally getting above tree line but a long way to go yet!]

The upper mountain still had a fair amount of snow. I was quite nervous about our chances of making it and I knew that Wietse wasn't so sure either. Thankfully, the closer we got the more confident we became and as we gazed up at the final 300 meters we knew we would most likely make it. (Yes - the top is almost 300 meters vertical, even though it looks like nothing from the road!) The steep snow-filled gully was bypassed on climber's left. The terrain here is loose and steep but we made it through no problem. If you need them, there are cairns guiding your way up this section too. The final section was knee deep snow, but didn't pose any significant problems for us.


[Looking back over our ascent route and Wietse coming up to the summit ridge. The Snaring River is at far left and mountains visible include Esplanade, Cliff, Whitecap and Gargoyle.]

[There is still over 300 meters of elevation to go at this point. The snow was starting to concern me here.]

[Looking down steep terrain near the summit ridge.]

[The snow wasn't an issue up close - note the old tracks.]

[Looking down the summit ridge - note Wietse below me here - the Snaring River at center joining the mighty Athabasca River. The Victoria Cross Range at left and towards center. ++]


The summit view was awesome! We spent almost an hour enjoying our success.


[Summit view looking south and west includes, Colin, peaks of the Maligne Range including Center, Excelsior and Tekarra (L to R). On the right is Mount Edith Cavell in the far distance with the Trident Range to its right. ++]

[Looking further west than the last panorama (Edith Cavell now on the far left) over the Athabasca River towards Marmot, Indian Ridge, Pyramid, Zengel, Buttress and many others including the large peaks of the Tonquin Valley - Geike and others. ++]

[Wietse enjoys the views on the way up to the summit.]

[Looking up the Snaring River towards the Victoria Cross Range and peaks such as Pyramid, Zengel, Buttress, Oliver, Snaring and Chetamon along with many others. ++]

[Vern on the summit of Hawk with Colin in the bg. ++]

[The always impressive and somewhat terrifying view of the Ramparts.

[More impressive summits up the Snaring River - rarely climbed almost certainly.]

[Mount Colin is a striking peak next to Hawk.]

[Edith Cavell looms over the Jasper area and even Mount Fryatt shows up at far right.]

[Incredible colors of the Palisade Tarns across the Athabasca River.]

[Another shot of Fryatt (R) and surrounding peaks. The peak that sticks out like a sore thumb is Brussels Peak with Mount Christie to the right of it.]

[Massive panorama of the surround area from south to west to north and even east to the front ranges. ++]


The trip down was largely uneventful. The crux section was steep and nasty but we made it through. We took the alternate trail through the creek on the way back and I put my head under the small falls in the creek - boy did that feel good! I highly recommend this trip if you're comfortable with difficult terrain. The ridge section is long, but fun.


[Looking back on descent.]

[Back in the trees, traversing ridge lines.]

[Flowers and limestone.]

[A cairn marks the way back across to the western ridge.]

[Typical terrain down the SW face of the ridge to the top of the crux.]

[Wietse descends the crux - don't slip!]

[Another shot of the crux.]

[Back on easy terrain and a large trail.]

[Descending to the creek.]

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