Taking advantage of my temporary bachelor status, I took Thursday July 10 2008 off work and drove down to the Crowsnest Pass area to do an interesting and short scramble - Thunder Mountain.
Why is it interesting? Well, it's the first mountain in the Canadian Rockies climbed by a non-aboriginal. I thought that was cool. Thanks to Bob Spirko's trip report and first hand accounts from Wietse and Keith, I knew that it was a good solo objective too. First of all, it's not a super-long trip. Secondly, it's not very difficult and thirdly, it's mostly a ridge walk so there's less chance of running into angry mammals on the way.
Since I left home pretty early, I managed to get to the trail head at around 08:15 under a pretty clear sky. The forecast didn't look to bright anywhere else in the Rockies, which is the other reason I drove 2 hours to do a short scramble. By 08:30 I was hoofing it up a thin trail to the crest of the ridge. The trick is to drive past the ridge and then turn around a park on the side of the road. You should spot a line trending up to the ridge crest from here. There's a plaque on a rock right near the top of this line.
[There are more treed sections than I was expecting on the lower ridge - but a good trail made it easy to find the right way up.]
[Breaking out of the trees, this is the wonderful view of the ridge ahead.]
[A local is curious about who is sharing her trail this morning.]
[Great views north to Livingstone Ridge (L) and Camp Creek Ridge (R).]
[Easy hiking on fairly good rock.]
[View off the ridge looking back down at the ascent route.]
[Incredible views and easy hiking keep me entertained as I look ahead to the summit.]
[Getting higher on the ridge. The rock was generally very solid till about this point and even then, I've had much, much worse!]
From here to the summit there are multiple lines and many cairns to follow. I would rate some of the terrain as moderate but mostly it can be avoided. This was a terrific scramble on fairly decent rock with great views. The wind was actually much stronger on the ridge than closer to the summit which was a rare gift in the Crowsnest area!
[This is a popular peak with both sheep and humans and there are trails in the scree to prove it.]
I took almost an hour at the summit to take pictures, look around and catch a quick nap before heading back down. It was a considerably hotter descent than the ascent and the wind felt good.
[Summit views east over the prairies.]
[Looking towards Crowsnest Mountain and Pass.]
[Looking south along the spine of the Livingstone peaks towards Center and Caldron.]
[Livingstone Ridge (Thrift Peak) and Camp Creek Ridge to the north.]
[From left to right there is Livingstone Ridge, Camp Creek Ridge, Miles Coulee, Whaleback Ridge, Black Mountain.]
[A massive summit panorama - click the photo for some labeled peaks. ++]
[Telephoto of the helicopter landing area in the valley.]
[Livingstone Ridge to the north across the Oldman River. This ridge can be ascended from the south, west and east.]
[Tornado, The Elevators and Beehive (L to R). Sugarloaf rising to the right just out of the photo.]
[Centennial display on the side of ridge down in the Oldman River valley.]
[Telephoto towards Andy Good, Parrish, McClaren and Coulthard.]
[Gorgeous, lush green valleys to the east.]
[Crowsnest Mountain and Seven Sisters (R) steal the show.]
[It was the Calgary Stampede back in the city, and this reminded me of what I was *not* missing!]
[Interesting boulders on the descent ridge.]
[Lovely views of the Oldman River snaking away from the mountains. Camp Ridge rising to the left here.]
A highly recommended scramble, especially if you're solo or looking for a short, leisure day. I took my time and was down within 5 hours.