Monday, 20 October 2014

Tent Ridge (2554m) - Kananaskis Country     October 18, 2014

Due to snowfall over the past week we went for a slightly easier objective this weekend. Since one member of the group had to back in Calgary early we started just before 8:30am, meaning we had to get up around 5am to get out to the trail head in time. Therefore we didn't get to see much of the conditions driving in to the trail head as it was dark. 

We followed the directions in the Kananaskis Country Trail Guide by Gillean Daffern, helped by photos in trip reports. The initial turn off of the logging road is easy to find as it is marked by a cairn where you must turn right, and the way straight ahead is blocked by several fallen trees moved to block it. We didn't see any other junctions, but the trail was under snow. I was in the lead the most of the way and I only lost the trail briefly a couple times while we went around deadfall. Otherwise following the trail was helped by a small animal that had followed it earlier and left little tracks along it. Thank you to that animal as in the open sections it was hard to see the slight change in snow shape that outlined the trail.

After the first few minutes the trail was covered in snow. It was not overly obvious but we managed to follow it into the bowl and up to the ridge. There was a lot of deadfall along the trail and at some points it was quite narrow so that it almost felt like bushwacking when it went between two very close trees.

Getting into the bowl. The start of the ridge is above us. The scrambly section s are on this first part where there appears to be bumps in the ridge.

The bowl in the center of the horseshoe shaped ridge. The true summit of the ridge is to the right. The first highpoint on the ridge is to the left and contains the large weather station. The trail soon turns to the left here and heads into the trees.

Almost out of treeline and onto the ridge proper.

Initially the ridge was just steep snow covered rubble/scree. After which you get up to the scrambly sections.

Looking back.

The scrambly sections looked more intimidating in the fresh snow, which was a little bit slipperly, but not so bad. At this point with the view ahead the other three chose to turn around, leaving three of us to continued on. This meant that it was safer to have Keara off leash so that she didn't pull Heath around. With only one person she didn't know she was fine. In fact she ended up following Carlo most of the way as he was usually in front, and had given her a tiny piece of chicken at one point. To get around the pictured difficulty we dropped down slightly on the right side and then ascended rubble/scree next to the rock until it was easy to get back onto the top of the ridge.

Continuing on. There were several sections of scrambling. The one that turned the others around was the worst, though there were sections that were snowier and more narrow after that.

Looking back. The weather was pretty bleak in the morning except for this rainbow which appeared from time to time in the direction of Spray Lakes, and patches of sun over the road to the southeast.

Looking ahead. One last scramble section to go.

This one we went straight up which involved grabbing bits of rock to hold onto while stepping up steep snow and rock. It wasn't that bad, but personally I think this is exactly the sort of terrain I would have been scared of myself several years ago, so I totally understand why the others turned back. Winter is too long to go to waste though, so I am very glad I got over some of my fear.

As the clouds broke up there was cool lighting over the road to the southeast. Chester Mountain is over on the far left going out of the photo.

Almost at the first high point with the weather station on it. It also had a camera on its post, which we debated whether it was for security or web streaming of weather events. As it wasn't pointed down to the ground it was probably the former.

From the first high point looking over at the true summit of Tent Ridge. The weather was still gloomy at this point, the wind was pretty high and it was blowing snow at us. It was easy to wonder whether the rest of the ascent would be much fun or not at this point. Some food and water helped. Some hot chocolate with Baileys in it from Carlo helped more.

View of the Fist from the first high point.

The sun coming out over the road. 

It shines on us briefly and shows off the rainbow again.

The way up to the true summit looked very steep from certain angles around the first high point. However it was actually very easy to ascend as there was a slightly switchbacking trail the whole way up. This is looking back along the route. Tryst Lake is below to the right. Some backcountry skiers go there in the winter to ski the chutes. I am certainly not good enough to ski that kind of terrain yet.

About to reach the summit where Carlo already is, and Keara. As again she abandoned her actual owners/parents to follow a complete stranger simply because he was in front & had chicken.

Summit looking north along the rest of the ridge. There were a few trickier sections right after this summit. They were easy enough though as you just drop down to the left a bit to avoid anything too hard, then traverse back onto the ridge. One even got to involve a short glissade for the boys, which I opted out of. Guess I still have a bit of a ways to go fear-wise compared to some.

View northeast down into the bowl of the horseshoe shaped ridge. At some point it had become almost nice out, or at least the clouds had broken up so the views improved greatly.

View east towards several of Kane's scrambles, from left to right: Mount Engadine, The Tower, Mount Galatea, and Mount Chester. The first high point with the weather station is in front.

View to the southeast. With no chicken forthcoming Keara decided our summit stay should be short and started looking back the way we came and crying. Guess she was a bit cold even with her sweater. I should have brought her X&O coat as well. Too bad for her we are going back a different way today. Thankfully for us it was much easier and even slightly shorter at this point. Time-wise at least. 

View to the south. The Fist in front.

The Fist to the left and Mount Smuts to the right.

Looking back at summit after first couple of steps off of it.

Avoiding a bit of a scramble by bypassing it on the left. There was trail to start but eventually we just ended up on snow.

After that section the rest of the ridge was a walk. 

Looking back.

Looking northwest. Watridge Lake is visible in the distance.

Looking back again.

Still on easy ridge. I bet this would be a great meander in nice weather. We kept up the pace though because the wind hadn't really died down even after the clouds had cleared up.

Looking back again.

Looking southeast over at the start of the ridge were the scrambly sections were, from the last high point on the ridge before descent.

This ridge does indeed have great views! Mount Engadine and the Tower again.

The Tower, Mount Galatea, and Mount Chester again.

Spray Lakes again. Mount Nestor and Old Goat Mountain behind it to the far right.

Descending down the ridge. Here the route finding got more tricky for us. The directions to follow in the new addition are for ascent. So reading them and then interpreting them back in reverse, took brain power my sleep deprived brain didn't want to give up. We descended quite far down the ridge here, basically to treeline before turning to skiers right and descending down the slope. This was obviously too far to go. If you go here in the summer you should descend earlier to find the actual route. I am sure it is more obvious without snow cover.

Great view of Spray Lake from farther down the ridge.

Looking back up. There was another slightly switchbacking trail here.  Not that you really needed it on descent.

Here we are about to turn off and descend the slopes below us. Since we had descended along the ridge so far we ended up going into larch forest. We decided we were too far skiers left and started traversing more skiers right into the open, so we could see where we were headed and hopefully end up in the gulch. We didn't really make it, but we did end up in a gully type thing and kept descending down that as it seemed to almost meet a cut block at the end. The trail went through this cut block, plus it was more open so we could at least see where we were better, so hoped to end up there.

Looking back up at larch forest and steepish snow slopes. It was actually much easier to descend that I would have thought. Thankfully the snow wasn't that soft/melted at this point in the day. Since the snow wasn't very deep and if it had been slushy it would have been very slippery on the grass underneath going down. The gully we followed after this slope, sort of just ended after a while, and then we bushwacked briefly down and skiers right into the cut block. There we started towards the far lower corner as I thought the description said the trail would be there. Instead Heath found it pretty much in the center of this cut block and we happily followed it easily back to the car.

The trail, once found, was very easy to follow through this cut block and along a logging road. It then gained a tiny bit of elevation before entering another cut block and going through it on the left hand side until ending up on another logging road. It then intersected another wider road which was mostly flat. Turning right there we continued on for not very far until it descended slightly back to the road and our cars. This trail on the way down was much nicer than the one on the way up. The route it took being less bushy because it was much wider with almost no deadfall on it. 

The whole trip took us 4h 40min. Not too bad with snowy conditions and bushwacking! Maybe we should have stopped for more views but that just isn't always practical in the winter with the cold wind and all. Plus I always feel bad for the dog when we stop. No matter how many coats you put on her, she is always cold at breaks. She needs to eat more and get fatter but I just can't convince her to eat enough dog food for that. 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Saddle Mountain (2433m) - Banff National Park     September 28, 2014

This was the long planned hike with my coworker. Since we were going during larch season I wanted to take her somewhere with larches. Also somewhere easy, as in not a super long hike or a scramble, that she could get to. The final condition was that I would prefer the hike include an easy objective I have not completed yet so I can bag another unique 'peak' and continue to get closer to the 100 mark. Saddle Mountain would be 94 for me if you include every 'peak'. So although I had thought about going to Mount Lipsett, I saved that for next year and decided on Saddle Mountain. Lots of larches and if they only got to the saddle that would work as well. More people were invited but not many more ended up going along, and those that did had to go slower so it was essentially just Heath and I plus my coworker and her husband. 

The morning started out much like the day before on Mount Whymper, very cloudy. It actually looked even worse when we got to the lake louise parking lot, but the day promised in the forecast to be better so we still had hope. We were lucky, the same thing happened as they day before, we hiked above the clouds in the valley and then they proceeded to burn off. Except today the higher clouds were gone as well and the afternoon turned out to be very nice indeed. No jackets on the summit for us. The nicest part was hiking through the upper edge of the cloud in the mist with all the dew on the larch needles and the thin mist swirling around us.

The dew was present on spiderwebs as well. I would never have though to take this picture but my coworker did and then I realized it was a really great idea.

Ascending through the edge of the mist was the nicest section.

We went through that section right when we hit the edge of the larches.

Heath going up the trail.

Larches in the mist covered in dew.

Again my coworkers idea for a photo. Dew drops on larch needles.

Getting above the cloud level.

I love on the second week of larch season when some of the needles have fallen off the trees already and create a carpet on the trail of golden needles. To me it makes the second weekend better over the first.

Clouds  in the valley below.

Heath going up the trail with Keara. Mount Fairview in the background. I've already ascended that one quite a few years back.

 Saddle Mountain from near the top of the Saddleback trail.

Top of Saddleback trail looking at Mount Temple.

Top of Saddleback trail looking at Sheol Mountain on the left and Haddo Peak on the right.

Top of Saddleback trail looking towards Mount Victoria in the far distance just peaking out over the larches.

Keara got to come on this one.

After a lunch break we started heading up Saddle Mountain. Everyone came because they were not very tired yet and it is only about 100 meters more elevation gain. There was mostly a trail the whole way up, except where the boulders got to thick and the terrain couldn't take a trail. 

Out of the larches.

Looking back at the top of the Saddleback trail from near the top of the ascent slope.

Mount Temple above Paradise Valley.

Sheol Mountain and Haddo Peak again.

Looking over at the actual summit which is only marginally higher that the high point you get to initially.

Summit looking west at Mount Victoria through the Haddo - Fairview gap.

Summit looking northwest towards the Lake Louise Chateau. Mount Hector in the far distance behind it.

 Summit looking northeast at the lake louise ski area.

Summit looking southeast at Castle Mountain.

Summit looking down over the southeastern edge of the peak into the entrance to Paradise Valley.

Saddle Mountain again after we descended back down. The walk back along the trail went by quickly. 

This was a good second trip since we both were feeling the effects of our first one this weekend. It was good to get out twice on such a nice weekend. If we had not had to meet up with people I probably would have been lazy and slept in instead. It wasn't even that crowded on the trail. Which was nice, because I am sure the larch valley / sentinel pass trail was just crazy. My coworker and her husband had a great time as well.