Thunder Mountain (2376m) - Crowsnest Pass January 29, 2015
I took the day off work to climb this mountain. On the weekend previous I had driven past it and seen that it looked relatively dry, then when I saw the forecast for snow on the weekend and that the wind would be reasonable during mid-week I requested the time off so I could go get it. I had been thinking about climbing this mountain as a winter ascent since Nugara's 2nd edition came out, and obsessing since the warm weather started.
Thunder Mountain from the drive in. I started early to give myself plenty of time to negotiate any tricky areas as carefully as I required.
There isn't much of a trail on this mountain. The macro route finding is easy, just follow the ridge to the summit. The micro route finding is a bit tricky in one or two places. To begin with you must gain the ridge by going up the dirt road tracks and across a flat area to the ridge. Once there you continue along as you will, through a semi-treed area till you get to the first steeper treed slope. In this section you must keep to the climbers left side/rib to avoid cliffs. There is a trail (and some sub-trails) through here, which start on a rocky rib. On descent it can be a bit hard to find and follow the trail, but as long as you are to the right you probably won't have problems.
I took this picture to help me find the trail on the way down. It didn't help... but I found my way down regardless ending up on a sub-trail at one point that led easily down to the main trail near the end.
After that you cross an area with minimal elevation gain and a few large boulders scattered over the end. Then there is the second steeper treed slope, this one had quite a bit of snow cover. I heard there is a trail through it, that starts more or less in the middle. I found some of it on the way down, and it is actually a bit more to climbers right rather than the middle. On that side there was less snow and travel was easier.
View from top of first treed section, only the false summit can be seen so far.
Then the ridge narrows significantly and you continue along it past two outcrops. You can go over both, or to the left of the first, and to the left or right of the second. Due to snow on the east side of the ridge (from the wind) I mainly climbed over both. Neither was very hard scrambling and the dry rock was fun.
View from along the ridge.
View looking back. The snow in places significantly narrowed the available footing on dry ridge, but there was always at least one foot worth of space for every step.
After the second outcrop you are faced with another steeper section.
Next steeper section.
Here in the summer I believe you take a trail off to climbers left that goes back onto the ridge as it widens again. I was worried about having to ascend the snow in the trees as it is quite steep (no photo), however the snow only had a very thin wind crust and was completely faceted underneath. It was relatively easy to kick steps through until I could get back onto dry rock. I went climbers left for a few meters before ascending a few more and traversing back climbers right, for some easy/moderate scrambling till I had ascended up to were the ridge widened again. I was much happier on the dry rock than the snow for sure.
Looking back once I've done a bit of the scrambling on the ridge again.
Done with the narrow section and onto the final slopes to the false summit.
The rest of the ascent to the false summit is a plod up scree/rubble. There is somewhat of a trail here.
Looking back from just before the false summit.
Then you get to the false summit and look at the last bit of ridge to go. All I could think of though was that the weather station wasn't featured in any trip reports that I looked at before leaving. I believe it was built last summer?
View towards true summit from the false summit.
Once again the ridge narrows, sometimes again down to only one foot width of space once the snow on the east side has taken up some of the room. It isn't a problem though, there is only two little steps in the ridge which are both easy to scramble when the main portion of the rock is dry.
View from about half way along the ridge. Its particularly narrow here. Some parts you can keep off the top to climbers right, but mostly it is easiest as Nugara says to stay on the top.
Looking back after the ridge widens again.
Then you are just left with the final ascent of scree/rubble slopes to the true summit. There is a trail leading around the last rock outcrop on the ridge. After following it a bit, I turned back climbers left onto the ridge to avoid snow and followed it to the summit.
The summit consists of two, almost equally high points. The first with the weather station and the second with the cairn. I didn't bother looking for a register as the wind was kind of bad at this point. I took my photos, ate a bar, and continued down.
View from eastern summit west to the prairies.
View from eastern summit west to the cairned western summit.
View from western summit southwest towards Crowsnest Mountain.
Heading back along the ridge between the true and false summits. This is the most scrambly section along it, though it does get very narrow in other parts.
Looking back as I am about to go back into the snow after descending the ridge below the false summit.
Looking back up at the snow section. It is a bit steeper than it looks.
The sun comes out on the ridge. This is taken from the same point looking forward. I had another break by the second outcrop away from the wind. Nice to have cell phone coverage there and on the summit.
Overall this was a great day and a great scramble. Easy enough to do in winter, enough ridge and a few scrambly sections to keep interest. I really enjoyed it. It would be good in the summer too, but not on a very windy day!