Wednesday, October 11, 2017

GR334455 (“Wasootch Peak”) traverse to GR345444 (“Kananaskis Peak”) – Solo scramble

Great autumn solo day out. There is a long and many pointed ridge between Evan-Thomas Creek and Wasootch Creek. It extends south-east from highway 40 up a long series up bumps with major and minor summits to the only officially named summit, Mount McDougall. Mount McDougall is nearly aligned to the southern end, headwater, of Wasootch Creek. This ridge, or sub range, continues south to the significant summit of Fisher Peak. Fisher Peak is tallest summit in the Fisher Range, Mt. McDougall and this ridge are within the Fisher Range.  This ridge line, from Mt. McDougall, to the highway, is very obvious and presents many interesting faces, ridge line extensions and summits. Any hiker, scramble or climber would see this ridge and think, cool, love to get up there. Being so close to the highway and within plain sight, this long ridge has likely been ascended by many lines for many years, even so, no significant information was comprehensively published until Andrew Nugara’s “More Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies” guide was originally released in 2007.

Greg Cornell is a long time local area climber and has self published two volumes of “Kananaskis Obscure” in 2004 and 2005. The 2004 edition describes a 5.7 rock route ("Rucksack Ridge", 5.7 200m, to gain summit ridge. FA Greg Cornell & J. Miller, Aug. 2003), which likely starts somewhere on the lower west face below north ridge of GR345444 (“Kananaskis Peak”), and a scramble to “Mt. McDougall Satellite”.  I think “Mt. McDougall Satellite” peak may be the first tower highpoint, south of the Wasootch/Kananaskis Peaks col? The 5.7 route sounds nice, may be worth a hike up to find it. Looks of opportunity for routes on this west face.

Wasootch Peak from creek near highway 40.
Nugara’s book described an ascent of GR345444 (“Kananaskis Peak”) after an ascent of GR334455 (“Wasootch Peak”).  This linked ridge loop is the route I took on October 5.  Simply brilliant day out, blue, blue, blue bird day, not a single cloud in the sky all day.  Cool crisp start at 10am at zero degrees.  From the highway, a well-defined and well-trodden trail on the north side of the drainage leads up to tree line on the south side of “Wasootch Peak”, followed by a simple hike on a scree trail, with a few small bits of hands scrambling to reach the summit.  I reached the summit, with a steady, not crazy pace, in 1 hour, 20 minutes. There were a few patches of snow, but not much.  The summit register on “Wasootch Peak” was a wet mess, not surprising given the volume of people that must ascend this peak.  The view over to “Kananaskis Peak” was much snowier, in fact I almost bailed because of the long looking distance and apparent snow and ice on the ridge.  I was pressed for time so I was a bit worried about how long it would take. I thought I would check it out and decided as I went, since it appears the col provides an easy descent to the creek.
At tree line on south ridge of Wasootch Peak. View to Wasootch/Kananaskis col.

Col and Kananaskis Peak from south ridge hike.

View up south ridge.

A scree trail zigs and zags up this slope.

View to snowy west side of Kananaskis Peak.

View to summit block from south slopes.

Northern highpoints of the Opal Range.
Cluster in the centre of photo includes, left to right, double summit of Mt. Evan-Thomas, Mt. Potts, Mt. Denny (also double summit) and "Rocky Peak".

Nearing summit of Wasootch, lower, north summit comes in view.

Final steps to summit.

View to Wasootch Tower. Have climbed it 3 times, but it has been over 20 years since my last ascent; should climb it again.

Summit selfie. 1 hours, 20 minutes to top.

Summit register mess.

Wet and old paper crammed in the bottom, didn't bother trying to read this.

View north, great weather, sunny and warm.
A bit of a complicated descent off the summit towards the col, but no real route finding problems, once past this step, simple quick plod to the col, then upwards on the north ridge of “Kananaskis Peak”. For me, the crux was the start of the real scrambling on the north ridge.  The lowest section was in the shade and had a lot of ice and snow on the steepest parts. Later, I discovered, the upper exposed ridge was in the sun, had warm rock, so it was a pleasure to scramble. Once past this downsloping, wet, icy and snowy section, the real fun began.  I mostly stayed on the difficult, direct ridgeline as it was dry.  A few exposed and loose sections, but overall, super fun ridge scrambling, when I reached the summit was hoping for more ridge climbing (there was a bit more exposed scrambling to reach the easy descent line :-). Summit register was dry and had fewer entries, but only in place since August 2013.  I was about 3.5 hours from the car to the summit, less than 2 hours from “Wasootch Peak” summit to the summit of “Kananaskis Peak”.

Descending to col, view back up to Wasootch summit block, this is the tricky section, downclimbing the block, overall moderate scramble, just loose with surface pebbles as well.

View to col and north ridge of Kananaskis Peak.

Closer to low point on col, view back to Wasootch.

Wasootch Tower from col.

View back to both Wasootch summits and col from part way up north ridge.

View down to shady crux.  Difficult scramble out of sight from this angle.
Was crux of the day, ice, verglas and snow on downsloping steep rock.  My up track is visible in snow.

View to summit and gendarme on north ridge, my advice; climb the ridge head on in the middle.

More exposed ridge to summit of Kananaskis Peak.

More ridge climbing, lots of fun.

Nearing summit, view back down ridge.

View to Wasootch and upper section of cool west face below ridge.

Summit of Kananaskis Peak

Summit cairn.

Summit selfie.
Just under 2 hours from Wasootch Peak summit and about 3.5 hours from car.

View back along north ridge.

My summit entry.

Summit registry placed in 2013.  Famous people entries :-)

Happy with my speed, I turn up my pace as much as I could and headed to the described easy descent line, lots of loose and deep snow, but quick descent to the creek. I stayed high on the north bank of the creek to gain the highway of a trail, and it worked out well.  Once back on the trail, went at nearly a running pace back to the car.  5.5 hours from car to car, great workout and a ton of scrambling fun, highly recommend this loop for a cardio workout. Thanks Andrew for the great write up.

View to easy descent line.

View down descent slope, lots of deep snow, but quick to descend.

I think this first major highpoint or gendarme south of the col is the what Greg refers to as "Mt. McDougall Satellite"? The 5.7 rock route is likely in this view.

Summit view from descent slope, beautiful big west face will lots of slab walls.

View up snow descent.

At the creek. 
View back to beautiful west face of Kananaskis Peak.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

"Crown" and "South Tower" of Mt. Willingdon - Scramble

Beautiful weather and dry conditions continued into late August and Raff and I debated and considered several options for another multi day trip.  Turns out we ended up with Plan B and headed to Devon Lakes to scramble up a “new” 11,000 foot+ summit, the south outlier of Mt. Willingdon, "Crown", and its southern neighbour, “South Tower” of Willingdon.  Hot n dry, but smokey, early start at from Mosquito Creek , up into the high country on the north branch of the creek and over the infamous Quartzite Col .

Crown (l) and South Tower (r) from Devon Lakes bivy.
We had no trouble finding the proper col and easily descended steep loose scree into the Siffleur River Valley.  I day tripped Mt. Willingdon back in 2010, just less than 16 hours, car to car.  Trip report on my Summitpost pages since this was in the pre blog days. Taking it easy and enjoying the summer weather, we reached Devon Lakes in about 7 hours.  Set up very near the shore of lower Devon Lake and had time to enjoy some whiskey on the beach and soak our feet in the clear water.

Enroute to Quartizite Col, beautiful potential camp site with water and lots of cool bouldering problems. Man I camp here for days. 
View to Quartizite Col, low spot, right of central bump, darker grey scree.
From Quartizite Col, view to Willingdon, Crown and South Tower across the Suffiluer River Valley and Clearwater Pass.
Late summer colours in the valley.
View to Willingdon from Devon Lakes.
View to Crown and South Tower from Devon Lakes.
Sipping whiskey at Devon Lake.
Camp with Willingdon and Crown summits.
Smokey sunset on camp and lake. Tent visible far right.

Beautiful summer evening and a relaxing bivy, up about 5am on August 30, ready for an easy ascent, but intended on hiking back to the truck and home, so a long day ahead. When the sun came up, it was very, very smokey. We did an easy scree plod up to the Willingdon/Crown col, cool alpine glacier tarn at the col, was actually quite large.  Easy plod to the summit of Crown.  Interesting, Raff’s GPS typically reads about 10 metres above the official elevation, his GPS read up to 3367 metres (11,047 feet), so Raff thought for sure over 11,000 feet.  Easy hike to the summit of South Tower, below 11,000.  Smoke cleared a bit as we headed down. 
Scree slog to the Willingdon/Crown col.
Cool glacial tarn at col, on the way up.
Raff nearing summit of Crown.
OSWB and Raff on the summit of 11,000+ foot "Crown".
Enroute to South Tower from Crown, Willingdon in the background.
Approaching smokey summit of South Tower.

Back to our bivy, just under 6 hours from bivy to the two summits and back to camp.  Quick coffee and lunch break and we loaded up for the hike out.  Beautiful and hot summer day on the hike, enjoyable trek across to Quartizite Col, then back to the truck.  Great couple of days out with an old friend.  
View north to Willingdon and Crown from summit of South Tower.

Old relic register on the summit of South Tower.

View to Crown and Willingdon to the north.

OSWB selfie on summit of South Tower.

Raff on the hike back to the col.

Descent to Willingdon/Crown col, cool glacial tarn at col, pretty big for a high col.

Glacial tarn at col.

Cool outlier tower on Willingdon.  Wonder if it has been climbed?

Heading home.  Willingdon, Crown and South Tower behind.