In recent years, I've been focused more on rock climbing and improving my skills leading and moving on rock. I thought it would be nice this year to get back to climbing mountains. Trying to climb a total of 20 means I need to commit to it, not just occassionally climb something. It needs to be a regular part of my outdoor plans.
The first four peaks this year were fairly straightforward. Some were just hikes up steep hills to the summits and some had short scramble sections. These peaks were great for training fitness and preparing to climb higher, more challenging peaks later in the season. There are links to the trip reports for those four peaks below.
Upper Kananaskis Lake
The next three peaks (Grotto, Sparrowhawk and Rundle) were higher than the first four and are rated F - 2nd class in the book "The Climber's Guide to the Rocky Mountains of Canada" by David P. Jones. These peaks required more fitness and a good grasp of "micro route finding".
In general, route finding is locating a path or line to get from where you are to where you want to go. Often to a summit but sometimes to the top of a col or through a difficult feature like a rock face. Micro route finding involves finding the safest and most efficient way to move up or down a small area of off-trail terrain such as slabs, scree, or a boulder field. On Grotto, Sparrowhawk and Rundle, we were able to use micro route findng to move quickly and confidently and use less energy, finding the best places to put our feet on different types of terrain.
The eighth peak, King Creek Ridge, was a bit of a consolation prize. Read about it in the Trip Report section below.
On April 4, I summited Prairie Mountain, my first peak of 2023. A very humble, straightforward hike led to the top of Prairie Mountain. That’s one down, 19 to go.
On April 20, I summited Ha Ling. Still lots of snow out there but a great trail and beautiful day. That makes 18 more peaks to achieve the goal.
On April 29, we summited Little Lougheed. Such a beautiful blue sky day was perfect for the very scenic views from the top. 17 more peaks.
On May 6 we summitted Wasootch Peak. This was a great scramble, so much fun! Kind of a windy stormy summit but lots of good adventure. Check it out!
On May 13 we summited Grotto Mountain. We've spent a lot of time in Canmore and had climbed all the mountains around the town except this one. Now it too has been climbed!
On May 21 we summited Mount Sparrowhawk. We saw it from the top of Little Lougheed and it looked intriguing. It is about the same height gain and difficulty rating as Grotto. We found it a bit more challenging.
On May 28 we summited Mount Rundle. The highest elevation gain and distance of any of the peaks so far. It went really well.
On June 4, we set out to climb Mount Hood and ended up on top of King Creek Ridge. Does a ridge top count as a peak? There was a summit register up there so we decided it should count.
A quick word on Alpine Grades. F is the easiest grade that can be assigned to an alpine climb. It is from the French word facile which means easy. Routes with this grade have very little technical difficulty or route finding challenges. This is typically the grade given to scrambles.
Within the F grade, there are different levels of scrambling difficulty ranging from first to fourth class. Fifth class terrain requires rock climbing skills and most folks will use a rope and some form of belay or protection. First through fourth class scrambling is defined as follows:
Simple hiking on well defined trails, no need for hands. Could involve long distances, creek crossings and navigation challenges.
Simple scrambling and off trail travel on scree, talus and boulders with low exposure. Hands are used at times for balance. Good route finding improves efficiency and safety. Falls can cause serious injuries.
The hardest mountains we've climbed so far this year are rated F Second Class.
Involves steep rocky terrain requiring hand holds for upward movement. Mountain guides will often rope up and belay their guests on this terrain. Typically there are plenty of hand and footholds, easy to find, but may be loose and require testing before trusting. Good route finding skills are needed to avoid unsafe terrain. A fall could result in serious injury or death.
We are planning to attempt a few F - 3rd Class climbs next. On the list are Mount Chester, Mount Hood and Mount Kidd.
Difficult and exposed scrambling often requiring a rope. Steep and rocky terrain is more loose and longer than third class. Exposure is greater such that a fall will likely result in serious injury or death. Rock climbing skills are very useful. Route finding skills are often necessary to avoid technical climbing sections. Many people will want to use a rope and belay.
Pidgeon Spire 2015