We visit Canada for the Celebration of Life.

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Once more, Brian and I were having our annual Celebration of Life. I've been doing this most years since 2002. The trip report for that week explains the meaning and history of the celebration. If you are a guy, or know one, you should read the explanation of steps men should take to avoid cancer.

This year, we included Michael, aka The Great Poutini. And we went to Canada. I had never climbed in Canada, so as something totally new, it was an awesome experience. I learned many things. Here are a few of them:

  • Canada is big. We were in a small part of both British Columbia and Alberta, and just that small part is big. Too big to see in a single trip.
  • Canada has a ton of wild lands. I'm astounded by how much. At the same time, we did not see a lot of wildlife. Except the bighorn sheep standing in the highway. They don't move even when you drive by.
  • Canada has a lot of mountains. A lot of them. So many it makes my head spin.
  • The area we visited is quite humid. My body doesn't like humid. I got spanked.
  • Michael did a fantastic job selecting peaks. We saw a ton of country. I can't wait to get home with a map, and try to figure out where I was.
  • Tim Hortons rocks. But their lattes, not so much.
  • Canadians spell funny. They measure distances and elevation funny. They also talk a little funny, eh?
  • Canadians are unfailingly pleasant and polite. When we explained we were Americans, they did not blame us for Donald Trump.
  • Wildfires suck. This season's wildfires in Washington and Idaho greatly diminished the views from many of our Canadian summits. But even the smoky views were incredible.
  • I miss my wife. Can't wait to get home (after another peak or two- OK, Sweetie?).

OK, so on with the report, eh?

Day 1: St. Marys Peak

We drove through the smoke up Highway 95 to Grangeville, then turned off toward Grave Peak. We had checked the web, and then we checked the Fire Information board. It all looked fine until we drove the 20 miles of dirt all the way to the trailhead. Closed.

So we diverted into Montana and headed for St. Mary Peak and the historic lookout.


The look of this country reminded Brian and I of the White Mountains in Vermont.


The lookout is in great shape thanks to a volunteer program.


On the summit, the smoke had lifted somewhat due to the high winds, but it was still pretty smoky. And really windy.



Gordon is a volunteer lookout, and invited us in. Getting out of the wind was nice, and Gordon had all sorts of information that made the summit more meaningful.

After a fast descent, we had dinner in Florence, then drove to Coeur d'Alene where we grabbed a cheap motel. Long day.



Day 2: Loki Peak

Yesterday was all impromptu, so it was good to be back on schedule, even if we were behind a bit. Also, the smoke had abated: Yay!

So we drove into Canada headed for Loki Peak. Michael said his research showed it as Class 1. We had already climbed about 2000' when we got this view. Class 1?

This is the approach. Despite being relatively unknown, the peak has an approach trail that is in very good condition. Approach

High up on the mountain, we joked: It's Class 1, but with such a nice trail you might want to feel it with your hands occasionally.


Looking back down at our route from just below the summit. We came through the notch, then followed the crest of the ridge.


Nice view!


The descent required some care, so we ended up taking almost as long to get down as we did to climb.

This was a very cool climb, and we had the entire mountain to ourselves on a Saturday. And yes, it is mostly Class 1. Maybe a bit of 2 or 2+. Unbelievable.

Then we had dinner at a tiny bar and ended up in a hotel in Cranbrook.

Yesterday, my good friend Super Dave posted a trip report of his trip to Canada.


Day 3: Mt. Fisher (SummitPost page)

It was a rough but short drive to the trailhead. Because it was Sunday and a local rite of passage, there were tons of Cranbrookians parked. Note the trail just behind the white rig on the right.

The trail was flat intially, allowing us to loosen up and warm up. That lasted all of about 30'. Then the trail got down to business. Approach

After a couple thousand feet of gain, we got into the upper basin. We had been passed by a young solo hiker, who we then played leapfrog with, passing him, being passed.

That's our peak on the left, but first we had to gain the saddle just to its right.

Talus, Canadian style. Approach

From the saddle, the peak looks impossible.

We slowly picked our way up, trying to find the route. Up high, it gets pretty steep and a little exposed. We were again giving Michael a hard time about the route ratings. When was the last time you saw bolted rappel rings on Class 2?

We worked through it. Our young friend followed us, a German student named Hawk. Approach

Michael wanted to look off the summit block.

That's not marine layer in the background; it's the Idaho/Washington smoke insidiously creeping north.

Adjacent to the summit monument, there was room for about 20. Since there were about 15 on the top, that extra room was a good thing. Approach

Then it was time to downclimb the "Class 2". We took our time and it wasn't too bad. Hawk asked to descend with our group, acknowledging that he would not have made it up without being able to follow the old guys. We agreed that this peak has one or two Class 4 moves, with lots of Class 3.

We had a wonderful dinner at The Heid Out, then drove to Golden.


Day 4: Cheops Mountain (SummitPost page)

After another morning at Tim Horton's, we were off at our characteristically late departure time. Soon, we were at the Rogers Pass Visitor's Center, which was our trailhead. Smoky.


We were walking up the Balu Pass Trail. 'Balu' means bear, so we kept up our usual loud, obnoxious commentary on the world.

At Balu Pass, the trail into the next valley is closed to keep folks from becoming tasty morsels.


When we got to the pass, it was still smoky. But we could see our peak (actually, a false summit).

Note the amazing trail below; the last mile or two is constructed of large flagstones, some weighing in the hundreds. This is known as 'The Yellow Brick Road.'

From the pass, we followed the ridge out, looking for the climber's trail described in Michael's research. In places it was a little thin, but it was there. As we ascended the scree fields, there were lots of cairns. Suprisingly, we also ran into two groups on their descent. Approach
From the false summit seen above, it's time to do a very long ridge traverse. With this view, we were a little concerned because this route is rated Class 3. Yesterday on Fisher was rated Class 2. Approach
Mostly, you just drop off the ridge top and follow ledges. None take much climbing, and there is only slight exposure. This was definitely less technical than Fisher. I'd call this Class 2 or 2+. Approach

You have to tag the high point.

Due to the humidity, I was in heat stress for the latter part of the climb (and all the way home). I'm currently trying to recover under medical supervision. Some climbing partners- they won't let me have any beer!


Day 5: Mount Niblock (SummitPost page)

After yesterday, I was thinking I should rest. But the docs convinced me that it was in my best interest to continue some treatment of alpine exposure and elevated heart rate.

This climb started right out of the famous Lake Louise parking lot. As with the last few days, it was so smoky that you could hardly see the mountains.


We did the hike up to the Lake Agness teahouse, then walked to the end of the lake. That's our peak up there in the smoke.

Also note the light color at the floor of the valley, near the end.

There's that light color again. Approach
This was some steep scree. It reminded me somewhat of doing The Riddler a couple weeks ago, but this was steeper, and on a hard dirt base that really enhanced the ball-bearing quality. Approach
At the top of the scree cone, the scrambling began. It wasn't difficult, but the stream running down the rocks fed some algae, which added to the excitement. Approach

And like The Riddler, after the choke you encounter more scree.

Unlike The Riddler, this gets climbed enough that there was a climber's trail of sorts, and with occasional cairns to guide you through the ledges above.

The climber's trail kept going, and going, and going. But eventually we made it to the ridge top. Hmmm. Approach
Again, follow the faint trail and cairns. It looked impossible, but it was easy to follow. Approach


Michael was on fire today. We think it was last night's poutine.

As you near the summit, the route follows the top of the ridge. Fortunately, the smoke had thinned considerably with a slight northerly breeze. Approach


We picked our way back down the route to Lake Agness, then pounded the trail pretty hard back to the car. Boy, did that lower trail seem long.

Back at the over-crowded parking lot, we changed, filled our 'traveling bottles' to work on re-hydrating, and headed for Canmore.

Today went much better for me. I drank a full gallon and slowed the pace a bit, allowing me to recover somewhat. I was even allowed a beer!


Day 6: Mt. Rae (SummitPost page)

I was feeling better today, but still a bit like a 60-year-old.

We cruised the 40km to the trailhead and prepared to head out in somewhat-smoky (less smoky than yesterday) conditions.



The excellent trail climbs steadily through a forest for about 700', then opens into Ptarmigan Cirque. Very pretty.

Our route is out of sight off to the left. So is our peak.

After turning the corner, you can see the horror above us. You'd think by now we'd be getting used to Canadian talus (and it's a lot like talus at home). But this was special. Approach


All the way to the saddle. Extremely steep. Straight line. Note the helmet.


From the saddle, we realized that the false summit on the right was much lower than the real summit on the left.

We also realized that the route had us traversing the super-steep talus under the falsie.

After the traverse, you head immediately for the summit ridge. I didn't take a ton of photos here because I was busy. Approach
But I had a little more time on the descent, so to give you a better idea of what was keeping me busy, here is one of the sections on our way down. Approach
After the exposed section, it's a catwalk (not really a knife edge, but narrow enough) to the summit. Approach

I've been taking these summit shots for years, so today we decided to spice it up a bit. Pepperoni on top!


We carefully returned across the ridge, and only spent 10 minutes retracing our steps to find the cached (and then lost) ski poles. Then the horrendous descent down the talus chute, without a single incident.

As we got to the botttom, it was obvious that the air had cleared considerably, leaving us looking forward to tomorrow.

I took this photo as evidence, contrary to someone's opinion otherwise, that the Lost River range looks like the Canadian Rockies. Or is it the other way around?


Day 7: Mt. Rundle (SummitPost page)

This peak is visible from the town of Banff. Sort of. On the right is Rundle, but that's not the true summit. Nonetheless, it's a compelling peak.

We drove to the golf course and parked at the overlook of the Bow River Falls. Later, this view was blocked by people using their selfie sticks. Approach
After crossing the golf course, you follow an old road and then a good trail. The trail initially heads up the valley on a long, long grade. Then it crosses a couple gullies and makes a hard left straight up the ridge. Approach
After a while, you pop out of the trees and finally get to see the true summit, whichever one it is. Approach
After following braided trails through talus, the ridge narrows and the talus thins out. You are now on the Dragon's Back. Drops on both sides. Great views. Excellent traction on the limestone, as long as you avoid the pebbles. Approach
Looking down the Dragon's Back from a bit higher up. Approach
As you top out the Dragon's Back, the talus gets serious. In places it was quite loose, but never as dangerous as yesterday. Approach
Rundle has two summits: the First Summit and Main Summit. The First is in the background and the Main is higher, so the Main was where we were headed. Approach

As the angle eases up, you gain the summit ridge. It's a quick but sometimes exposed walk to the real summit.

The left side of the ridge here drops thousands of feet. Thousands. I didn't take a photo because it was so far down you couldn't make out much anyway. At least not in the smoke.



The GPS said we had gained 5400'. What followed did not make my knees happy.

Then we drove to Radium Hot Springs, stopping briefly to visit the awesome Marble Canyon.


Day 8: Bugaboos (Summitpost page)

Today's agenda had been a try at Eastpost Spire in the Bugaboos.

But we demurred on lugging a rope and gear, deciding instead to just be tourists today. Later I found Ralph had sent me an email that might have encouraged us to go for it. But then...

At the trailhead, we armored up the rig. Folks, this is porcupine country, and they like to eats rubber. Tires, brake lines, you name it. If you can't see, the sticks are holding up chicken wire that is anchored by rocks.

The trail suckers you in with a scenic and very flat start. Approach

Note two things in the pic- a huge granite tower sticking out of the glacier ahead, and the huge granite boulders sticking out of the trail ahead.

Turn right. Go straight up hill.

The trail has a few pauses in its rapid ascent. Approach
But don't let that fool you. Click the bigger version to see the chains protecting the narrow, exposed ledge above. Approach
If that's not steep enough, how about a ladder? Approach
It was a tough grind, mostly due to the torrid pace set by The Great Poutini. I finally slowed and let them get ahead; my more restful pace was still 1800' gain per hour. Approach

As we neared the hut, it started to sprinkle. Good choice on leaving the gear behind. As we relaxed in the hut, it turned to rain.

Smoke? Rain? So, let's head south. Then it was into the rig for the drive to Kalispell.


Day 9: Mt. Siyeh (SummitPost page)

The weather report was not great: 20-30% POP and a High Wind Warning. Looks like both would build through the morning and be going full bonkers around noon.

So we got up early and got moving. On our feet about 8:30. Early enough? We knew we were gambling. But just driving over Going to the Sun Road was worthwhile.

The morning was pretty, and that was encouraging. Approach
We were the second car in the trailhead parking lot. Approach
It's a beautiful trail, but we were wary; Michael had read several reports, one recent, of griz in the area. Approach

The route starts by climbing a couple hundred feet of talus.

Then you jump into the gully and start scrambling. This was really fun.

Some of it was more athletic. Approach
And there was some grungy exposure thrown in to build character. Approach
At about 11:30, we topped out the gully, completing the technical part of the climb. Unfortunately, the wind was howling such that it was hard to walk. It was also trying to spit a bit. A quick consult determined that it would be wise to turn around. Approach

Turning around here was tough, because it appeared that the difficulties were over. We just needed to hike 1000' of mild talus. On a trail.

But the weather looked bad. And it could get worse.

So it was time to head down. Approach

Even though we had just come up, it was a little confusing trying to find our way back down. Really glad we weren't doing this an hour or two later in a pouring rain.

The other thing that changed is the amount of smoke. By the time we got back to the car, it was really thick.

Let's head farther south!


Day 10: Trapper Peak (SummitPost page)

As we drove toward Missoula, the smoke just got worse. And worse. You could hardly see Flathead Lake. We were feeling a little discouraged when we got to our hotel in Hamilton and read that not only was there smoke for tomorrow, but the POP was going to swing up to 70% by noon. OK, a hike in the rain tomorrow. We can do that.

But when we got up, it was sort of sunny, if filtered through the smoke. As we gained elevation, the smoke cleared. We had sort of a sunny morning ahead!


There is a pretty good trail up to Baker Lake, with some views of our peak. Approach
We hiked on a thinning trail to the third lake, then the trail ended and we swung hard left, aiming for a steep gully. Yep, that's our peak above us, slightly left of center. Approach
The gully had talus of a whole different size. Approach
It even had snow. Approach
From the top of our gully, a short hike through some krumholtz brought us to the trail. Approach
Which devolved into more talus to get to the top. Approach

Summit. Getting a sunny summit to end our week of peakbagging was pretty special.

We had gotten an early start and pretty much flew up the mountain, so we were quite early. In fact, we were on the summit about the same time as our start time on other days. So we lollygagged. We cracked open the Mint Milanos and tipped one to Jeff.

Then we noticed the clouds getting dark. Vamonos, muchachos! Approach

It had been a long 10 days, and we started going back over it. What was your favorite peak? etc.

As we reminisced our week, there was a wise crack about a whole week without one of my bushwacks. So we fixed that omission.


And then home

As we started back over Lolo Pass, it began to rain. It rained for the next hour and a half. Yay! The firefighters need the moisture, and we had dodged the storm successfully.

What a week! RIP, Jeff.

Note- the map below does not include St. Mary or Trapper, which are both farther south.


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