Louis and I did a barn-burner traverse in July 2020 in order to add to
my peak list, and explore the area for Louis to assess sheep hunting options.
I've integrating Louis' photos with mine so assume anything that's a good photo
is likely Louis'.
Early morning look at Grotto from the Heart Creek morning constitutional stop since I was pretty
sure there was no outhouse at the Mcgillivray car shuttle.
The day started early, as most barn burners do. However, we sort of wasted a window in the morning as we
spent the better part of an hour figuring out that the Kananaskis River was way too high to cross
without swimming. Thanks to Louis for fording (or attempting to ford) the river, but we decided
it would be safer to do the hike in from Troll Falls instead.
This is the view along the power lines from Troll Falls. Mt Lorette and Skogan are visible here along the
skyline and gave us hope there wouldn't be snow to navigate at least.
A nice shot of Louis as we headed off the main Stoney Trail exit and started up Lorette.
The guide book calls this out as a 'foreshortened' climb and it wasn't kidding. This was almost
1000m of up through scree basin and it went on for awhile.
But after putting some work in, we were rewarded with a nice view towards Mt Mary Barclay to the north along
with the rest of the foothills.
Louis, with all of his rich chest hair flowing, looking into Kananaskis with all the peaks you
can see forever.
We elected (Thanks for the great decision Louis) to not summit Lorette and spend the hour doing that
since it wasn't clear how long this traverse was going to be and we wanted to leave ourselves as
much daylight as possible. As we made our way across to Skogan, we found some snow, and also
confirmed the good decision from Louis that this was going to be a long day.
Shot of Louis looking north towards Barrier Lake with some interesting geology visible.
In Louis' words, "I think that ski line might go..." Mmmm hmmmm, maybe not. It was fascinating to have
someone with so much hunting experience on this traverse as Louis called out an awful lot of sheep activity,
bedding sites, travel routes, along with getting to see ewes and lambs actually skiing down snow on their bums.
A look back towards Mt Lorette showing the sloping limestone.
Louis put on his snow crampons to summit Skogan Peak. There was definitely a section of steep snow where
I was pleased to have my axe and rubbers anyway. Side note is that the guide for this scramble called it
out as moderate, but the constant side hill/pitch along with loose scree and cliff edges to the north meant
that it felt quite a bit more exposed than I would have expected.
Ice axe and stick, about the most stable you can be in the mountains.
I've been trying to identify new wildflowers in my mountain outings of late. This four heart-shaped petal
found in the alpine is milkflower.
From Skogan, we had a decision to make. It was already 3pm, which was our turn-around time. We knew we could
get back to the car by dark by turning around. However, the route back wasn't super pleasant from Skogan
and plus, we had a weather window that looked promising to finish the complete traverse. The downside
here was that we didn't have great route beta all the way to Mcgillivray. This is me pointing out the
route that it turns out involves another summit on the way.
From Skogan, this was actually really pleasant ridge walking all the way to the next peak. It wasn't exposed,
it was really nice walking in a beautiful position. Here's Louis making his way along the ridge.
Nice shot of Louis with our route along the horizon line.
Along the ridgeline heading up to Gilligan Peak.
Leaving the Skogan Peak area was quite memorable as we went from pretty sketchy footing and
scree sliding and changed to easy ridge walking along wildflower ridges.
Interesting ridge shot as we make our way from Skogan to Gilligan Peak.
As we got to the next peak, (apparently named 'Gilligan Peak'), we found a cool rock window looking through
to the other side. If the other side wasn't a ~1000 foot cliff, Louis would have stuck his face through
from the other side for a cool photo.
Summit register at 'Gilligan Peak'. While I can't find too much online around this peak, it is a very
obvious high point on the topo, and is actually higher than Mcgillivray if you can believe it.
I had to add this peak to my summit panoramic since I can definitely see it from the deck.
Descent from Gilligan Peak down to McGillivray.
This was the sad point of realizing that to gain McGillivray, we first had to drop a lot of elevation from
Gilligan and get down to the col. Then, we had to start the process of figuring out HOW to gain the McGillivray
summit block, which wasn't obvious.
Neat look at the connection between Gilligan Peak and McGillivray.
After losing the better part of ~500 m of elevation by steep scree lines, we made it back up to the Mcgillivray
summit block and decided it looked like it would go from the backside. Here is Louis making his way
around the back and up to an opportunity to check it out.
Looking back from McGillivray showing the descent from Gilligan Peak (down the centre line here).
Trying to be careful in foot position is a good idea in this area.
It turns out that was NOT the route to take as we then had to turn tail and come back all the way around to
the north side of the summit block. This put us almost to the ridge route from the main scrambling trail
and we thought we may be able to make it up one of these crack features. This one should have been
roped up to explore but Louis bravely checked it out and decided to try the next one instead. The challenge
here was also that as we found a way that didn't go, we had to traverse across steep loose scree that
itself wasn't super confidence-inspiring.
Here's Louis making his way up our eventual summit route, although again, I'll take the error of not
pulling my rope out as that would have helped our situation and safety I feel.
Louis gaining the ridge with the weather and Grotto Mountain visible to the north here.
Hiking up the ridge that I think is actually the main route, rather than the climbing section we did.
The goofy thing here is that the ridge walk looked pretty tenuous too, so there's obviously a piece of
this that we missed. For future notes, dropping back the way we came and then traversing across to the
north also wasn't super stable. I would be keen to see how the ridge walk actually goes here.
This shows the exit we wound up taking to get to the summit of McGillivray.
Deciding that this was NOT the route we wanted to take, we turned back here and traversed across the
summit block to find an exit.
Louis and I on our 3rd summit of the day, Mt McGillivray. This summit eluded me with Crazy Carl and Dan
as it got weathered out the last time, but I now don't have to go back.
Summit of Mt McGillivray showing my poor excuse for a trekking pole that I found as Louis
was struggling to ford the Kananaskis river earlier in the day.
Louis looking north to the Lougheed group. What's super impressive about this outing on this day
was that with all of the terrifying mess of weather all around us, we actually managed not to get
dumped on at all. It's kind of amazing considering we were out for ~15 hours.
The exit off McGillivray involved going 'au cheval' for a few sections. Again, I'm not convinced
that the exit was along the ridge, but that's what the guidebook says.
Some of the steepness in the exit from the upper alpine on McGillivray.
What's funny and not funny about this outing was that Louis wasn't worried at all about the exit from McGillivray
since I had done it before. It turns out my memory is garbage and I should have taken a photo of the guide
book exit. I put us in between the two cliff bands and then argued with Louis that we were going the
right way forever, and almost cost us the daylight we needed to get off this position. Thanks again to
Louis for his mountain sense and his patience to talk me off the cliff (literally) and get us out of
this area and home to the car.
Coming down from Mt McGillivray as we come down off the peak.
The fog came in as we were struggling to sort our way off McGillivray.
Brief sun rays seen as we were on the actual trail and heading out. A note here that once we got to the
shoulder, there was still ~800m of elevation to drop down, which took us until 11pm to get to my car,
along with needing headlamps and phone lights to get us home. This was a FULL DAY of alpine pursuits
and I'm always happy to get to spend it with my friend Louis.
Full data from Garmin Connect is HERE
Note the over 6300 calories along with over 2100m elevation gain and distance probably around 30km total.
With the exception of a GPS location out in Exshaw, this wasn't a terrible track with Ultra-Trac