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Tombstone South
Kananaskis, Alberta
July 29 , 2006

When we parked at Elbow Lake parking lot for Tombstone South, it was a beehive of activity. Dozens of hikers were preparing to set off up the trail. Not far away, we spotted a juvenile grizzly crossing the highway. Minutes later, it crossed back.

To reach the lake we had to elbow our way through a horde of hikers on the trail. I think I know where the name of the lake comes from! After Elbow Lake, however, we had the trail to ourselves. We continued on until our destination lay ahead. We left the trail, crossed the creek, and bushwhacked to the base of the mountain.

We noticed a party of two ahead of us. We easily gained the ridge and halfway up the mountain we caught up with them. They were Elizabeth and Katrin whom we knew when we belonged to the Hostel Outdoor Group years ago.

After a short chat Dinah and I pushed on and came to the point where we would have to traverse below the ridge to avoid a cliff band. A cairn marked a likely place -- probably the only place -- to cross a stretch of steep rock slabs. We carefully made our way along some cracks.

Past the slabs were grey and orange rock bands. We ascended rubble below the grey cliff band. As we climbed the rock became steeper but fortunately a ledge allowed us to traverse to the orange cliff band. We hiked to the false summit and then made our way to the true summit.

On the summit there was no sign of the cairn I saw in Linda Breton's summit photo on her website. Only a half a dozen or more rocks were spread out where the cairn used to be. Either someone heaved the cairn over the side or a lightning strike blew it apart. The register was gone too. There was a Ziploc bag with paper in it, apparently a replacement for the missing register.

Elizabeth and Katrin joined us at the top and after a thirty-minute stay Dinah and I headed down the gully between the true and false summits. We followed a trail in the scree until it petered out near the bottom. The left side of the gully held slabs so we took the gentle right side and reached the valley bottom trail. After following it for a ways, we retraced our steps back to the main trail.

When we reached the parking lot, it was nearly empty. As we started driving down the highway we saw a car parked on the side of the road. We stopped to investigate and learned that the grizzly was still in the area. The crowds had left but the bear had stayed.

MOVIE (posted on YouTube)

Tombstone South (left) from Elbow Lake

After crossing the creek we headed for the lower slopes

After starting up the lower slopes we skirted the first obstacle on the right

Looking back

After that we stuck close to the ridge

Views behind change little although Elbow Lake came into view

A few places, like this one, allow you to view the ridge ahead

The summit lies ahead but we needed to reach the false summit first. After traversing these slabs, we ascended the grey rubble before the orange band.

Higher up, the grey rubble turns to solid rock. We traversed it to gain the orange cliff band.

Elpoca Mountain is behind us as we ascended the rubble

Just past the pointed rock above me, we found a weakness to gain the orange ridge

Dinah follows

Warrior Mountain and Waka Nambe

To reach the summit ahead, we had to do a bit of scrambling

The drop on Dinah's right is terrific. A fall here would place you at the foot
of your first Tombstone!

Dinah goes to the end of the summit ridge of Tombstone South. Behind her is the double summit of Tombstone Mountain. A hazy Mount Assiniboine is on the left.

A contrast in colours: Katrin, Elizabeth and Dinah descend from the summit

View of the valley as we headed down the gully

The left side of the gully didn't look promising so we hiked down the right side.

Looking back, summit is on the right

Leaving the gully

82 J/1 Kananaskis Lakes

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