Mount Howard (second attempt)
Kananaskis, Alberta
November 12, 2007

Sonny and I set off to climb Mount Howard on a cold, cloudy day. Unlike my first attempt, we approached the mountain from Canyon Creek.

Hiking up the creekbed was a harsh experience. The broad creekbed is desolate and offers few views. Worst of all was walking into the wind that raced down the valley. Given the strong wind, a ridge walk was out of the question; we would stay as low as possible. We followed the south fork until it ended at a steep slope where we started climbing.

Around us the snow swirled and danced as the wind worked its way in the confines of the valley. High overhead, we heard the ominous roar of the wind as it hit peaks and ridges. It sounded like a 747 jet coming in for a landing.

On the open slopes we were exposed to brutal winds. We often stopped to brace ourselves against sudden, severe gusts. We could see it coming as snow lifted and then hurled towards us. I was knocked over a few times. Sometimes the wind delivered a one-two punch from opposite directions. I never knew a strong wind could change directions 180° in a second! As we climbed higher, the wind that sounded like a 747 grew louder.

We made it to below a high point north of the summit. To climb higher we would have had to use crampons. It wasn't worth the effort knowing we would have to turn back anyway.

We agreed to turn back but first we walked to the crest of the ridge to view the other side. At least we tried to. The crest was fairly broad but the wind here was the worst I've experienced. The gusts were unimaginably strong, making it impossible to even stand let alone walk. Although we spent a couple of minutes trying, we couldn't cover the last metre or two to the crest, not on our feet anyway.

I was hit by a blast that filled my eyes with snow. I had to turn my back and sit down until I was able to clear away the snow. Even with my back to the wind, I didn't want to try standing up. I bum shuffled a couple of metres down the slope first.

Sonny faired no better. His goggles guarded his eyes, but he was forced to turn his back to the wind and crouch low to stay on his feet. He too retreated down the slope without reaching the crest. We agreed it was a scary experience.

Our hike back was long and uneventful. Although we didn't summit, we did find a direct route, should one want to avoid the ridge walk. We also gained a new respect for the wind.


Vivid sunrise (mouse over to backup)


Hiking up Canyon Creek


Ahead is the south fork where we turned left.


The wind kicks up snow around us.


Big horn sheep


Heading up the south fork, Mount Bryant in the background


The drainage bends to the right after this.


We started our ascent at the end of the drainage (mouse over)


Sonny turns his back to a wind gust.


Against the wind


The ascent starts steep but the grade soon eases.


Although just a walk, the wind made it difficult


Sonny struggles against the wind.


I wait for Sonny below the ridge, as far as we got.


On a nice day, I would've preferred the ridge, but we hiked up the gully on the right.


Coming down


Standing on a boulder at the bottom of the slope (mouse over to see our first photo attempt)


82 J/15 Bragg Creek

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