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Partial panorama looking south

Iyarhe Ipan
Kananaskis, Alberta
August 15, 2006

Pete Irwin suggested climbing this ridge as a quick, after-work trip. I wasn't expecting much – it lays south of overworked Prairie Mountain – but I was in for a surprise. Only later did I learn it was called Iyarhe Ipan.

We parked at Beaver Flats just past the gate. At the west end of the parking lot, Pete led me down a trail to the river's edge. After fording the Elbow River, we scrambled up a steep slope that brought us to a shoulder of the ridge. After a short hike we came to a rock band that drops almost down to the river. The left side, however, was treed and held a good sheep trail.

After emerging from the trees I was surprised to find we were at the north end of a long, impressive rocky ridge above a scree basin. We followed the ridge although the trees often barred us from sticking to the edge. After passing the basin, the cliffs diminished and the ridge, including the summit was treed. We continued past the summit until the cliff band disappeared. We dropped below the cliff band and headed north, something Pete hadn't done on his previous trip here.

After following the base of the cliff we reached the scree basin. First we scrambled up a nearby rock outcrop in the scree. From the top of that Pete spied some small caves and made a beeline for them. The caves turned out to be shallow. The largest one was full of pine needles, some of which formed a huge nest. Pete thought it was a pack rat lair.

It was obvious we wouldn't be able to regain the ridge if we continued north, so we headed back to the south end hoping we didn't have to go too far. We soon stumbled upon a sheep trail that led to a crack in the rock band. The sheep had it right. We had no trouble scrambling up the crack to regain the ridge.

We retraced our steps back along the ridge, all the way back to the shoulder. Near the middle of the shoulder Pete showed me some good scree we could run down. Near the bottom we angled right and came to the beaver ponds just when it started raining. There doesn't appear to be any sign of fresh beaver activity. (When I have a mind to, I want to follow the three-kilometre interpretive trail to find out what the story is.)

We followed the right shoreline as best we could because of the steep slope and trees. We arrived back at Elbow River where we had left our sandals and again forded the chilly Elbow River.

If anyone is looking for a quick scrambling fix, this would be it.

KML and GPX Tracks

Iyarhe Ipan from the highway. Ascent starts on the left and follows the ridge. Only the false summit is seen here.

After crossing Elbow River we scrambled straight up the slope ahead

We've already ascended a good way up the slope

After topping out we hiked along the shoulder to the false summit

Looking back at the ridge. We'll use the scree here on our descent. Prairie Mountain looms in the background.

We followed a sheep trail in the evergreens on the left to reach the false summit

The sheep trail was well-defined

And easy to follow

The trail topped out on the false summit at the end of a rocky ridge

Looking back at the shoulder and Prairie Mountain

Looking along the cliff band. Note the rock outcrops on the scree slope far right that we later climbed.

Pete makes his way along the ridge (mouse over for a close-up)

Ahead is the cliff band we later scrambled up (mouse over). The dark spot is a small bush.

Looking back along the ridge

After passing over the summit, Pete headed for a cave

Pete makes himself at home in the tiny cave

After the cave, we went around the end of the cliff band and got below it

We started following the base of the cliff

When we reached these rock outcrops we scrambled up the first one

Pete decides not to attempt the second rock outcrop. The rock is unstable and it's sheer drop on the left.

From the rock outcrops Pete makes his way to a small cave (mouse over for a close-up)

From the cave we caught a sheep trail and followed it to a crack next to Pete (note the bush on it)

The crack seemed to be a continuation of the sheep trail

Pete follows me up the crack

We returned to the shoulder where Pete had placed a log to mark the top of the sheep trail

After coming down the scree we came across this large ant hill. Indeed, ant hills were prolific on the slope.

At the bottom we reached the beaver pond

Our descent ends at the beaver ponds. This is one of many dams.

There are also beaver huts like this huge one

It was raining when we crossed the Elbow River again

823 J/15 Bragg Creek (ascent route only)

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