Loaf Mountain (attempt)
Castle Wilderness, Alberta
May 7, 2005

After an enjoyable scramble up Table Mountain two weeks ago, we returned to the Castle Crown area to climb Loaf Mountain. We planned to follow the Skionkop Creek Trail that leads to a col between Loaf Mountain and Skionkop Ridge. From there it appeared possible to hike up the ridge to the summit of Loaf Mountain.

Unfortunately, a few unpleasant surprises lay ahead of us. First we discovered that the trailhead had been moved forward 4.6 km. My information, obviously outdated, indicated we could drive up a road to the trailhead but when we got there we found that road was locked and gated due to environmental concerns. Despite the added distance, we set off anyway. (Next time, we’ll do the approach on mountain bikes!)

Joining Dinah and I were Andrew Nugara and Linda Breton from the Rocky Mountain Books Forum on the internet. For months we had followed each other’s scrambles on the forum and occasionally exchanged emails. This, however, would be the first time we’d meet. It was great to have them along as their delightful company kept us in good cheer on an otherwise dreary day.

The hike up the road went quickly and we soon arrived at the end of the road and the start of the trail, actually a 4WD road although it had deteriorated in some sections. The sky was overcast and the clouds extended nearly to the base of the mountains so there was little to see. Soon after starting out, it began to rain lightly, worsening as the day went on. The large lens of my camera collected rain like an inverted umbrella. Despite constantly wiping the lens, the unrelenting rain would ruin most of my photos.

Two hours after starting out, it was obvious we had to abandon our original plans. The end of the valley where the trail continued was choked with snow and the col lay over two kilometres away. Another problem was that the waypoint I had set for Loaf Mountain fluctuated for some reason: I wasn’t sure exactly where it was. It was a moot point however. If we wanted to climb there was only one break in the nearby cliffs. Even so, the low cloud ceiling complicated matters; we had no idea what was higher up. I think though we were all glad to leave the trail and start climbing. When we came to a small bowl we found cliffs on our right, a shallow gully full of snow ahead and a steep slope of snow and rock and our left.

Up until this point I had been leading, but now Andrew took over and headed up the left slope. He was in his element and quickly outdistanced us. After easily negotiating a couple of small cliff bands we headed up a long, steep, snow-covered slope. The snow was soft and we kick-stepped to ascend. As we climbed, the fog closed in. Looking back, Andrew remarked that the slope we came up looked “spooky.” Indeed it did. A slip here and you'd be sliding into a wall of fog.

Eventually we were able to leave the snow and set foot on solid rock. However, the rock was steep and wet. While the three of us hung back, Andrew continued on for a short ways seeking a way up. It didn’t look promising, however, so we decided to turn back. By this time, our boots were soaked and everyone, I suspect, was literally getting cold feet.

I started down but found I wasn’t digging into the snow very much and I didn’t put much faith in my ice axe to stop me if I were to start sliding. I turned my back to the sky, or rather the fog, and started kick-stepping down backward on all fours. Dinah and Linda had no trouble following in my steps as if walking down a staircase. Andrew, like me, descended backward, making his own tracks. I think he was an old hand at this as he soon passed me.

Once we were off the steep snow slope traveling was much easier and we were soon back on the trail. Despite the long hike back, time passed quickly as we chatted and laughed all the way to the car.

Andrew's report
Linda's report


We had to hike the 4.6 km on this road before getting to the trail.


On trail now, we hike alongside a run-off that feeds into Skionkop Creek.


Less than two hours into the trip and already we look bedraggled.


Dinah, Linda and Andrew (lower left) cross a drainage. Just left of this photo
We hiked up to a break in the cliff band.


Hiking up the break: despite the miserable conditions we were all in good spirits.


Andrew looks for a break in this cliff band.


Andrew, just a shadow in the fog, waits ahead while we climb in his footsteps.


82 G/1 Sage Creek

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