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Spread Eagle Mountain
aka Mount Roche

Castle Wilderness, Alberta
July 4, 2009

This would have been a good trip had we only summited Spread Eagle Mountain, but by traversing west along the ridge to climb a high point it became a great one! Climbing an airy ridge with pinnacles capped our trip nicely.

When Dinah and I attempted Spread Eagle four years ago via the northeast ridge, we turned back because of snow and wet conditions. Andrew Nugara would later use this route to tag the summit. But the long, arduous route held little interest for us when we realized we could save time (and avoid the worrisome crux) by using his descent route. Moreover, the time saved would allow us to try the high point: I'll call it the West Peak.

The trip began about a half a kilometre drive up the road from the bridge crossing Spionkop Creek. We turned left and parked at a gated road.

We hiked 4.2 km down the road to where it crosses Spionkop Creek. After walking over the culvert, we dropped down the left side and found a trail that led to a creekbed. We tramped up the creekbed to a scree slope. At the top of the scree slope, we found an animal trail and followed it to the hanging valley. When we came to a break in a cliff band on our left, we scrambled up it. After that, we plodded up a grassy slope to the ridge to see Spread Eagle Mountain ahead. The way to the summit was obvious.

Throughout our climb we kept eyeing the West Peak and its steep sides. We debated even trying it, but settled on at least to take a closer look.

After bagging Spread Eagle Mountain, we traversed back along the ridge. As we drew closer, to our surprise, not only could the summit block be ascended but it was merely a steep hike!

The summit block turned out to be a short ridge that held an unexpected surprise: a jaw-dropping north cliff face spiked by pinnacles. Fortunately, a shelf behind the pinnacles allowed Sonny and I to scramble up a chimney.

While Dinah stayed at the east end of the ridge, Sonny and I ambled to the summit. Although 50 m lower than Spread Eagle, the views were finer.

After a lengthy stay on the ridge, we started back down. Where the slopes held snow or good scree, we made good time. When we got to the road, time seemed to slow, but a glance back at Spread Eagle Mountain and the West Peak reminded us of the great time we had.

KML Track
Sonny's Trip Report

MOVIE (posted on YouTube)


Castle Wilderness, where the buffalo roam


Spread Eagle Mountain (left) and the West Peak (right)


After hiking up the creek, we ascended the scree slope to reach the hanging valley (mouse over to see our route)


Coming up the creek bed, East End of Loaf Mountain behind


We headed to the scree slope


We left the creekbed far below as we ascended the scree slope


The vegetation on our right is impossibly dense so we skirted left around it


Sonny passes some interesting rock formations


Jones columbine wildflowers were everywhere


Another variety of columbine


We left the animal trail and headed to a weakness in the cliff band


The West Peak appears formidable


When we reached the crest, we could see the summit


Sonny never declines to climb an obstacle even when it can be easily avoided


Sonny on a small pinnacle


Loaf Mountain in the background


Dinah led the way to the top


Behind, the ridge winds its way to the West Peak


On Spread Eagle Mountain


After a mild squall passes, the sun comes out as we headed back


Sky pilot


Spread Eagle in bright sunlight


We followed the ridge southwest where it meets the West Peak


Heading to the West Peak


Cloudy Ridge on the left


Impressive south face of the West Peak


The ridge leading to the summit


The pinnacles


Looking for a way up


Sonny at the top of the chimney


Sonny looks over the edge while Dinah hangs back at the end ridge


After the crux, the summit is quickly and easily reached


Almost there


Sonny and I on top of the West Peak


Panorama from the West Peak


Heading back from the summit


Sonny makes room for me so we can pose on a pinnacle (mouse over)


Mount Glendowan


Sonny boot-skies down a snow patch


Cascade below the West Peak


82/G1 Sage Creek

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