Mount Coulthard
Crowsnest Pass, Alberta
July 12, 2008

We returned to Crowsnest Pass this time to try Mount Coulthard. We had studied it on our Mount Parrish attempt and there appeared to be a straightforward way up.

Looking at the map, Mount Coulthard reminds me of a three-spoke wheel. The ends of each spoke or ridge, as well as the hub or centre, bear a peak, four peaks in all. The summit is on the east ridge. After reaching the cirque below Mount Coulthard and Andy Good Peak, we planned to ascend the north ridge and traverse below the centre peak before making our way to the summit.

We drove to the York Creek/Plane Crash trailhead and started hiking up the road. About 15 minutes after starting out we reached a fork in the road. In the past we've taken the right fork (Plane Crash), but we've since learned that the left fork (York Creek) is better. At the next two junctions we kept right. This route provides excellent views of Mount Coulthard, Andy Good Peak, Mount Parrish and Mount McLaren.

Almost five kilometres from the start, the left fork rejoins the right fork. We continued up the road to the plane crash site, 7.7 km from the start. Past the site, a steep, muddy trail leads to the cirque. Leaving the trail, we headed toward the middle of the cirque before going left, up a grassy slope.

It's a steep, unrelenting, 400-metre grind to the north ridge above. The alpine vegetation gave way to miserable scree as we slogged to the ridge. (This scree, however, provides a quick descent.) From the north ridge we followed a goat track to traverse below the centre peak to the east ridge.

After walking over a few small humps we reached the summit. Dinah found a summit register bearing the Alpine Club of Canada sticker. The register was soggy but we could see the last entry was a year ago.

From the summit we had close views of Mount Ptolemy, Andy Good Peak and Mount Parrish. Our ascent took only 4.5 hours, and with a half hour stay on top, we had time to spare. We decided to ascend the centre peak.

After returning to the north ridge we slogged up more scree to reach the centre peak, which was only a couple of metres lower than the true summit. (Incidentally, all four peaks of Mount Coulthard have cairns.) Here we had better views of Mount Ptolemy and Andy Good Peak. After a brief stay, we dropped back down to the north ridge; the effort took 40 minutes. (The Centre Peak side trip is not depicted on the map or elevation profile.)

Mount Coulthard is so easily attained it's a wonder it's not documented somewhere. It's probably the highest non-technical ascent that one can do in Crowsnest Pass and provides views not seen from any of the Kane scrambles.

KML Track

MOVIE (posted on YouTube)


Mount Coulthard from the road. Summit is on the left (mouse over for a close-up).


The east slope of Mount McLaren presents some interesting scrambling opportunities


Heading to the cirque on the left


From the plane crash site, we followed a trail that goes right.


We left the trail when we reached the cirque


The tail and the wing of the crashed plane (mouse over to see an RCAF Dakota)


We hiked to the middle of the cirque before going up the grassy slope on the left


Another view of the grassy slope. The centre and west peaks above.


Crowsnest Mountain and Mount McLaren


We encounter a wet rock band


Later we realized if we had kept left, we would have avoided the rock band


For a long time all we could see were the centre and west peaks


We continue plodding up but now on endless scree


Mount Parrish centre right


We finally reached the crest of the north ridge


The summit sits at the end of the east ridge


I thought we would have to side-slope on scree, but a goat track runs under the Centre Peak
to the east ridge


Tarn below the summit


Looking back along the north ridge


A walk to the summit from here


Dinah reaches the east ridge


The Centre Peak sets the background as we head to the summit


Looking back from the summit


Chinook Peak and Mount Parrish. From here, Parrish looks like a difficult, exposed scramble.


Mount Erickson in the foreground


Lenticular clouds over Crowsnest Mountain


The summit seen from Centre Peak. Turtle Mountain on the left.


Mount Ptolemy (mouse over to view the summit)


Andy Good Peak on the right


82 G/10 Crowsnest


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