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Panorama from our turn-around point

Whirlpool Ridge (south ridge)
David Thompson Highway, Alberta
July 19, 2008

Looking for new scenery Dinah and I headed to the David Thompson Highway area. Whirlpool Ridge looked like an attractive trip: after gaining the crest the book, David Thompson Highway: A Hiking Guide, suggests scramblers can continue the "ridge walk" to the north peak.

Information was sorely lacking, however. No waypoint was given for the high point that the hike reached nor could I find a waypoint for the summit. The NTS map didn't show a name for this ridge, or most other features in the area for that matter. Also the book indicates a maximum elevation of 2600 m for the hike, and this is clearly wrong (either that or the elevation gain is wrong). It looks to be around 2400 m.

We had a little trouble in finding the trailhead. We parked at a pullout on the south side of HWY 11 where a sign read “Kootenay Plains Ecological Reserve.” From the west end of the pullout, we walked about 100 m west where we spied a small cairn. Behind it was a trail hidden in trees.

The trail quickly leads to a road. As per instructions, we followed the road to its end before setting off up the ridge where there were smatterings of a trail. After hiking along the semi-forested ridge we reached the rocky base of the south end of the ridge. We ascended rock mixed with scree until rock slabs forced us left. We then scrambled up scree and slabs to gain the ridge.

We hiked along the crest, but a few scrambling sections slowed us down and required care. This was not the ridgewalk that the book mentions! When we reached steep rock slabs before the centre peak, we decided to turn back. Going by the map, it appeared we were several hundred metres from the centre peak and over two kilometers from the north peak.

We retraced our steps back to the road where we noticed a faint trail. It appeared to be heading directly to our car so we decided to try it. The trail wasn't always easy to follow since it wasn't well-trodden, but we made it to our car in good time. It knocked off nearly a kilometre than if we had followed the road.

Although we didn't reach a summit and were frustrated by the poor information in the book, we enjoyed our outing. We especially appreciated the scenery, all new to us. But I question whether there is a worthwhile scramble route to the north peak that can be done in reasonable time, if at all.

KLM Track

MOVIE (posted on YouTube)

Hiking up the road, Mount Wilson in the background (mouse over for a close-up)

Mount Erasmus

Mount Peskett in the background

We get a glimpse of Whirlpool Ridge

Unnamed peak

It takes time just to reach the base of the mountain

Taking a break

There were several small, localized burn areas like this one

Close look at the south end of the ridge

Starting up the south end

Strong winds have deformed the trees

Looking back along the ridge

Higher up, we hit slabs. We avoided the scree by taking to solid rock.

We hiked along a ledge before resuming our ascent (mouse over for the reverse view)

We continued skirting solid rock

Siffleur Mountain centre left

I assume the summit, or North Peak, is on the left

Mount William Booth

At times we had to leave the crest and ascend the slabs on our left

But most of the ridge was a hike

Regaining the ridge

The double peaks of Mount Ernest Ross (left) and Kinglet Lake (mouse over for a closer look of the lake)

The colourful ridge in front of Ernest Ross is Tuff Puff

The rock changes to orange

As far as we got. The ridge immediately in front is exposed on both sides. It would be a walk-up but we couldn't even crawl across it without losing our balance because of strong winds.

We dropped down to look for another way but then decided to turn around

Whirlpool Ridge from the road: we turned back just before orange high point in the centre

83 C/1 White Rabbit

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