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View from the top of Brachiopod Mountain

Anthozoan and Brachiopod Mountains
Skoki, Banff National Park, Alberta
July 29, 2005

Anthozoan and Brachiopod Mountains appear to be hasty additions to the scrambling book. Unlike other route descriptions, only two paragraphs were allotted for these two peaks. Despite the "easy-moderate" rating, I found that both required some route-finding and some moderate scrambling.

Perhaps though, I would be less critical if we had tackled these from nearby Baker Lake instead of Fish Creek parking lot. Unlike our previous excursions into Skoki Valley, we didn't get a ride up or down Temple Road. After trudging up the road, we followed the trail to Boulder Pass. The view here never ceases to amaze me. Ptarmigan Lake sits in the valley surrounded by mountains. We left the main trail here and followed the south shore of the lake. We soon came to Heather Ridge that looks so similar to the photo of Brachiopod Mountain in the book that I checked my GPS. We headed up the lower slopes of Heather Ridge only to find we had to backtrack and drop down because of steep snow on its north slopes.

The spectacularly long ridge comprising Anthozoan and Brachiopod Mountains was now in front of us. But we first had to cross some undulating terrain. We decided to bag Anthozoan first, so we headed to the Brachiopod-Anthozoan col. From the col we could begin our ascent. The summit appeared so far away I wondered if it was in another time zone.

Talk about a long approach! Four hours and 13.5 km after setting off we reached the B-A col. On our right, Mount Redoubt stretched like a formidable slanted wall. On our left, the lower slopes of Anthozoan comprised of ankle-breaking rubble. There was no Kane effect here, no evidence of a trail. Pushing on, the terrain eventually improved and we gained the ridge with a sigh of relief.

We enjoyed the ridge walk until we came to an unexpected crux: we had to cross a steep rock slab that extended down several dozen metres. A slip here could be deadly. We found it too steep to simply walk across and down, and yet too smooth for even a good finger hold. We carefully crossed it. I wouldn't want to attempt it in wet conditions let alone when it's under snow or ice.

After the crux we continued our walk to the summit, arriving there an hour and 15 minutes after leaving the col. We took in views of Quadra, Temple, Protection to the south. To the east we could see clear to Television Peak which in two days we would be standing on.

After spending about 20 minutes on top we started back down the ridge. The crux was easier on the return because it required angling up instead of down. We continued along the ridge, passing the point where we topped out on our ascent. I was tempted to ascend the north peak of Anthozoan where there was a huge cairn; we were only a few dozen metres below it. But it would offer no new views and the day was long enough already. In retrospect, it may be better to climb up and over the north peak. It would involve a scree descent and avoid the crappy loose rock that we endured on the lower slopes.

Instead we found an orange scree run to descend. When that scree line gave out, we traversed until we found a black run of scree. Eventually we ran out of scree and were back on that horrible loose rock. We lost our patience here and headed for the valley floor, willing to forfeit elevation to save stumbling along the rocky slope. After climbing back up the B-A col, we were faced with ascending Brachiopod Mountain.

Like Anthozoan, Brachiopod's summit is perched at the end of a ridge. It made little sense to drop down to below summit and then climb up as the book indicates: from the B-A col we were only 150 m below Brachiopod's summit.

We headed up the slope at a shallow angle. The "side-sloping" was unpleasant and I wondered if it would have been better to ascend the south end and walk the ridge even if it did incur an elevation loss. We aimed for a point above the scree and below the solid rock. There seemed to be no easy way to scramble directly to the summit, so we continued angling until we neared the north face of the mountain. Here, a series of ledges appears below the mountaintop. It was a matter of walking along each ledge to a weakness where we could gain the next ledge. I thought this was moderate scrambling, but the rock was excellent. Two hours after leaving Anthozoan Mountain we reached the summit of Brachiopod. After spending some time on Brachiopod we headed back to car, a journey that would take us over three hours.

Postscript: Martin Siddler emailed me with the following suggestion: "We did Brachiopod several days prior but went up the big crack to the right of your ascent route as shown on the upper mountain. A very enjoyable bit of hands on scrambling with one short steep bit just below the summit. A descent is available to the north from the B-A Col, which we used to get back to our Baker Lake camp."

MOVIE (posted on YouTube)
KML and GPX Tracks

Hiking up the trail to Boulder Pass. Mount Temple in the background.

Fossil Mountain sets the background as we skirted the Ptarmigan Lake shore

The summits of Brachiopod and Anthozoan Mountains lie at the extreme ends in this photo

Red heather

Crossing the meadows below Brachiopod

Heather Ridge on the left

Coming up the lower slopes of Anthozoan

Checking out two big balls of rock

Sawwort aka purple hawkweed

After working along the lower rubbly slopes, a mosaic of slabs appear

Starting our ascent

Making our way up to the ridge

Typical travel along Anthozoan's ridge

Finally the summit is in easy reach

On the summit. The snow-covered peak in the centre is Television Peak (mouse over)

View from Anthozoan Mountain. Bunched together on the far left are Mounts Redoubt and Richardson, Pika and Ptarmigan Peaks, Heather Ridge in the foreground.

Crossing the crux. Note the cairn on Anthozoan's north peak. We descended on the orange scree.

Looking down at the crux, there was little to stop us if we started sliding

Foreground: Heart Lake and Tilted Mountain. Upper right: Mount St. Bride.

The summit of Brachiopod (mouse over to see our route)

Traversing the scree slope to Brachiopod Mountain. Fossil Mountain on the left.

Nice grippy rock on Brachiopod

Looking down

Walking along one of the ledges near the top

On the summit of Brachiopod Mountain. Anthozoan Mountain behind us.

82 N/8 Lake Louise

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