Ptarmigan Peak
Skoki, Alberta
October 8, 2006

Instead of ascending Ptarmigan Peak from Hidden Lake, we decided to gain the lower slopes more directly. We didn't stay overnight at Hidden Lake but bagged the peak as a one-day trip.

We walked up Temple Road and continued on up the trail that leads to the turnoff to Hidden Lake. We hiked up the Hidden Lake trail and looked for a side trail or a break in the trees. But after hiking for a few hundred metres, we didn't spot anything so we backtracked almost to the campground where Dinah had noticed an odd break in the trees (5-10 minutes from the Hidden Lake junction).

It looked like a cutline yet it wasn't straight. There was no trail but it was easy to hike up the steep slope. When the terrain leveled off the cutline came to an abrupt end. However, the trees were thinner here and the grade leading to the lower slopes of Ptarmigan Peak gentle. In a short time we were next to the drainage that leads to the ascent route.

From here it was a long plod up. When we hit the scree we kept well left of the drainage and stumbled upon a trail, likely the trail from Hidden Lake. The trail leads to the ridge and then turns right and goes up an unexpectedly steep slope.

We continued climbing until we gained the next ridge above. We were soon looking down at the exposed ridge just before the summit. Although there is a terrific drop on the left, the wide, short section of ridge is a walk. Beyond that, the ridge narrows and drops off so it's necessary to drop down on the right side. If it weren't for the snow, we would have dropped down a short, steep, dirt slope, but instead we took a couple more steps along the ridge and scrambled down a three-metre crack. We continued along the ridge to the slope leading to the summit five minutes away.

Well, if we had brought crampons it would have been five minutes. Here the slope was steep and the snow too hard to kick in. I hacked steps into the crusty snow until the grade eased so we could hike up the last few metres.

Judging by the forecast, I had expected to summit in cloud, but we were greeted with blue sky. The air was crystal clear so we could pick out distant peaks easily. There was no wind, but it was cold, below zero as it had been all day.

We spent half an hour on the summit, taking in the gorgeous views before heading down. Retracing our steps we quickly made our way back to the lower slopes. When we came to the drainage, however, we decided to leave it and take a break at some huge boulders that appeared out of place in the featureless landscape.

After a short break, we made our way to the cutline and were back on the trail. Just before reaching Temple Road, the temperature rose above freezing for the first time for us.

Except for a couple of minutes of scrambling just before the summit, Ptarmigan Peak is a hike. And if we had summited in cloud, I'm sure I would have little good to say about this trip. But after arriving on the top we forgot about the long approach and the slog up the scree as we took in the stunning views of Skoki Valley under blue skies.

MOVIE (posted on YouTube)
KML Track


On the drive to the trailhead, we caught the sunrise


Ptarmigan Peak ahead


The turnoff to Hidden Lake is a couple minutes away (click for a larger image)


Ptarmigan Peak from the campground. The cutline is about 200 m up the trail.


The cutline (right) seen from the trail


Ptarmigan Peak came into view soon after leaving the cutline


The drainage that leads to the lower slopes


Fortunately the cutline got us through most of the trees


Looking back towards the valley where we came from. Mount Temple is in the centre.


We headed for the dip in the ridge. In the scree above us we came across a trail.


The summit is in the centre


Endless plod to get to the ridge


The grade steepened after we reached the ridge. Mount Richardson in the background.


The summit is in the centre, still a few hundred metres away


Taking in the scenery before heading to the summit (click for a larger image)


The ridge dips down just before the summit


Looking back, Mount Richardson (left) and Pika Peak (centre)


Zigadenus and Myosotis Lakes, named after scientific names of two common flowers.
Zigadenus refers to white camas and Myosotis is forget-me-not.


Looking for the best way down. We ended up downclimbing on my left.


The snow is too hard to kick in so I hacked in steps for some places


Molar Mountain


Skoki Mountain


Mount Anthozoan, Heather Ridge, Mount Redoubt, Ptarmigan Lake and Redoubt Lake


Back on the low point before the summit


Dinah scrambles up the three-metre crack to regain the ridge


Descending the steep slope


Taking a break at the boulders


Heather Ridge bracketed by two boulders


Larch needles create a gold carpet on the trail back


82 N/8 Lake Louise

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