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Ptarmigan Peak
Skoki, Banff National Park, Alberta
October 8, 2006

We didn't stay overnight at Hidden Lake like the Scrambles book suggests, but bagged the Ptarmigan Peak as a one-day trip. Instead of ascending Ptarmigan Peak from Hidden Lake, we gained the lower slopes more directly.

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 side, 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 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 from here (click for a larger image)

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

The cutline (centre) seen from the trail

Ptarmigan Peak came into view soon after leaving the cutline

This 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

On the ridge looking Looking west at Mount Richardson (far left) and Pika Peak (centre)

Just before the summit, the ridge narrows

Big drop on the north side: 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 a way down the crux where the ridge narrows. We ended up downclimbing on my left.

Looking back at the crux

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

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

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

On the summit

Molar Mountain seen from the summit

Skoki Mountain

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

Heading back to the the crux

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

Mount Redoubt fills our view ahead

Descending the steep slope. Hidden Lake below.

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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