Looking for a change in scenery from the mountains west of Calgary, Sonny, Dinah and I turned our attention south of the border, to Apikuni Mountain. This peak, which Sonny suggested, is mostly a class 2 climb (we encountered a brief class 3 section) that was certain to be snow-free early in the season.
The trip begins at Apikuni Falls trailhead. After reaching the falls, the trail climbs to a hanging valley. The usual route follows the trail into the valley to a gully and then leaves the trail to ascend the southeast ridge. After gaining the ridge, the summit is within easy reach.
However, I questioned the practicality of the midsection of the route. Instead of venturing into the valley, why not head directly up the southeast ridge? This, I reasoned, would be a friendlier grade, and the sooner we started climbing, the sooner we would take in the views. Plus, the sheep track I noticed on Google Earth would greatly ease our ascent. The trail wasn’t always easy to follow, but aside from a few short twists, it runs nearly straight (I built a few cairns to aid our descent). It knocks off nearly 300 m of elevation before disappearing into the expansive, featureless southeast ridge where a trail becomes irrelevant, where one can wander at will.
After a three-hour drive from Calgary, we parked at the trailhead and hiked to Apikuni Falls less than a mile away. In itself, the waterfalls are a popular, worthwhile destination, but we had bigger fish to fry. We put the falls behind and below us as we climbed the trail to the hanging valley.
Upon reaching the edge of the valley, we left the trail and started up a scree slope. We caught a short animal track going left before leaving it to reach a higher, longer one. Before the high trail disappeared into the southeast ridge, we headed to a red scree slope. We angled up the soft scree to gain the ridge.
Once on the ridge we made our way to the top of Apikuni Mountain. Keeping low on the left side, it’s little more than a walk, but scrambling challenges can be found by sticking to the crest. A large cairn marks the summit.
On a nicer day, we would have lingered longer than half an hour, but overcast skies dulled Apikuni’s summit views, which, according to A Climber’s Guide to Glacier National Park, are “unique and spectacular.” So we headed back down.
Other than to take advantage of good scree – the red slope was particular fast and fun – we retraced our steps back down. At the falls, we paused to again admire the cascading water, the area now busy with tourists, before returning to our car.
The modest summit of Apikuni Mountain rises above Sonny, well in the background
Apikuni Falls is less than a mile from the trailhead
A few trails start up from the falls but we took the first one
The trail switchbacks before reaching the hanging valley
Following the trail into the valley
After leaving the trail we started up the scree slope
We followed a sheep track low on the slopes before leaving for a higher, longer trail
The hanging valley extends below us while Mount Henkel sits in the background (click for a larger image)
Starting up the high animal trail
We'll gain nearly 300 m on this trail
Dinah climbs up a little chute
A little later, we scrambled up a short cliff band
We left the trail soon after this. Apikuni's summit is on the left.
The sharp end in the background is Napi Point
We took the red slope at an angle, aiming for the gray rocks on our left
On the ridge
Heading to the first of a few false summits
Altyn Peak (click for a larger image)
The largest of the two lakes below Altyn is Natahki Lake
Despite overcast skies, the colourful rocks were still striking
Sonny practices his summit pose
Obstacles on the ridge can be scrambled over or simply walked around
The last steps to the summit
Standing on top of Apikuni Mountain
Back in the basin where we started our climb
Many Glaciers 1:24,000 Topo (6.8 mi, 9065 ft, 4144 ft)