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The Orphan
Kananaskis, Alberta
July 12, 2014

Distance: 7.4 km
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 906 m

A few weeks ago, Dinah and I attempted The Orphan, an outlier to an unnamed peak northwest of Rimwall Summit. We followed the route in the Kananaskis Country Trail Guide Vol. 3, although last year's flood, showing no respect for Gillean's book, rearranged it all. Gone are the “fire circle,” “extremely large cairn,” as well as the trail going to the narrows where cliffs choke the creekbed. Importantly, however, the flood changed the creekbed exit.

At a bend on the creekbed, the route takes the right bank of the second drainage. But there were no banks. Instead, an impenetrable forest extends to the edge of either side of a steep rock slab. Even dry, the slab must be daunting, but since water was flowing down it, we couldn't even try. We continued well up the main creekbed looking for another drainage but had no luck and ended up far from our goal.

So we returned another day to try the first drainage. We didn't mind hiking up the creekbed again. The devastation wrought by the flood was fascinating, and tiny waterfalls, pools and huge boulders engaged our attention. We soon reached the two drainages, so close together they almost merge at the creekbed. The second drainage, the rock slab, appeared mostly dry. But being dry in the morning is no guarantee water won't be cascading down it in the afternoon. It could be the last water slide we'll ever take.

We set off up the first drainage, taking the right side. The loose rock was tedious, but we had no trouble reaching an enormous boulder with a flat surface like a table. Beyond that, the way looked okay, but after working around some slabs, we found a steep stretch of loose talus and wished we had brought helmets. Instead, 100 m past “table rock,” we should have ducked into the trees on our right. As we learned on our descent, travel here, although still very steep, avoids the extensive loose rock we were on.

All was well above the treeline. We hiked up pleasant meadows to Boulder Pass between The Orphan and Rimwall Summit. While pausing to take in the views, two hikers came down from The Orphan and met us. They were John Miller and Cam Weston. John, it turned out, is an old acquaintance of Dinah's. John and Cam had come up the slabby rock in the second drainage. Although steep, they said the rock was grippy. But they were unsure about descending it: they said they might try it or look for another way down.

After they parted, Dinah and I climbed The Orphan. A cairn marks the first summit, but the true summit is reached by traversing a short ridge with brief exposure. Surrounded by loftier peaks, the views aren't far-ranging, but Rimwall Summit and the Three Sisters put on a good display.

On our descent, we bypassed Boulder Pass and skipped down the meadows towards the first drainage. To avoid the rocky slope we had climbed earlier, we headed into the trees. After dropping down and angling right a bit, we emerged above table rock, back on our ascent route. Since we never ascended the second gully, I can’t speak for it. But the first drainage worked well for us, although be sure to head into the trees after table rock.

While coming down the meadows, we saw two more people coming up, presumably from the second drainage. The Orphan may prove to be popular. We enjoyed it.

KML and GPX Tracks

Starting up the creekbed

Approaching the narrows. Boulder Pass is on the skyline.

Typical travel in the creekbed after the narrows

Passing a huge boulder

Looking back at the boulder

View of both drainages (Dinah is going up the first drainage)

The second drainage (mouse over to see it when water is flowing)

Hiking up the right side of the first drainage

Looking back

Dinah passes table rock. 100 m after the rock it's better to turn into the trees than to stay on the open slope.

Above the slabs we encountered loose rock on a steep slope. Not good!

Above the treeline it's a pleasant hike on a broad meadow

Boulder Pass

The Orphan (right) seen from the pass

Heading to the col left of the summit

Behind is Rimwall Summit

Scramblers on Rimwall summit

When we reached the col, we surprised a ewe and a lamb

Going to the summit from the col

Heading to the true summit (cairns for both summits can be seen)

Not much room on the true summit

Relaxing on The Orphan

Heading back down

We got our bearings when we caught sight of table rock in the trees (mouse over)

On our ascent we kept left, past the slabs, but we descended easier terrain through the trees behind me

82 O/3 Canmore, 82 J/14Spray Lakes Reservoir

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