Hiking/scrambling Mount Lougheed

The plan to hike up Mount Lougheed was hatched after Alex stumbled across a few online trip reports that suggested it wasn’t necessary to do a terrifying ridge scramble to get to the summit. Indeed, it was possibly no more than a difficult hike.

We set off early on Sunday morning, planning to beat the heat (with a forecast of 30oC and a possible afternoon thunderstorm). The route we followed was roughly as described by Bob Spirko and discussed in the Clubtread forums here. There’s nowhere handy to park, but there’s a well-defined trail most of the way up to Spencer Creek.

The well defined trail eventually peters out, and then there’s a little bush-bashing and random route-finding and you’re suddenly beneath the imposing back wall of Mount Sparrowhawk. From there, it’s a simple wander along, either in Spencer Creek or in the meadows just above it. The terrain along here was unexpectedly awesome, and a trip just to this point would still be worth doing – especially given that we had the entire place to ourselves on a busy long weekend in the middle of summer.

Looking up towards the scree slope and seemingly impassable rock bands

Towards the end of Spencer Creek – well, the end of its life as a creek – you’re faced with the realisation you’re right in the middle of a rather enormous and very impressive cirque. From there, it’s onwards and upwards on the enormous scree slope of doom.

A short break on a little grassy bench, after the first 100 metres or so of scree

The scree slope was fairly straightforward, with a nice waterfall to wander over and have a look at. We found a little pile of snow, desperately hanging on to life just nearby. Then, just as things were beginning to appear impossible, and we were faced with increasingly impassable looking rock bands, a cairn appeared high and to the right, just by a notch in a high rock band. Making your way up to the notch involves a very easy scramble, and a little walking on steep scree.

I made it to the notch carrying the Moosling in the Ergo, but Alex didn’t fancy the exposure, so I found a comfortable place for the menfolk to nap in the sun while I screed it to the summit.

Beyond the notch, I wandered straight up the scree, and then up a weakness in the white rock bands. With hindsight, or an accurate trail description on me, I would have gone further to the right and gained a nice scree spur to follow to the summit ridge. Instead I was stuck on my slightly spicy weakness, hoping it wouldn’t get any less weak. When I hit the summit ridge, it was a tiny narrow thing too, with the huge wall of Lougheed 1 facing me on one side, and the dominating back face of Mount Sparrowhawk on the other – it was a very intimidating view, and I was half-inclined to high-tail it back down the mountain from there.

Where I arrived at the summit ridge – not knife-edge, but I certainly wasn’t dancing about up there – nice view out to Spray Lakes though

The false summit

But the real summit only seemed to be about a hundred metres away, so I carefully made my way across. Once there, I could see that I’d just reached the top of the scree spur, and the actual summit was just a short walk a little further along. I was just about on my one hour turn around time, but enough time to reach the summit, sign the log, take some photos and head back downhill again.

Aha, that one’s the real summit.

Views of Lougheed 1 from the summit (the summit is Lougheed 2). Some do the scramble between these two peaks – I find even the idea a little terrifying – look at that ridge!

You can see Canmore from the summit… as well as Wind Ridge, Pigeon Mountain etc

I was tempted to try and find the easy way down, but I didn’t want to risk getting myself in the wrong place and getting cliffed out, so it was back down my rocky weakness, to the happy scree slope, into the notch, and back to the napping menfolk in the sun.

The way down from the summit, back along the ridge (with Mount Sparrowhawk lurking off to the left, as it was inclined to do)

Obligatory summit self-portrait

There’s no nap like a mountain scree-slope nap

The rest of the scree slope down was a little interminable after that. My legs had already had enough down-climbing, and the scree was often unforgiving rather than enjoyably surfable. The Moosling did find scree surfing a fairly hilarious activity, and spent a lot of time laughing at us on the descent. Taking off shoes and dabbling our feet in the creek at the bottom of the slope was a blessed relief afterwards.

Sans pants creeking – the safest option when a toddler is involved

He thought the thick moss combined with the creek were pretty much the most awesome things ever (with the-vast-array-of-rocks-available-on-a-scree-slope in a marginal second place)

Return distance: 13.6km
Elevation gain: 1515m
Mount Lougheed (Lougheed II) summit: 3107m
Toddler rating: The Moosling was happily hiking some of the lower trail through the trees (with some hand holding help needed for steep or rocky bits), wandering along in the meadows, and even had a go at hiking up and down in the scree. Plenty of rocks to throw and a couple of streams to play in, and he was happy the whole day. He’s still travelling in the Ergo when he’s not walking under his own steam, and easily falls asleep back there.

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