Setting out on a weekend adventure with an Association peak Scramble. This front range mountain near the Ghost Wilderness proved to be challenging with a long approach and unexpected weather.
An Association Peak Scramble Adventure
I’m fortunate through work to regularly fly to Calgary which puts me on the doorstep of the great Canadian Rockies. This is a blessing and I try to never miss an opportunity to journey in Alberta’s world renowned backyard playground.
With my work schedule set I contacted my good friends Wyatt and Andrew to keep their weekend open for some fun in the mountains. We watched the weather and a system appeared to be rolling into much of the region Saturday with snow and high winds expected in all the typical ranges we had hoped to explore such as south to Crowsnest and west into Banff. The front range of the Ghost Wilderness appeared to be missing this weather and the destination was chosen, Association Peak here we come.
Facebook , texts and a little Instagram solidified the plans for a Friday departure to Yamnuska trailhead and night hike with overnight camping along the trail. Saturday would be a full day as all the reports and information we gathered would have alot of distance to cover in one day. At the last minute interacting with some fellow hiking enthusiasts on Instagram we picked up Cody for our final party member, it would be our first trip with him and looked forward to it as his photographs from past trips were stunning.
Starting out on our Association Peak Scramble
Friday afternoon was soon upon us and we headed west to the Rockies, always an exciting time with the anticipation of the trip ahead of us. We met in the parking lot for Yamnuska and prepared ourselves for the hike ahead. At about 6pm we hit the trail for our first objective, Old Fort Creek and our planned camping site for the night.
We hoped onto the well beaten trail that leads to the popular climbing and hiking area of Mount Yamnuska. A good warm up as this trail steadily gains quick elevation to the east ridge that we would depart the trail on. From here we headed right on the shoulder of Yamnuska traversing off to a horse trail we read about that would lead us north over the shoulder . We would make steady progress on the horse trail up to the point where it headed east to the CMC Valley. At this point we decided to route find our own way over the shoulder of Wendell bushwacking to the Old Fort Creek rather than put extra distance on to the east. We stumbled upon the river as anticipated in just under 3 hours at 9pm after a total of 7.5km.
Along the river edge we setup camp on a spot that provided a level enough spot to create our little 4 tent settlement for the evening. We each did our own thing prepping our spots and then set upon building a nice fire for the evening to warm ourselves as the evening chill set in. It was a fun evening of enjoying the clear sky,taking photos, eating our meals and joking around.
We slept in a bit making good distance the night before and hit the trail at about 8am. We referred to a hiking guide that sent us east of Association Hill picking up the horse trail and making our way northward and around.
Looking back this route added alot of distance and if climbing Association is your goal and not hiking into the Ghost Wilderness then you should head west down the creek to the col between the peak and Association hill easily following an old path to the scramble route which was supported by additional research when we got home.
To lighten the loads the tents and sleeping bags were ditched in the forest setting a waypoint in my GPS to retrieve them later. We steadily made our way around the east side of Association hill veering climbers left to save distance and bushwack due north hooking up with the old logging road that would lead us into into the east col between Association Peak and End Mountain.
As we set our eyes on the route to the peak of Association and the final push the weather quickly changed and a snow squall met us head on, we put on our jackets and hoped it wouldn’t last long. Thankfully it passed but the wind that brought it stayed around to keep us company. We worked steadily sticking to climbers right of the col until the terrain dictated we cross to the left and do a bit of postholing in deep snow where the gully captured the drifting snow. We each employed some sprawling and comical techniques to push through the snow until we could stand on the hard scree slope in front of us.
Now upon the scree run to the summit we made elevation along the gully ridge until a clear ramp to climbers left was easily seen. We traversed left to a series of cliffs that would allow us to navigate back and forth making our way up directly to the final cliff band below the summit. This whole time the wind had steadily grown into gale force gusts that would find us clinging to the ground or rocks around us for support. It was at this point that Wyatt stayed with Cody at the first scramble ridge section as Andrew and I pushed for the top to finish our Association Peak scramble.
Andrew and I worked our way up against fierce wind that was whipping snow around with ferociousness, thankfully I brought my snow goggles….I was happy I had them and felt bad for the rest of the boys. Up and over and around we went until we were standing below the massive cliff band that would see was traversing far to climbers right exposed on a massive 45′ scree slope.
It was at this point with the wind as it was trying it’s best to rip us off the mountain combined with tricky snow and ice that a summit would not be on our achievements for the day, 2287m elevation was the end of the trail. Sound judgement to climb another day and make it home at night is always the goal, no summit lust clouding our judgement.
We made easy progress back down the slope to the valley floor where we met back up with Wyatt and Cody. Taking a short break to eat and rest as the past work of the day was starting to make itself known on our heavy packs and tired feet. A collective chat took place and a decision to go the long way back via the full trail system to save elevation and bushwhacking was made.
Returning from our Association Peak Scramble
With one foot in front of the other the distance quickly passed behind us as our ditched tents were claimed and the Old Fort Creek we started from in the morning was reached. From here this was the longer route choice that was earlier decided would be taken. Back to the trail we went knocking off the kilometers one by one past the foot of Wendell and then to the shoulder of Yamnuska. I’m glad we went this route as we stumbled across an old loggers cabin with initials dating back to 1944 etched into the log walls.
At this point we would endure our last bushwack as we picked up a quad trail (very overgrown) that would skirt the reservation land heading back SW directly to the Yamnuska parking lot. By this point the daylight was dimming and all we could think about was a hot meal and cold beer. Finally we popped out on the road above the parking lot and we cut across to where we had left the vehicles the night before.A cumulative day elevation gain of a whopping 2000m and 30.5km under our belts we were stoked on such stats for our trip.
Off with the packs and boots and into the comfy seats of the cars was a welcome reward for a great 24hrs spent in the bush. The crew of us four achieved near 2500m cumulative elevation gain logging almost 39km under our feet. The boys were proud and are game to tackle this peak in the future as sometimes you need to see the terrain to figure out the best path, maybe we will just call it a Reconnaissance run 🙂
Failed Association Peak Scramble but Amazing Backpacking Trip!
Overall a great trip to test endurance, practice route finding and reading topography as well as good backpacking overnight skills. Lots of beauty in a remote area with ample evidence of wildlife such as wolf tracks. I cherish the time in the outdoors and hope you do too.
I’ve had great times with Andrew, Wyatt and Cody many times of than this Association Peak Scramble. They were Scramble Mount Temple via the SW Ridge and Scrambling Phantom Crag Mountain , check them out if you have time.
Let me know if you liked this trip recap and make sure to #ExploreBeyondTheUsual