We all had our reasons for scrambling up Opal Ridge South Peak on Saturday, June 18, 2016 . Whether it was to gain more experience leading trips, meeting more club members, recovering from injuries, nursing old wounds, or stretching the legs, we all enjoyed beautiful mountain views. For me, it was unfinished business. When I had attempted the South Peak in winter 5 years ago, we had gone off-route right from the parking lot, ascending steep, snowy scree gullies between the vertical upfolds of rock slab that are on the climber’s right of the main large gully. We had turned an easy scramble into a sketchy climber’s scramble. Reaching a high point on the ridge that we thought was the summit, we descended the same way, even though we had seen the proper trail across the large gully on the way up!
This time around, the route was completely different, and a whole lot easier. The large ACC group, half of whom were last-minute event crashers, took a relaxed pace up and down the tourist trail to Opal Ridge South Peak. Energized by large cookies from trip leader Vi P, Reade W, Andrew R, Shaun L, Chuck Y, Lesley Y, Sue K, Elisabeth E, and Sim G left the Fortress Junction gas station at 9:00am. The route was almost entirely a hike, though Reade and Sim did do some hands-on scrambling on a rock outcrop near the ridge while we were regaled with jokes by Chuck. The weather was partly cloudy in the morning, overcast and grey in the afternoon, and 10C to 15C, with a few windy spots. It threatened to rain on us on descent, but never did.
We enjoyed views of Mt. James Walker, Mt. Inflexible, and Mt. Lawson throughout the day, and Mt. Denny, Mt. Potts, and Mt. Evan-Thomas from Opal Ridge. We encountered several other scrambling parties, including a couple that had bivied at the summit. We saw the Kananaskis Lakes in the distance from our lunch break at the summit, where we tried to identify other peaks. We returned to the parking lot at 3:00pm and were rewarded with cookies and strawberries. So we hiked the ~6km and 1090m elevation gain in about 6 hours. This leisurely pace allowed us to take many photos, stop to smell the flowers, and even nap.
Photos are by Shaun, Elisabeth, and Reade.