Hidden Lake Area – August 13/14, 2016 – Vi Pickering (leader extraordinaire) and Sonja Pichette (eager beginner)
What a fantastic weekend filled with plenty of one on one learning and scrambling.
Pretty strong opening comment, but backed with plenty of evidence. This weekend started out with a lovely bike ride (which ended up being more of a push your bike up the road) to Temple Lodge. After an enjoyable hike through the forest we arrived at Hidden Lake Campground and made fast work of setting up camp and meeting our neighbours. A quick gear check and discussion about our objective and it was time for the fun to start.
Our intention was to scramble up Pika Peak (rated as “difficult” by Alan Kane) and take the col. up to Mount Richardson as we figured it would be easier to scramble up the snow rather than down. We took the path to the right of Hidden Lake and scrambled up the scree to a point just below the cliffs where we followed a faint trail to the west end of Pika Peak. This part of the scramble was long and fairly uneventful. Once we cleared the cliffs and came to the Richardson – Pika col. Merlin Lake came into view. WOW! What a stunning, scenic area. To our right the really fun, exposed and hands on scrambling started with some steep steps, chimneys and exposed ridges which gave us a great opportunity to move through technical, exposed terrain. As this was only my second “difficult rated” scramble, Vi’s experience and leadership allowed me to comfortably maneuver through this terrain and successfully gain the summit. The descent was equally fun, albeit a bit slower as I needed some advice on footing and hand placement.
We met up with a pair from Golden who had successfully come from Richardson to Pika vi the col. and cautioned that the snow was quite wet and slushy. As I have no practical experience with self arrests we decided together that the risk of a slip was too great. Pika offered enough fun for one day so we stopped at Hidden Lake for a spa treatment (aka foot soak in FREEZING water) and returned to camp for the evening.
Sunday began with an early 5:00am start to gain the summit of Mount Richardson before we headed back to Calgary. We began the hike about 6:30am which was the same time the rain and hail started. This rain/hail combo last for about a half hour and looked as if it was not going to let up. We decided to press on to gain the pass which would afford us a view of the horizon to the west and help us decide if we should abandon our attempt, (as we haven’t had many trips together we needed to be comfortable with each other’s ability and stay within our limits). To our surprise and delight the sky was clear and sunny behind this small weather system so we continued up the pass. The scree on the last section of Richardson is steep and loose which makes for some interesting scrambling (complete with aggressive language), on the way up but fabulous scree-skiing on the descent. This was my quickest ascent yet, making the summit in 2 hours. It was quite rewarding knowing that we were on a summit while most people were still cozy in their sleeping bags! After a quick stop for photos, a phone call home and some food we began our descent which was quick and uneventful and a bit more comfortable as the sun came out to dry up the wet rocks and grass. We quickly took down camp and set off for the vehicle. I would strongly recommend taking your bike up to Temple Lodge as the final 3.8km’s are very enjoyable when you can whiz down the road in 10 minutes.
Although our group was small (just Vi and myself) we were mighty. I would highly recommend weekend or day trips with the Alpine Club, even if the group sizes are small, especially if Vi Pickering is the leader. Her expertise, willingness to be flexible and attentiveness to my abilities made for a very fun weekend. I learned quite a bit from Vi and she gave me great feedback on how I can continue to safely develop my alpine skills. Thank you Alpine Club of Canada for the fantastic weekend!
P.S – Please have more of these trips J