September 21, 2013
The 3rd weekend of September is usually the prime time to see yellow larches. A visit to classic areas (Larch Valley, Lake O’Hara, etc.) is almost a must, and this year isn’t an exception as Liam and I started planning a traverse of the “Skoki’s Trio”, namely Mount Richardson, Pika Peak, and Ptarmigan Peak. These are the highest peaks in Kane’s Skoki scrambles. Though only a “lower difficult” scramble, Pika Peak is the most challenging among the three and we decided to bag it first. The weather forecast wasn’t calling for the greatest condition but was still reasonable for a big day like this. Well, it cheated on us again..
Taking advantage of the good approach trail (Temple Lodge Road), we decided to start early with head-lamps on. Liam’s friend, Laurens, would come to join us as well, and three of us grouped at trail-head by 5:45 am. I’ve done this approach multiple times in the past two years and it’s as boring as one can expect. We raced up the road/trail and made to Hidden Lake Junction in 1.5 hours. On the way in we passed a large group of students on their way out. I suppose it’s a field trip but I was surprised they would wake up this early… We took the left turn at the junction but minutes after passing the campground we got confused so bushwhacked straight up the forested slope. It’s always a pleasant thing to bushwhack in yellow larches and we made to treeline in no time.
Most folks do Pika Peak after traversing over the summit of Richardson, so the route we went up is most people’s descent route. An obvious scree ramp provides an easy way to access Richardson/Pika col. The best view from this ramp was looking down at Hidden Lake. The scrambling itself wasn’t very pleasant. Well, side-hilling never gets too exciting. It’s either too loose or too hard, and the ramp was very foreshortened. We would gain most of the elevation on this ramp, but once topping out at the col, we got great views towards the other side.
Time to scramble up Pika Peak. The route looks complicated but once getting ourselves into the scramble, it’s very easy to follow. We pretty much followed the ridge line up, or stayed slightly on climber’s left of the ridge. There were a couple short difficult scrambling sections but we felt them being quite straightforward. If not because of the slippery rock (thank to the new snow), I’d rate this a moderate scramble. Once topping out on the summit ridge, a short traverse brought us to the top. While admiring the views, we noticed a storm approaching quickly from west…
Since we still had two more peaks to bag, we didn’t linger any longer on the summit. The new snow made this descent a little bit more interesting but we were back in short time. Now the storm really moved in.. Oh well, it’s the time to bag our second objective, Mount Richardson.