Pika Peak

September 21, 2013

3033m

Skoki / Banff National Park, AB

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..

Scrambles routes link-up for Mt. Richardson, Pika Peak and Ptarmigan Peak

Scrambles route link-up for Mt. Richardson, Pika Peak and Ptarmigan Peak

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.

"Bushwhacking" in larch forest

“Bushwhacking” in larch forest

Looking back towards the majestic Mount Temple

Looking back towards the majestic Mount Temple

Mount Richardson

Mount Richardson

This slope is used to access both Pika and Ptarmigan Peaks

This slope is used to access both Pika and Ptarmigan Peaks

A closer look at Pika Peak

A closer look at Pika Peak

Panorama view from treeline

Panorama view from treeline

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.

Hidden Lake in its morning view

Hidden Lake in its morning view

Oh the long side-hill walk...

Oh the long side-hill walk…

Panorama of this lovely area again.

Panorama of this lovely area again.

Hidden Lake

Hidden Lake

Mount Richardson is the highest Kane's Skoki scramble

Mount Richardson is the highest Kane’s Skoki scramble

Lefroy and Victoria

Lefroy and Victoria

Hector

Hector

Panorama view from Richardson/Pika col

Panorama view from Richardson/Pika col

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…

Looking back towards Mount Richardson

Looking back towards Mount Richardson

Liam scrambling up Pika Peak

Liam scrambling up Pika Peak

Laurens coming up Pika Peak's ridge

Laurens coming up Pika Peak’s ridge

A closer look

A closer look

Summit Panorama. Click to view large size.

Summit Panorama. Click to view large size.

Familiar peaks across the valley. Temple, Lefroy, Victoria, etc.

Familiar peaks across the valley. Temple, Lefroy, Victoria, etc.

It's a bit hazy viewing southwards

It’s a bit hazy viewing southwards

Douglas and St. bride are the big peaks in this area

Douglas and St. bride are the big peaks in this area

Panorama of Drummond Icefield

Panorama of Drummond Icefield

Hector, Molar, and looking north

Hector, Molar, and looking north

Laurens coming up the summit ridge

Laurens coming up the summit ridge

Myosotis and Zigadenus Lakes

Myosotis and Zigadenus Lakes

Lake Merlin

Lake Merlin

Hidden Lake

Hidden Lake

Steep glacier on the NE side of Mount Richardson

Steep glacier on the NE side of Mount Richardson

Another photo of Wall of Jericho

Wall of Jericho

Me on the summit of Pika Peak

Me on the summit of Pika Peak

Panorama view of the "far side" of Skoki

Panorama view of the “far side” of Skoki

Panorama of the "near side" of Skoki

Panorama of the “near side” of Skoki

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.

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