Cirque Peak

July 24, 2011

2993m

Icefield Parkway (South), AB

Coming back to Canada after winning gold medal in IChO, Turkey, I decided to do some scrambling and hiking which I had been thinking about since last summer. Cirque Peak was my first objective, located in Icefield Parkway Area, Banff National Park. I did have some experience of scrambling on The Black Tusk in 2009, but this was the first time I summitted a scrambler’s peak. Also, this was the first trip after IChO, as well as the intense studies in Grade 12. I hadn’t been hiking since last September. Although the difficulty of Cirque Peak is only “easy”, the lack of experience and lack of exercising made things harder. At that time, I still had trouble slogging up scree slope.

Cirque Peak standard scramble route

Cirque Peak standard scramble route

The trail head is located 33.2km north of Highway 1 on the Icefield Parkway. It’s the same as Helen Lake / Dolomite Pass trailhead, so not surprisingly, there were already many cars by the time we arrived. The initial part went by slowly and I had to catch my breathe regularly on steeper sections. Not far up, we were treated with the view of Crowfoot Mountain and Bow Peak. Further up, the trail enters alpine meadow terrain and we followed this highway to Helen Lake. There were at least 5 marmots bagging for food. I guess they’re already food conditioned… I hope tourists don’t feed bears though… We took a break at the lake while soaking in the views.

Crowfoot Mountain and Crowfoot Glacier

Crowfoot Mountain and Crowfoot Glacier

Bow Peak

Bow Peak

Me on Helen Lake Trail, with Cirque Peak behind

Me on Helen Lake Trail, with Cirque Peak behind

Crystal Ridge on left; Cirque Peak on right

Crystal Ridge on left; Cirque Peak on right

At Helen Lake now, Cirque Peak behind

At Helen Lake now, Cirque Peak behind

One of the interesting rock features on Crystal Ridge

One of the interesting rock features on Crystal Ridge

Lovely marmot

Lovely marmot

The same marmot

The same marmot

Another shot of this creature

Another shot of this creature

Another shot of Helen Lake

Another shot of Helen Lake

Passing the lake, the trail rises steeply up a headwall. By the time of July 2011, I was more of a hiker than scrambler so I felt this part was a bit exposed and I had to move carefully not to slip. The correct ascend line to Cirque Peak skirts around the base of the obvious cliff bands but we had to ascend the cliff bands due to snow patches lingering on the east side of the slope. Thankfully the cliff bands are well cairned and easy to negotiate. After that, it’s mainly a scree slog up. Initially the scree is firm but the higher you go, the looser the ground is. I wasn’t very comfortable on loose ground and I was pretty scared near the top. A short hands-on section led me to the false summit. I waited for 15min on the false summit for dad to show up. Despite this false summit is lower, it has better view than the true summit. We got head-on view towards Bow Lake and Wapta Icefield. This was my first time seeing the Wapta, and I was amazed. We carefully made our way towards the true summit, mainly butt-shuffling. From the true summit, we got good view of the 3 summits of Willingdon.

The route goes on left skyline overcomes the obvious rock band. The tarn is unnamed

The route goes on left skyline overcomes the obvious rock band. The tarn is unnamed

Me on the shoulder, with Dolomite Peak behind

Me on the shoulder, with Dolomite Peak behind

Dad scrambling through the rock band, with the unnamed tarn below

Dad scrambling through the rock band, with the unnamed tarn below

Looking down at Helen Lake. Bow Peak and BowCrow Peak behind

Looking down at Helen Lake. Bow Peak and BowCrow Peak behind

Watermelon Peak behind.

Watermelon Peak behind.

The typical slog up Cirque

The typical slog up Cirque

Nice view towards Bow Lake and Wapta Icefield

Nice view towards Bow Lake and Wapta Icefield

Zooming-in towards Wapta Icefield

Zooming-in towards Wapta Icefield

Looking back at dad slogging up scree

Looking back at dad slogging up scree

There's a steeper section requires some hands-on moves. You don't go straight up this rock face though.

There’s a steeper section requires some hands-on moves. You don’t go straight up this rock face though.

True summit seen from false summit

True summit seen from false summit

Looking North from false/true col

Looking North from false/true col

Panorama looking towards the front range peaks, from true summit

Panorama looking towards the front range peaks, from true summit

Dolomite Peak with Lake Katherine below

Dolomite Peak with Lake Katherine below

Me on the summit

Me on the summit

I went down the East side for a bit, posing for a shot

I went down the East side for a bit, posing for a shot

Me on the false summit

Me on the false summit

Dad and I on false summit

Dad and I on false summit

We stayed on the summit for about half an hour, and slowly moved down the loose slope. We didn’t linger around the trail long as there were more and more tourists coming in afternoon. The weather also cleared up quite a bit by the time we got back to Helen Lake. I could feel blisters on my feet by this time. The hike back to car felt much longer and we stopped at Bow Lake for photos after finishing the trip.

Descending

Descending

Watermelon Peak

Watermelon Peak

Looking back. Weather was getting nicer

Looking back. Weather was getting nicer

The unnamed tarn

The unnamed tarn

Cirque Peak and the tarn

Cirque Peak and the tarn

Mount Hector on left

Mount Hector on left

Dolomite Peak

Dolomite Peak

Back to Bow Lake

Back to Bow Lake

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