The Turret

June 13, 2015

2580m

Kananaskis – Kananaskis Lakes, AB

With some mixed weather forecasts it’s apparent either alpine objectives or technical rock climbs would be pushing our luck with the risk of failure too high for my like. A day-trip scramble would be a realistic shot and I also figured it’s a perfect opportunity to take my parents out for a hike. There were many possible options but eventually we settled on The Turret – an impressive, but small pinnacle viewing from Kananaskis Lakes guarded by high mountains to its south (Fox, Foch and Sarrail). Our inspiration mostly came from Vern’s trip last year (and his excellent photography) but I’ve been wishing to ascend it ever since reading So Nakagawa’s winter ascent a couple years back.

The Turret scramble route

The Turret scramble route. GPX DL

Despite the frightening “front side” view, The Turret offers a straightforward scramble route via the “back side” with very minimal hands-on terrain, but by a moderately-long approach with some bushwhacking. To me myself this would be nothing but a half-day weekly exercise, but given my parents’ lack of exercise recently I had to plan extra hours in case they couldn’t keep up a reasonable pace. Not liking to take a chance on the forecasted afternoon thunderstorms we decided to start our day at a little before 4:30 am from the parking lot, by headlamps. The approach followed Elk Pass Trail to a critical junction and then took the right fork towards “Blueberry Hill”.

Neat weather in the previous evening along Highway 1

Neat weather in the previous evening along Highway 1

Alpenglow on The Turret from the approach trail

Alpenglow on The Turret from the approach trail

A grouse

A grouse

Once the cross-country ski trails reached a “high point” we left the trail and started bushwhacking, following roughly So’s GPS tracks. The bush was tougher than expected and we had to deal with a lot of underbrush and some dead-falls. I was lazy to search around for an easier line so kept charging more-or-less straight up, probably due to the lack of sleep and the coldness in this morning. There had been even a layer of frost at this elevation, quite contrary to the weekend prior. Higher up we came across some game trails and followed an obvious one for a long while before I got tired of the leftward contouring. We went back climber’s right and reached open terrain below an impressive rock face after ascending some steep ground (even had to pull up using tree branches sometimes).

Started to see the jagged peaks on Opal Range

Started to see the jagged peaks on Opal Range

Sunrise behind Mt. Pocaterra

Sunrise behind Mt. Pocaterra

Ascending steep forested terrain

Ascending steep forested terrain

Mt. Fox is the impressive peak immediately to our south

Mt. Fox is the impressive peak immediately to our south

We were lucky to see low clouds in Elk Valley

We were lucky to see low clouds in Elk Valley

Now we still had to contour climber’s left, on steep grass now. The grass was wet and slippery and my mom did not feel very comfortable on this type of terrain so our progress was slow. Thankfully I managed to spot another animal trail at about 20 meters downhill – very narrow but still much easier than the wet grass. Around the rock face the trail came to an end and we were back on wet grass side-hilling. Maintaining a diagonally traversing line we also had to deal with short rock steps, some loose scree and bushwhacking in krumholtz (wet and coated with a layer of fresh snow)… Eventually at pretty much the last vegetation my parents called a quit since it’s apparent they’d need another 1-2 hours to crest the summit ridge on the current pace.

Now time to traverse some steep grass

Now time to traverse some steep grass

Another picture of Mt. Fox - I ascended it almost 3 years ago with Andrea

Another picture of Mt. Fox – I ascended it almost 3 years ago with Andrea

Traversing steep grass

Traversing steep grass

Another picture of the valley fog

Another picture of the valley fog

Picking a line through a minor rock band.

Picking a line through a minor rock band.

Eventually I went straight up this broad gully

Eventually I went straight up this broad gully

This is a sub-peak of Mt. Foch

This is a sub-peak of Mt. Foch

My original plan was to keep traversing climber’s left and intersect the summit ridge more on the Foch side of Turret/Foch col. It’s technically slightly easier and offers better views but since we were running a bit late than planned I opted for ascending straight up towards the summit block. It’s “easy scrambling” only but did get loose near the top. I ascended the climber’s left side followed by a short traverse to the summit. Weather held nicely and the two Kananaskis Lakes stole the show but I did not linger long on the top.

Ascending the broad gully

Ascending the broad gully

The short traverse to the summit

The short traverse to the summit

Summit Panorama from The Turret. Click to view large size.

Summit Panorama from The Turret. Click to view large size.

This peak is a sub-peak of Mt. Lyautey

This peak is a sub-peak of Mt. Lyautey

Looking deeply towards peaks by Haig Glacier in the British Military Group

Looking deeply towards peaks by Haig Glacier in the British Military Group

Mt. Warspite, Mt. Invincible and Mt. Indefatigable make for a fine scramble traverse.

Mt. Warspite, Mt. Invincible and Mt. Indefatigable make for a fine scramble traverse.

Mt. Evan-Thomas is the highest peak in Opal Range

Mt. Evan-Thomas is the highest peak in Opal Range

Elpoca Mountain is another big mountain in the Opal Range

Elpoca Mountain is another big mountain in the Opal Range

The summit of Mt. Foch was hidden in clouds

The summit of Mt. Foch was hidden in clouds

The summit of Mt. Sarrail is also hidden in clouds

The summit of Mt. Sarrail is also hidden in clouds

This grassy ridge is unofficially known as "Rawson Ridge"

This grassy ridge is unofficially known as “Rawson Ridge”

Mt. Fox

Mt. Fox

Lower Kananaskis Lake

Lower Kananaskis Lake

The two Kananaskis Lakes

The two Kananaskis Lakes

Panorama of the valley fog in Elk Valley. Click to view large size.

Panorama of the valley fog in Elk Valley. Click to view large size.

Panorama of Kananaskis Lakes and Kananaskis Valley. Click to view large size.

Panorama of Kananaskis Lakes and Kananaskis Valley. Click to view large size.

Me on the summit of The Turret

Me on the summit of The Turret

For the descent I switched footwear to mountaineering boots (it was indeed a bit too wet and slippery for hiking shoes). I brought the boots up in case of steep snow so figured might as well use them… Shortly after I was back to where my parents were waiting. We then carefully descended the steep grass/scree and wet bush and then back on the game trails. Lower down in the bush I opted to find a brush-free line more on the skier’s right side. I did manage to avoid most of the brush but also increased our bushwhacking distance. The rest of the return along the well-maintained trail was uneventful except for meeting probably 20 hikers on their way up.

Descending through wet Krumholtz

Descending through wet Krumholtz

Continuing descending

Continuing descending

Glacier Lily

Glacier Lily

Into the bush. We managed to stay away from the brushes on descent

Into the bush. We managed to stay away from the brushes on descent

Bushwhacking alongside a small creek

Bushwhacking alongside a small creek

Down to the broad meadows by Elk Pass Trail. Prime bear terrain...

Down to the broad meadows by Elk Pass Trail. Prime bear terrain…

Another group on their way towards the Pass

Another group on their way towards the Pass

The water was clean

The water was clean

The boring hike-out

The boring hike-out

In the end I can’t say I’ll highly recommend The Turret for a family objective, nor for taking newbies up a scramble. There’s minimal hands-on scrambling indeed but the steep grass (can be wet) and the scree is nothing “hiking” neither. Scramblers will find it easy but hikers may have trouble on those types of terrain. On the other hand, I’d recommend it for scramblers looking for great views and some variations from Kane’s book.

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