Thunder Mountain

May 11, 2013

2335m

Oldman River (Crowsnest), AB

This year’s May has been ridiculously hot compared to last year. A stable weather system moved in and persisted for 2 weeks, bringing temperature up to 20-30 degrees. Despite the sunny weather, my objectives were limited. There was still a good amount of snow in the mountains since it’s only mid May, but I just couldn’t use them. They would all be isothermal crap. I think the snowshoe/ski season had come to an end for this year. After emailing back and forth, it was Andrea and I hooking up on Saturday. Our first objective would be Thunder Mountain, but given the fact it’s a short trip, we decided to meet at 7 am in Okotoks to give us enough time for a second objective.

Thunder Mountain standard scramble route

Thunder Mountain standard scramble route

This would be my first time driving down Highway 22 passing Highway 532 turnoff. This is such a pleasant drive with great grassland views, and most importantly, it’s such a quiet drive. To get to trailhead, we followed Highway 517 which was in a much better shape than its neighbour, Highway 532. The parking area isn’t that hard to miss since it’s right at the bottom of ascending ridge. It’s such a pleasure to dump all of the winter mountaineering gears, and switch to summer hike/scramble pack. I think for most people the crux would be to locate the trailhead. There is a trail going into the woods, but very hard to find if you’re doing this mountain for the first time. It doesn’t that much though since we soon rejoined the trail in like 10 minutes into the trip.

After a steep section in the trees we came to a flat area with views opening up. Again, I definitely appreciated the summer views after snowshoeing/skiing for more than 6 months. There isn’t much to say about the route since we basically followed the ridge crest up. There is a trail but it gets faint often. We stayed on ridge crest and got some moderate scrambling here and there. I believe all of those hands-on stuffs could be bypassed on climber’s left side if you don’t mind some light bushwhacking. The peak that we kept our eyes on was actually the false summit.

Thunder Mountain is as simple as it looks. Route basically follows the left skyline ridge up.

Thunder Mountain is as simple as it looks. Route basically follows the left skyline ridge up.

The ridge has some open areas, and we got great views

The ridge has some open areas, and we got great views

This treed section held some knee deep isothermal snow.

This treed section held some knee deep isothermal snow.

Nice view across Oldman River towards Livingstone Lookout

Nice view across Oldman River towards Livingstone Lookout

Andrea taking in the views

Andrea taking in the views

Andrea coming up the only bit of hands-on stuffs

Andrea coming up the only bit of hands-on stuffs

Another shot

Another shot

From the false summit it was a pleasant ridge walk followed by a short rubble slog to the true summit. It was a bit windy on this day. But considering we were in the Livingstone Range, the wind was very tolerable. We stayed quite a while on the summit soaking in the views. We also discussed a bit about our second objective. The nearby Livingstone Lookout was in a good shape, but that would involve a big river fording. Oldman River was apparently raging so we set our eyes on Sugarloaf Lookout, a peak that Andrea had attempted before.

Now the true summit comes into view

Now the true summit comes into view

The summit block is a rubble slog

The summit block is a rubble slog

Summit panorama looking towards the prairie side

Summit panorama looking towards the prairie side

Zooming in towards south. The peaks in foreground are also in the Livingstone Range

Zooming in towards south. The peaks in foreground are also in the Livingstone Range

Hiking to a second summit. It's slightly lower, but offers better views

Hiking to a second summit. It’s slightly lower, but offers better views

Looking towards High Rock Range from the lower summit

Looking towards High Rock Range from the lower summit

Crowsnest Mountain and Seven Sisters on left

Crowsnest Mountain and Seven Sisters on left

Tornado Mountain at center. It's high on my list in this summer.

Tornado Mountain at center. It’s high on my list in this summer.

Me on the summit

Me on the summit

Another look from the summit.

Another look from the summit.

Zooming-in towards Center Peak, the highest in Livingstone Range

Zooming-in towards Center Peak, the highest in Livingstone Range

The foothills and prairie

The foothills and prairie

We didn’t stay long on the summit, but quickly retraced down. I don’t have much to say about the descent except that it was a bit hard on the knees after getting used to the soft descent on snow.

Andrea hiking back to the first summit

Andrea hiking back to the first summit

Still great views from the descent

Still great views from the descent

Walking back along the ridge

Walking back along the ridge

Almost back to the parking lot. Now we'd found the correct trail

Almost back to the parking lot. Now we’d found the correct trail

It doesn't look too bad but it was raging so crossing would be dangerous. We had no choice but to do a longer objective, namely Sugarloaf Lookout.

It doesn’t look too bad but it was raging so crossing would be dangerous. We had no choice but to do a longer objective, namely Sugarloaf Lookout.

Back to the car I did feel a bit demotivated considering we just had an excellent scramble, but despite the hot temperature, we still decided to give Sugarloaf a go. This area is a farther drive for me so I had to take advantage of the weather. Speaking Thunder Mountain, I’d recommend it as a half-day ascent to scramblers and it’s a great season-opener. There’s not much unpleasant terrain and the route is fairly straightforward.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s