May 11, 2013
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.