GR617954 (Highwood Range) October 30, 2004

Mountain height:      2,710 m (8,889 ft)
Elevation gain:         1,012 m
Ascent time:           
5:45
Descent time:         
3:00

Scrambling with Mark and Linda.

Inspired by some beautiful photos taken by Bob Spirko and Dinah the week before, our goal was to summit the unnamed peak at GR628936, southeast of Lineham Ridge, in Don Getty Wildland Provincial Park.   

We started shortly after 9 am, in lightly falling snow. After hiking alongside and across Lineham Creek for a stretch, the sky cleared a little and our objective finally came into view. Unfortunately, the start of the ascent route was much farther away than we had anticipated and it would have required a fair amount of bushwhacking, through dense forest and deep snow, just to make it to the base of the mountain. We, therefore, were forced to change our goal, settling for the very obvious peak to the northeast at GR618951. Ascending the left ridge to the slightly lower summit at GR617954 and then continuing on to GR618951 along the connecting ridge seemed like the best route and so we started up, following a set of human tracks, that we would later realize belonged to Bob and Dinah, who had ascended the very same peak, the day before.

Once on the ridge, the ascent was quite enjoyable. Much of the cloud cover dissipated, revealing fantastic views of our initial objective, as well as the string of shapely peaks along the Continental Divide to the west. Especially striking was the pyramidal form of Mount McPhail. For the most part, we stayed right at the edge of the ridge, however, occasionally we were forced down to the north side, to bypass a couple of steep downclimbs. The snow, once again, added immensely to the beautiful surrounding scenery.

Higher up, a potent west wind created some very atmospheric scenery, as blowing snow whipped up and over the ridge. Of course, along with that wind came plummeting temperatures and severe wind chill factors. Our luck with the good weather eventually ran out. All of a sudden, low-lying clouds closed in from every direction, and I arrived at the summit in a whiteout, with blisteringly cold winds and blowing snow. I’m sure the wind chill factor was well into the minus thirties and the balaclava and winter gloves came out immediately. By the time Mark arrived, we did get a little clearing to the east, with decent views of the craggy Dogtooth Mountains, Pyriform Mountain and the Prairies.

Linda joined us shortly after, we took the requisite pictures and then immediately turned around to start the descent. Traversing to the higher peak at GR618951 was out of the question: the weather was absolutely vicious and even with thick winter gloves, my hands were closing in on the “ice-block” stage; in addition, the ascent had taken longer than we expected and getting caught in the dark in the present wintery conditions was a most unappealing proposition.

The first 20 or so minutes of the descent were even worse than the conditions at the summit. Now, we were going directly into the wind and a fierce blizzard. We bumped into a couple of other brave souls (Dale and his companion), heading to the summit, said “Hello”, and continued down. The pair did make the summit and caught up with us later on in the day. The blizzard was, thankfully, short-lived and the sky once again cleared for much of the remainder of the descent. Overall, a very enjoyable and interesting day out in a beautiful area.

Starting up the ridge; the summit at GR618951can be seen towards the right and the lower summit at GR617954 is to its left

 

 

Mark and Linda taking a break; our initial goal of GR628936 is the peak at the right

 

A closer look at GR628936

 

Mark, ascending rocky terrain on the ridge; again, GR628936 is at the right

 

In the next four pictures, the three of us were a little spread out, when a very strong wind started blowing snow all around us. This one was from Mark's vantage point, atop a small pinnacle

 

From my vantage point, up the slope a little

 

From Linda's Vantage point, in a small depression between Mark and me (photo by Linda)

 

Again, from where Linda was standing, looking up at me (photo by Linda)

 

     

Mark and I ascending the ridge (photo by Linda)

 

Linda, coming up the ridge

 

Linda, ascending the final few steps before the summit

 

At the summit, with GR618951 to the left

 

Mark at the summit, looking to the north

 

The sky cleared again for the descent

 

Mark, taking a rest on descent; Lineham Ridge is at the left (photo by Linda)

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