Hailstone Butte and Sentinel Peak Ė February 12, 2005

Hailstone Butte height:                2,372 m (7,786 ft)
Elevation Gain:                        347 m
Sentinel Peak height:                  2,378 m (7,800 ft)
    Elevation loss and gain:          377 m loss, 382 m gain
Total elevation gain:                    1,106 m
Ascent time to Hailstone Butte:   1:15
Traverse time to Sentinel Peak:  1:45
Descent time via ascent route:    2:45
Roundtrip distance:                     approx. 14 km 

Solo scramble/hike.

My two hundred and twenty-second trip to the mountains in about three and a half years and the first one where I would have liked to hit the rewind button and stayed at home. The hiking and easy scrambling was fine, the weather was decent, the scenery was pleasant, the two summit views were respectable, hitting a deer on the way there sucked, to put it mildly. It was a terrible experience for me and obviously an even worse one for the poor animal, although he/she did survive the collision.

The accident occurred just after 7 am, on Highway 22 just north of Longview. I was only going about 60 km/h, when the deer came out of nowhere and hit the front fender of the driverís side. Unfortunately, I had absolutely no time to avoid it. I stopped and checked up and down the highway to see if it was injured but couldnít find the animal. Interestingly, I seemed to be the only driver on that stretch of road who wasnít speeding. Not a minute before the collision, two cars went whizzing by me at speeds well in excess of the 100 km/h speed limit. Ironically, had I also been speeding, I probably would not have hit the deer. I was shocked to learn later in the day, from a very helpful RCMP officer, that in the area they sometimes record 6 or 7 deer/automobile collisions per week.

It was hard to decide to continue with the hike after the accident, but there wasnít anything I could about it, so I just went anyway. My goal was Sentinel Peak with the possibility of bagging Hailstone Butte on the way. After studying the map, however, the shortest and most straightforward route seemed to be starting at ďThe HumpĒ (unmarked, but obvious), summitting Hailstone Butte, and then continuing on to Sentinel Peak if time, energy, and motivation permitted.

Getting to the summit of Hailstone Butte was, by far, the shortest and easiest ascent Iíve ever done, although sections of snow and ice did slow my progress. At a starting elevation of 2,026 m, the summit stood only 1.8 km and 347 vertical metres away. Initially, I tried to go directly to the summit, but the steep, icy terrain would have required crampons, and although I had them, so was simply too lazy to bother. Instead, I followed the suggested map route, which traverses slopes below the summit block and then gains the ridge just north of the summit. The ridge was corniced and I was glad to have an ice axe to assist me passed this section. The modern-looking and well-maintained lookout at the top, was in direct contrast to Mount Burkeís abandoned and run-down summit building, seen two weeks. My only disappointment with the summit panorama was that flat Plateau Mountain blocked much of the views of the far more interesting and shapely peaks of the Continental Divide. Still, several were visible and the snow-covered peaks were quite beautiful in the brilliant sun.

The route from Hailstone Butte to Sentinel Peak was again uncomplicated and very straightforward. An unfortunate elevation loss of 377 m was followed by a kilometer or so of flat hiking and then an easy and gentle slope to Sentinelís summit. Although the sky to the west was clear, a line of clouds parked itself along the front-range/prairie border and never moved, even though it was quite windy. This detracted somewhat from the summit view, which was decent, but nothing to get too excited about.

For the descent, I opted to return the same way I came, which, of course, necessitated another 377m of elevation gain to get back to Hailstone Butte. The strong south-west wind didnít make it easier. Returning to the summit for a second time, I saw that I could have avoided most of the elevation gain and stayed out of the wind by traversing around the northeast side of the mountain. Overall, a day I wish I could take back.    

The summit of Hailstone Butte; I tried to ascend snow and ice slopes to the left, but chickened out and went around the right side of the rockband


Interesting clouds over the south summit of Hailstone Butte 


Snow plied high against The Lookout at the summit


Looking north at Sentinel Peak (centre) and Mount Burke (left)


Peaks of the Continental Divide 


From the slopes of Sentinel Peak, looking towards Hailstone Butte (right of centre)


The false summit (centre) and true summit (to the right) of Sentinel Peak 

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