.... and Apikuni Mountain
July 25, 2010
Altyn: 2422 m
Apikuni: 2764 m
Total elevation gain: approx. 1700 m
Ascent time to Altyn: 3:45
Traverse time to Apikuni: 2:15
Descent time: 2:15
I can’t think of an appropriate adjective to describe this trip other than the word “miraculous” – though definitely in a figurative sense, not a literal one. The variety and vibrancy of colours throughout was absolutely unreal; to the point where, on two separate occasions, I actually said out loud, “No way! This can’t be real?” Having marginally come to terms with the disturbing realization that I am now talking to myself in the mountains, I did take all the requisite time and energy to soak in some of the best mountain scenery I’ve ever experienced.
initial plan for the day
was abandoned when my scrambling partner took ill that morning. With a
pressure system in place, and a plane ticket to
may seem like an
illogical choice to many. It requires 8 hours of total driving time for
of scrambling, it’s a relatively low peak, surrounded by many
higher ones, I
had already reached the summit of its neighbor,
also learned that on clear
weather days you can never go wrong visiting the shores of a mountain
Although Gordon Edwards’s route descriptions for Altyn take
direct lines up the
lake-less south face, I found an excellent trip report by saintgrizzly
on SummitPost that takes a more circuitous route via
the stage was set and
after the longish drive, I started up the short Apikuni Falls Trail, at
relatively late 10:45 am. The waterfall was stunning, to say the least,
a measly price of 1.6 km. Above the fall, travel along a streambed of
argillite was pleasant and easy. It also became quite apparent that the
I forgot to bring the specific route description outlined by saintgrizzly, but route-finding was generally straightforward and animal trails helped throughout. I soon arrived at a point just above the lake, where I took a break to decide on a course of action. There were so many options with Altyn, Apikuni, and Henkel all within striking distance. The number of permutations of potential routes from this location is quite staggering.
After much self debate (thankfully all in my head), I decided to stick to the original plan and go for Altyn. If time was on my side I would return to the lake, ascend Apikuni, and then take the descent alternate route described in Edward’s guidebook.
then descended to what I
smaller body of water turned
out to be much larger and was in fact
Continuing the trip, I circled around the west side of the lake and ascended lush, green slopes above. Once again I was stopped dead in my tracks when red, Indian Paintbrush littering the slopes was cause for another barrage of photos. At this point, I had spent so much time photographing and enjoying the phenomenal scenery, the Apikuni ascent was all but written off. It would be more worthwhile to take my time ascending Altyn and then using the easy descent route down the south face. And so I did just that, taking in one profoundly colourful scene after another.
Though still is fair distance from the summit, I suddenly saw three figures approaching the top of Altyn. After 11 ascents in GNP, I would finally be sharing a mountain with another party; given the staggering beauty of the park in general, a decidedly bizarre fact indeed.
A detour to the right to avoid four mountain goats, basking in the Sun, and only a plod up the red slopes remained. I chatted briefly with the other party, who were on their way down. They shared some tips with me for the descent route via the southwest face; it sounded fast and very easy – just what I was looking for. Shortly after, I reached the summit of the red peak.
300 vertical metres inferior to Henkel, I couldn’t imagine this summit panorama would be at all noteworthy – it was fantastic! Henkel did nothing to impair the terrific view if Wilbur’s “harder than it looks” east face. As well, Gould, Allen, and Grinnell were all magnificent. Several beautiful lakes completed the wonderful view. My summit stay was long and gratifying, thanks not only to the stunning surroundings, but also to a new mountain ritual of mine – a summer, summit soda pop. Tangerine Fanta was the drink of choice and more refreshing it could not have been!
About to embark on the easy descent, I couldn’t help notice it was only 2:30 pm. The sky was still clear, I seemed to have energy in abundance (thanks to the pop), and I was sure I could descend back to the valley, tromp my way up Apikuni in 2-3 hours, still leaving time for the descent and a coffee-powered drive back to Calgary. Apikuni was on again! Only the magnitude of the elevation loss was worrisome. I was hoping it would be less than 300 metres – my hopes were not realized.
I took a slightly different route down than I came up, affording me more scenic photo opportunities and gasps of amazement. At the lowpoint I checked my GPS to discover I had lost 400 metres of elevation. A gain of 750 metres was needed to get me to the summit of Apikuni – not the best news, but it could have been way more.
The easy, but long ascent slope to the ridge between Henkel and Apikuni seemed to go on forever. I was very relieved to gain the crest and take in some much need air, as well as good views of Crowfeet, Merritt, and Seward. The second plod of the day to the summit was also foreshortened and had one disillusioning false summit along the way. Still, I was happy to arrive at the highest point of the “Henkel, Crowfeet, Apikuni, Altyn Quartet”, 2.25 hours after leaving Altyn’s summit.
the ascent was
generally a little anti-climatic to what had preceded it, the summit
descent certainly were not. To complete the visual assault of colours
throughout this trip, enter
The golden colours of the summit quickly gave way to the bright, red argillite rock bands, similar to those on Henkel. Rarely does one see the combination of yellow, red, and blue (the sky) in the mountains – it was seriously cool and yet again had me mumbling exclamations of bewilderment out-loud (so much for my mental well-being!)
quickest descent route
would have entailed following the ridge for a short distance and then
down scree slopes to the valley above
I stayed on or near the ridge for as long as possible. A little backtracking was required when the north side of the mountain suddenly disappeared in precipitous cliffs. Other than that, the alternate descent route was easy and wonderfully scenic and I arrived back at the car just before 8 pm, as satiated as any man can ever be!
Quite easily one of my most enjoyable and astonishing days ever in the mountains. My sincerest thanks to saintgrizzly for posting the terrific trip report that was the impetus for such a wonderful day.
Altyn (left) and the southeast side of Apikuni (right); the summit of Apikuni can be seen between
Same as above
The red streambed
Above the lakes (lower left)
The first lake
Bambi makes a cameo appearance
Thanks to his previous silver screen experience he wasn't camera shy
Bambi goes for a dip
The waterfall emanating from Natahki Lake
Looking back at the first lake
A closer look at the waterfall
Another look at the first lake
Natahki Lake and part of Mount Henkel
The red argillite shores of Natahki Lake, with Apikuni Mountain behind; one of the most beautiful lakes you will ever see
Same as above
Same as above
More colourful flowers
Same as above
Same as above
The slopes above the lake
A small tarn and the connecting ridge from Altyn to Henkel
The summit of Altyn
Looking back to Henkel; the tarn and Natahki Lake are also visible
Wilbur and Iceberg show up
The summit cairn of Altyn; Yellow Mountain is barely visible beyond Apikuni
The gorgeous lake-filled view to the south
Visible summits from left to right: Siyeh, Allen, Piegan, Pollock, Bishop's Cap, and Gould;
Swifcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine complete the scene
The short and easy way down Altyn; Mount Wynn at the far left
Someone else besides me likes red argillite
Looking back at Altyn
The tarn again
Altyn and Natahki Lake from a different angle
Approaching the Apikuni ridge
Mount Seward (left) and the double peaks of Gable in the centre
The Three Amigos make a cameo appearance also
Dusty Bottoms, Luck Day, and Ned Nederlander (a must see movie!)
Chief Mountain peaks over the ridge (left) and Yellow Mountain stretches out to the right
From the summit of Apikuni, looking east
Yellow Mountain (obviously!)
A whole bunch of descent scenes featuring the red of Apikuni and the yellow of Yellow
The southeast side of Apikuni
The moon on the drive home