Big Bend Peak

October 19, 2008

Mountain height:         2814 m
Elevation gain:            1100 m
Ascent time:                5:00
Descent time:              2:45

Scrambling with Mark.

Unofficially named Big Bend Peak is a small mountain with BIG views. The mountain sits above the “Big Bend” in the road on Highway 93 North, just south of the Columbia icefields Centre - hence the name. We had talked about attempting the peak in 2007, on our way to the more ambitious objective of Castlegard Mountain. Fortuitously, I stumbled onto a trip report on Bivouac by Graeme Pole and it appeared to be a straightforward and not terribly strenuous trip.

The views towards Mounts Athabasca and Andromeda to the northwest and Cirrus Mountain to the east, were great almost right from the beginning of the trip. The best views, however, would come once we reached the ridge. Getting there entailed ascending a weakness through the cliff-bands on the east side of the mountain (crampons and an ice axe useful here) and then up a snow slope (considerable avalanche risk here in the right {wrong!} conditions). The snow slope was quite foreshortened and exhausting to ascend, as the sunlight reflecting off the snow, caused some intense sweating on both our parts!

As mentioned, the best view on the day occurred upon reaching the first highpoint. With numerous 11,000 er’s surrounding Big Bend Peak, you would expect one or several of them to provide the most interest. However, the best view was that of Big Bend Peak itself: half in sunlight, half in shadow and sporting a fresh layer of snow, the shapely mountain was a sheer treat to look at – quite the contrast to the striking profile of Cathedral Crags and the gorgeous summit block of Cathedral Mountain, seen a week earlier, but just as satisfying.  

The push to the summit was easy and the views just got better and better. It wasn’t until we arrived at the summit that Columbia and Bryce would finally make an appearance, but the wait was more than worth it. Unfortunately, high clouds had developed to the west by then, making for hazy-looking views in that direction.

The descent was brutally easy and we even managed to resist taking an alternate descent route…well, almost! Mark had spotted another potential ascent route on the way and we decided to use this for descent. It worked remarkably well, saving us backtracking distance and time. A terrific little trip with fantastic scenery and views.    

Big Bend Peak from the parking area

Going up through the weakness

Checking our elevation

Some deep snow early on

Mark ascends the slope; three unnamed peaks to the left and the two peaks of Cirrus Mountain to the right