August 2 and 10, 2011
Where the heck are Mount Miles and Krowicki Peak?? That is the first question! The answer: two unofficial peaks southwest of also unofficial Middle Kootenay Mountain in the Castle Crown area of the southern Canadian Rockies.
How the heck did they get these unusual names?? That is the second question! The answer: when you are one of the coolest guys on the planet, eventually someone is going to name something after and/or in honour of you.
Then who the heck is Miles Krowicki?? That is the third (and hopefully final) question! The answer: who ISN’T Miles Krowicki!!
Perhaps a less cryptic answer is required. Miles Krowicki is my friend and the drummer of the rockband Talking Dog. He is also (and more importantly) a husband and father of the highest quality. And because he is a good man, in the best possible sense of the word, he gets a couple of mountains named after him.
Mark and I had spotted these two peaks from the summit of Middle Kootenay Mountain on a glorious January day in 2009. At the time, I thought if I ever ascend those peaks I will call them “Bo Peak” and “Diddley Peak”, after the legendary blues musician Bo Diddley (okay…. maybe the “Bo Peak” was a little play on words, alluding to the famous nursery rhyme).
I don’t know Bo Diddley personally, nor will I ever since he passed on in 2008, but I do personally know another legendary musician (at least, legendary within the confines of my basement) and his name is Miles Krowicki. I have known Miles for 32 years, since my family and I swam across the pond in 1979 (strong swimmers in my family). Miles and I went to the same junior and senior high schools and then both ended up in the now defunct rockband Shark Sandwich (watch the movie Spinal Tap), which subsequently has turned into Talking Dog, also featuring David Sparks and Jeff Kushner. I’ve come to respect and admire Miles in ways I cannot effectively put into words so I will refrain from trying and offer this tribute in place of.
As easy-going a guy as Miles is, his namesake mountains did not yield with ease. I decided to try the most obvious route, from the southeast sides of the peaks. An hour and a half of biking and hiking preceded a depressing 300 vertical metre elevation loss down Middle Pass Creek, after gaining 500 m en route to Middle Kootenay Pass.
Although the topo map indicated Krowicki Peak (the furthest away and more striking of the peaks) to be higher than Mount Miles, I suspected from previous trips that Miles was slightly higher and so I opted to attempt Miles first. The route up Miles was straightforward but foreshortened and very grueling. Thankfully, the beauty of the lush, green lower slopes and ruggedly colourful upper slopes, as well as improving views of the surrounding mountains provided plenty of motivation to keep me heading upward.
The reward for 1300 m of elevation gain to reach the summit was a magnificent panorama of the Castle, Waterton, and Flathead regions. Views of Rainy Ridge, Three Lakes Ridge, Jake Smith Peak, Scarpe Mountain, Boot Hill and Tombstone Mountain brought back terrific memories of the summer of 2010. Unfortunately, in my absentmindedness I left the register I made for Miles in the car and so for now the summit would remain register-less and cairn-less. The summit view rejuvenated me in a big way and so I set my sights on the shapely form of Krowicki to the southwest.
This ascent of Krowicki was definitely more interesting. After an easy trek down to the Miles/Krowicki col, the highlight of which was a small, but very cool wall of snow, I had to choose between circling the peak around the left or the right side to find a way to the top. The left appeared to offer a straightforward ascent and so I went to the right – that’s what Miles would have done!
A short distance around the right side I spotted a potential scramble route to the summit. Things started well but higher up the terrain became dangerously steep and committing. I wisely backed down and then continued the side-sloping traverse around the right side. As soon as I was able, I took a sharp turn and started up the southwest side of the peak towards the summit.
This part of the route was a more than pleasant surprise. I expected to encounter a wide swath of hideous rubble and scree, but instead was treated to a beautiful ridge, narrow in places, but not desperately exposed. Along the way, one difficult and exposed scrambling move was required to ascend the ridge and then an enjoyable jaunt to the top completed the circuit. I was very happy to name the peak with Miles’ surname: Krowicki Peak. (I conveniently neglected to check what Miles’ middle name was – he’s of Polish descent and as much as I like the ring of Mount Wojciech, I think most people would probably say, “Mount What The @*%# !”)
After chugging down a deliciously refreshing Tangerine Fanta in honour of the man, Miles Krowicki, and his newly named mountains, I started down the easy east side of the mountain. A drainage below Krowicki made easy work of the decent (more or less) and then came the dreaded trudge back up to Middle Kootenay Pass. It was actually easily than expected, though in the midday heat, I was sweating Miles – that didn’t work!! The descent from the pass was expectedly easy.
Although I felt great about completing these two peaks as a tribute to Miles, I was extremely disillusioned that I didn’t place the register at the top and vowed to return as soon as possible.
I couldn't resist taking this photo of the Waterton and Castle areas on the drive in
The first summit of Middle Kootenay Mountain; unusual to see snow at this time of the year
There they are! Mount Miles is in the centre and Krowicki Peak lies to the left of Miles
The southeast side of Miles
A closeup of the same side
The point where I started the ascent; 20 minutes of excruiating bush-bashing could have been avoided if continued along the trail for 2 extra minutes!
The middle and upper slopes of Miles
A tree stump with Krowicki The same tree stump with Miles
Getting higher; Miles is a slog from here, but Krowicki looks exciting
White-tailed deer on a snow patch on the slopes below Krowicki
Same as above
A lone, not-so-healthy-looking tree
The view to the east starts to improve; Rainy Ridge and Three Lakes Ridge are prominent
Tombstone Mountain (left) and Boot Hill as seen from the summit of Miles
Heading down to the Miles/Krowicki col; Krowicki Peak is dead ahead
Approaching the base of Krowicki
Looking back to Mount Miles
An outlier southwest of Krowicki
A different perspective of Miles (left) and Krowicki
Same as above, with a whole bunch of other stuff thrown in
Typical rock on the southwest ridge of Krowicki
Jake Smith Peak (left) and Scarpe Mountain
The summit view from Krowicki, with Miles at the right
The colourful hues of Three lakes Ridge
Returning to Middle Kootenay Pass; the three colourful humps all belong to Rainy Ridge
The namesake of Mount Miles and Krowicki Peak; note the talking dog Miles designed on his kick drum
The "soon as possible" came 8 days after the initial ascent. On August 10, I started up towards Middle Kootenay Pass armed with the summit register and 20 solid Miles of determination – that didn’t work either!!!
Upon reaching the Pass, with the sting of losing 300 vertical metres of elevation upon me, I decided an attempt at an alternate ascent route was in order. From the Pass I would side-slope the south side of Middle Kootenay Mountain to the Middle Kootenay/Miles col. At that point I would go over the first highpoint and follow the ridge to the summit. If going over the highpoint wasn’t possible I would side-slope around it.
The side-sloping towards the col was easier than I thought it would be. The slog to the col was also easy but somewhat foreshortened. Then the fun began.
It quickly became clear that going over the first highpoint was way beyond scrambling so I would have to go around it. This involved a seemingly easy traverse on scree slopes below the highpoint to highpoint/Miles col. Easy my butt!!! It turned out to be 45 minutes of heart-thumping, teeth-grinding, nerve-wrenching , testicle-shrinking,$%#*!%^-clenching travel across some of the most precarious terrain imaginable. The several hundred metres of distance took 45 minutes because I had carefully place each step to make sure I had stable footing and didn’t start any scree avalanches underfoot. A slip at any point may have sent me plummeting over the cliffs below, the slope been deceivingly steep.
Thankfully, I safely arrived at the col, where I took some time to allow my testicles to descend back to their correct home. I then immediately put the aforementioned route onto my list of “Routes recommended for serial killers, terrorists, and people who think Star Trek is for geeks.”
The trek to the summit of Miles from there on was mercifully easy. I constructed a fairly lame cairn, made a couple of really lame movies, took a few self-timed, intensely lame photos, and placed the register - the first register, I might add, I’ve ever left at a summit. Another Tangerine Fanta was consumed and a lengthy summit rest to take in the excellent view followed.
I decided to forgo another ascent of Krowicki and settled for the fastest route down to the Middlepass Creek Trail. This route simply went straight down the southeast face of Miles. As luck would have it, after trying three different routes up and down this mountain, the fourth would turn out to be best, thanks to an extraordinary water-worn gully near the bottom of the slope. Scrambling down the gully was fun and a wonderful visual treat, with beautiful layers of colourful rock. Scrambling up it would be a downright blast!
Another unique surprise appeared further on in the form of a snow cave spanning the drainage. Though perhaps a questionable decision to go into the cave (I suppose if I had the worse luck in the entire universe, it could have collapsed on my head), my life has been one questionable decision after another and look how well it’s turned out!!
I found the hike back up to the Pass to be remarkably easy, as I was still riding the high from placing the register and the terrific gully on descent. A tiring, but satisfying downhill stroll ended a truly memorable day out on a truly memorable mountain.
It’s official (but really unofficial!): Mount Miles and Krowicki Peak are now part of this beautiful planet. Here’s to you Miles!
P.S. Coming soon: "Sparks Hill" and "Jeff - A Resident Of Ramsey - Mountain"
Approaching Middle Kootenay Pass yet again!!
The red line represents the "Death Traverse" from a distance
Getting closer to the col and another view of the Death Traverse
The southwest side of Middle Kootenay Mountain
The one-of-a-kind form of Tombstone Mountain
....and some more stuff
At the col, looking towards the first highpoint
Near the base of the highpoint
The Death Traverse; looks innocuous, but trust me it's nasty with capitals N-A-S-T-Y
Looking back to Tombstone, Boot Hill, and Middle Kootenay
The easy stroll to the top of Miles
The highpoint and Middle Kootenay; in retrospect I should have walked to the top of the highpoint
and named it Mount Wojcieh just to see people's reaction
Another similar view to the northeast
CLICK HERE TO SEE THE SUMMIT MOVIE
Mount Miles gets the thumb up
Pointing out Krowicki Peak
CLICK HERE TO SEE THE FANTA MOVIE
The intricately designed plague at the summit; note the cool, matching hiking poles
The first page of the summit register
The water bottle where the register will reside; bottle courtesy of Kevin Barton - thanks Big Guy!
CLICK HERE TO SEE THE SUMMIT REGISTER MOVIE
A master yogi practitioner at the summit;
Hiding my face in shame because I was too lazy to make another trip to Krowicki
On descent, a good look at the two peaks
The severely cool descent drainage
The snow bridge over the drainage; it's difficult to see the scale here, but you can easily walk upright into the cave
From the inside looking out
The end of the cave; the cave entrance was about 2 metres high
The cave and Mount Miles
A last look at Miles and Krowicki
...but another look at Miles Krowicki; i-ree, i-ree mon!
Sparks Hill A Resident of Ramsey Mountain Mount Needs A Better Haircut
Miles given' er' as he always does; there's no half-ass with Miles, he goes all the way, all the time
You're the BEST buddy!