Distance: 19 km
Elevation gain: 1285 m View map Download GPS track
As I organized our trip to Crowsnest Pass I realized that many of the scrambles in the area required long approaches along ATV trails. Mount Coulthard is one of those mountains, requiring a 7.5 km trudge along a dusty ATV trail to get to the base of the mountain. Nevertheless it seemed like a nice scramble for us, and an old plane crash at its base would add a bit of variety to the trek. We used the directions in Andrew Nugara's scrambling guide
to find the trailhead, but a barricade within Coleman completely negated the driving directions for that section and logging near the trailhead now means biking the first 25 minutes as he suggests is likely no longer a time-saver.
We started early to avoid the worst of the heat, but were still baking in the sun for most of the approach. Dark clouds solved this problem just minutes before we reached the plane crash site and we were able to ascend several hundred meters in their shade, albeit while worrying about thunderstorms and (after our encounter yesterday
) what else might await us near the summit. Thankfully the weather cleared about 40 minutes before we reached the bear-free summit and stayed that way until we were back down in the cirque. Sometimes the weather actually does work out!
The entire ascent was nothing more than a steep slog, and most of it was on pleasant green moss. The upper mountain was scree, but by choosing our path carefully and following sheep trails whenever possible we didn't find it difficult at all. Mount Coulthard actually has three summits, but we only ascended the eastern one; it's the highest and official one anyway, the northern one was much lower and the western summit seemed a bit too scrambly for our liking. While the traverse to the eastern summit appeared to be a bit tedious and potentially exposed from a distance, a sheep trail traversed most of its length and Sandra - a veritable canary in the coal mine for exposure - only found one short section mildly unnerving. It really was nothing more than a hike.
After a lengthy summit stay we started back down, utilizing good and loose scree for a few hundred meters before moving back to the green moss we'd ascended on. We'd left our ice axes in the truck, but had we had them with us we could've rocketed down a long snow chute instead. From the base of the mountain a 7.5 km long hot trudge then brought us back to the truck.