Distance: 18 km
Elevation gain: 1000 m Route map
It’s rare that I’m able to find the time for two trips in one weekend, but when Matt Hobbs
contacted me to see if I’d be interested in a scramble up Ghost Peak on Sunday (with a trip already planned for Saturday
), I found it too hard to resist and readily agreed to accompany him. Not only would it be a perfectly-themed peak for Halloween on Tuesday, it was also in an area I’d flagged for further exploration after seeing it from Burnt Timber Lookout
just a few weeks ago.
We met in Calgary at 6:00 am, and after driving north on Highway 40 for about 50 km we turned left onto the signed Hunter Valley Road, then turned left onto a logging road about 3 km later. We followed this road (muddy, but in good condition) until we reached a rutted pullout just before a blue bridge with tires lining it. Ghost Peak was visible to the west from here, but almost immediately after we parked a snow squall blew in, enveloping first the mountain and then us. It ended fairly quickly, but squalls would continue to blow through for the rest of the day.
We started hiking southeast through marshy meadows and section of old road, heading directly for Ghost Peak. After about 2 km of travel through open meadow, during which the rising sun and moody weather had us stopping frequently for photos, we reached the forest and continued along the old road, very slowly gaining elevation. It was certainly a long and boring approach, but we chatted the whole time and that helped it go by much quicker.
When we reached treeline below the south ridge of Ghost Peak we stopped for a quick lunch and geared up for the wind and cold that awaited us. The road was more of a track at this point and we followed it when it went where we wanted it to, but off-trail travel was very easy at this point. When we reached the south ridge we were a bit disappointed to find that what we’d hoped would be a long scree slope to the summit ridge was in fact a sheer cliff that extended as far as we could see. This meant that we’d need to ascend the broken cliff bands along the ridgecrest if we were to continue, something I’d pre-warned Matt I might not be up for before agreeing to come along.
Matt took the lead here and led us up some easy rubble to a short and narrow gully. When dry this would probably have been easy scrambling, but the snow and ice complicated matters and a few steps were at the limit of my comfort zone. At the top of the gully we went to the right, picking our way up a few more annoying, but easy and short, rubble slopes before we reached another narrow gully. Matt went ahead to scope things out at this point, but returned awhile later to inform me that while he might be able to continue, I wouldn’t. He was ready to abort the day, but I urged him to continue while I waited below at the top of the first gully.
When I reached my waiting point above the first gully I was still a bit cold, however, and so with a couple of hours to kill I decided to explore a bit, hoping I’d luck into finding an easier route up. As we’d gone to the right at the top of the gully I decided to head left, following a very wide (10 m) ledge of scree and rubble. After perhaps 5 minutes of easy travel I rounded a corner and was faced with a huge scree slope heading up! I quickly ascended this and shortly found myself about 3 m above Matt. His route had dead-ended due to ice and snow and he was about to head down, but I let him know my route and 20 minutes later he joined me. Years of avoiding moderate scrambles have apparently given me quite a nose for finding easy scree slopes!
The remainder of the ascent was straightforward and nothing more than an easy scramble, even with the ice and snow, and we soon found ourselves on the broad summit plateau. Despite a freezing wind we stayed on the summit for nearly an hour, taking far too many photos as snow squalls and fleeting rays of sun rapidly changed the views.
When we could no longer take the cold we retraced our steps back down, having only minor trouble at the lower gully due to ice and snow. The hike back out through the forest and meadows was uneventful, albeit very long and monotonous, and we were soon on our way back to Calgary. It was a great day out, and the trouble we had breaching the cliffs and wild weather certainly made it an adventurous one too!