Zenfolio | Matthew Clay | Lyall and Beehive Mountains, June 12, 2018
Visitors 37
108 photos

Distance: 24 km
Elevation gain: 2150 m
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A few days ago I sent Alison a list of peaks that I thought might be suitable for her 300th unique summit, singling out two as particularly interesting due to their scarcity of ascents. While I expected her to choose one peak and thought it might be one of those hidden gems, she decided a two-peak day would be great and picked both. Despite my trepidation with a trip that would be at least 12 hours long with nearly 25 km and over 2000 m of elevation gain, I agreed to give it a shot.

Those two peaks were Mount Lyall and Beehive Mountain in the High Rock Range. We knew of only two ascents of Mount Lyall, and while there have been a few ascents of Beehive Mountain in the past few years, it still only sees a couple ascents per year. Coupled with some photographic beta I’d gathered last year from Cyclamen Ridge, we had enough information to formulate a plan to tag both summits in one day.

We parked in a clearing off the Oldman River Road a short distance north of Lyall Creek. The road was in excellent condition to Oldman Falls, then very good condition thereafter with two problematic spots: A few hundred meters past Oldman Falls there was a short, but very rutted spot on the road, and Pasque Creek is currently unbridged. My truck had no issue with either, but smaller SUV’s might have trouble.

After crossing the Oldman River (less than knee deep) we bushwhacked through light brush to the northeast ridge of Mount Lyall, then ascended straight up the east slope. This was nothing more than an easy scramble on relatively stable rubble, although it was the type of rubble that is absolutely terrible on descent. We reached the summit after just 3 hours and 45 minutes of travel and were happy to see that we were just the sixth party to sign the register since it was placed in 2005, and the first since 2015. We spent an hour on top celebrating Alison’s 300th peak in a cold and gusty wind, then descended back to the northeast ridge.

Our original plan had been to descend quite a bit further and use the Great Divide Trail to access the meadows below Beehive Mountain. A direct line along the cliffs separating Lyall and Beehive looked very attractive, however, and so we aimed straight for Beehive Mountain and descended to Lyall Creek. At the bottom of this descent we endured a short section of dark and snowy forest, then emerged into beautiful meadows and larch forest lining the upper reaches of Lyall Creek, which we happily ascended alongside until it deposited us in the vast meadows north of Beehive Mountain.

The wind in the meadows was strong and incredibly gusty. At times we couldn’t even stand, and during a break the wind actually rolled my pack along level ground. I didn’t have my anemometer with me, but it was easily gusting 100+ km/h. We considered aborting our trip, but decided to continue ascending the safe and easy grassy meadows and make a decision when we reached the steep scree ascent slope of Beehive Mountain.

When we reached the base of the scree slope the wind was deceptively light and we made the decision to continue our push for our second summit of the day. An easy, albeit frustratingly loose, ascent on scree soon brought us to the base of a crumbled cliff band, which with a bit of scrambling we were able to surmount. Above the cliff band the scree and rubble became much worse, often covering slabs and never stable. At times the entire area on which I was standing would just let loose and I’d end up sliding down with a bunch of rubble until I could hop off the slide onto a mildly more stable patch. To make matters worse the wind was howling again, preventing communication and throwing clouds of dust into our faces. We both had meltdowns in our own way as we made our way very slowly up this disaster of a mountain. While it’s been called an easy scramble, it’s definitely on the difficult end of easy or lower end of moderate, and regardless of what you call it, it’s terrible and unpleasant. If you do make an attempt on this mountain, angle west (right) above the cliff bands to try to intersect the summit ridge as soon (low) as possible. It’s very stable and pleasant to ascend.

We reached the summit shortly after 6 pm, and with little time to spare and a cold and strong wind testing our dwindling sanity, our stay didn’t last long. Owing to the instability of the scree the descent was physically much easier, but somewhat terrifying as we ended up being part of many moderate scree avalanches. For most of the upper mountain I didn’t even need to move my feet. I’d just hop aboard the slide and ride it down while hoping it didn’t hit underlying slab.

Once back in the meadows we used a GPS track to find the trail that runs along Soda Creek back to the Oldman River. The trail was a bit vague near the meadows (hence the use of GPS), but once below the meadows it was very obvious and in excellent shape. We could’ve bushwhacked directly back to the truck instead, but given the late hour and how tired we were I wanted to keep things as simple as possible.

We arrived at the Oldman River around 9 pm, debooted and crossed (less than knee deep), then plodded the roughly 4.5 km back to the truck, arriving around sunset. We’d been on the move for 12.5 hours. It was an excellent adventure and awesome to ascend two peaks in one day in such a rarely visited area!

Categories & Keywords
Category:Lifestyle and Recreation
Subcategory Detail:Hiking
Keywords:Beehive Mountain, Beehive Natural Area, High Rock Range, Kananaskis, Mount Lyall, hiking, scrambling