Distance: 12 km*
Elevation gain: 1275 m* Route map
*Includes attempted ascent of Ostracized Peak
With awful weather coming in for the long weekend I managed to convince Alison that today was a great day to take off, and encouraged by a rare forecast of sunshine and light winds in the Crowsnest Pass area, we quickly settled on a trip up Sentry Mountain. The published route up this mountain ascends its west ridge, but as this involves a river crossing and difficult scrambling, we chose to ascend its pleasant east slope.
From Highway 3 we turned onto the Crowsnest Pass visitor center road, then took an immediate right onto a dirt road and continued for a few hundred meters before parking on the shoulder at the beginning of a logging road. We hiked along this road for about 1.2 km, then turned right onto a cutline and followed it until we reached a road running alongside a long, narrow cutblock (I think this might be a firebreak). We turned to the right here and followed this road to its end, hopped a barbed wire fence, and continued along an obvious trail on the west side of the cutblock. This trail eventually led us to the crest of a lightly forested ridge. (On our return we discovered that a more heavily used trail runs the length of this ridge and connects up with the road where we’d hopped the fence. Either way works just fine).
From the ridge we ascended to the Sentry – Ostracized col along a broad rib of lightly vegetated dirt. This worked beautifully as there was stable footing throughout and very little scree; it’s rare to have such pleasant terrain on a mountain over such a long distance! Some cliffs just below the col we’d been mildly concerned about on the drive in were a non-issue, and while we chose an easy scramble route through them, a hiking trail bypassed them to the left (we took this on the way down).
We took our second lunch break just below the col, then made our way to the summit of Sentry Mountain in a light, but surprisingly cold, breeze. Most of this traverse was simple hiking, but nearer the top it became more of an easy scramble than a hike. The view was fantastic and we were able enjoy it and our third lunch break (a surprisingly short time after our second lunch) by sheltering in the sun behind a little snow drift.
Since we’d first reached the col we’d been debating tacking on an ascent of Ostracized Peak, the name given to the peak south of Sentry. The entire ascent looked terrible to me and Alison was concerned about a snow patch near the top, but I was convinced we should give it a go since we were only 200 m below its summit.
The first 100 m of the ascent went by without difficulty, but this ended when we encountered the first patch of snow. After a little debate we detoured below it and continued, picking our way up variable and unpleasant terrain until we reached a point where it appeared moderate scrambling was required to continue. We took a break here, then found a detour that brought us to the snow slope Alison had been worried about from the start.
It was clear from this vantage that in order to continue we’d need to traverse a foot-wide wet ledge bordered on one side by a narrow drift of snow and ice and on the other by a cliff that guaranteed death should we slip. This appealed to neither of us, and so we retraced our awkward route back to the col and down our ascent route, pausing along the way for another long break.
While it was a little frustrating to miss the summit of Ostracized Peak by about 50 m, the wonderful ascent of Sentry Mountain and splendid weather and company made this a great way to spend a Wednesday!