Mount Smuts (2,938-m) via South Ridge (Class-5 Scramble)

Looking N at Mount Smuts towering over Lower Birdwood Lake from Little Birdwood Peak (2,500-m).

Looking N at Mount Smuts towering over Lower Birdwood Lake from Little Birdwood Peak (2,500-m).

Mount Smuts is a 2,938-meter (9,639-foot) peak located in the Spray Range of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. It is a dramatic shark-tooth peak composed of near-vertical strata of the Palliser limestone formation. Situated directly on the Continental Divide (also the border of Alberta and British Columbia), Mount Smuts serves as a triple boundary point shared by Banff National Park, Kananaskis Country, and Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. The summit affords excellent views of the three major peaks in the region: Mount Sir Douglas, Mount Joffre and Mount Assiniboine.

The south ridge of Mount Smuts earns a YDS grade of 5.4 and is a highly coveted prize for any experienced mountaineer in the Kananaskis area. It is spoken of as being perhaps the most difficult route in Alan Kane’s Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies guidebook; in reality it pushes the upper limit of what can be considered ‘scrambling’. The majority of parties elect to use a rope for safety on the exposed upper pitches, but the high quality of rock makes it ideal for the confident climber to ascend in free solo fashion.

SUMMARY: I climbed Mount Smuts with Darren and Aaron in early August of the year 2015. We drove almost two hours from Calgary to the Commonwealth Creek trailhead along the scenic Spray Lakes corridor. A hike of some 7.2 kilometers brought us up and over Smuts Pass and into the idyllic Birdwood Basin. Setting camp on the north shore of Lower Birdwood Lake, we launched our afternoon ascent of Mount Smuts via the infamous class-5 (YDS 5.4) south ridge. From the summit we descended the class-3 north ridge, returning to our lakeside camp in the late afternoon. Before nightfall, Aaron and I scrambled to the top of Little Birdwood Peak, a small spur between Mount Smuts and Mount Birdwood, in order to gain views of both peaks. We slept the night on the windy north shore of Lower Birdwood Lake. The following morning, the three of us ascended Smutwood Peak and then returned to the trailhead via the same Commonwealth Creek trail.

——

11 AUGUST 2015

Darren and I leave home at 7:30am, driving to the western outskirts of Calgary in order to convene with Aaron. The three of us get comfortable in Darren’s car and follow the scenic highway-1A out to Canmore. We stop briefly in town to refuel with London Fog tea and head deeper into the heart of the Rocky Mountains by way of the Spray Lakes corridor. We follow the gravel road alongside the Spray Lakes reservoir system until reaching the Commonwealth Creek trailhead, a small clearing of dirt at 1,500-m in the dense boreal forest.

Once we’ve arranged our gear, it’s time to tackle the gentle 7.2-km ascent to Smuts Pass. The trail starts with two kilometers of southward walking on flat terrain, here and there crossing small creekbeds.

Hiking west along the Commonwealth Creek Trail.

Hiking west along the Commonwealth Creek Trail.

At the termination of these two kilometers, the trail turns sharply west and begins following Commonwealth Creek, meandering in and out of the forest while providing occasional views of the two gatekeepers of the valley: Mount Birdwood and Mount Smuts.

Hiking west along the Commonwealth Creek Trail.

Hiking west along the Commonwealth Creek Trail. The peak at the head of the valley is Mount Birdwood.

The trail remains quite flat until reaching the head of the Commonwealth Valley, at which point we must climb steeply up to 2,330-m at Smuts Pass. The trail here is poorly defined and badly eroded, resulting in slow travel. As we move higher up towards the pass, Mount Smuts (our objective for the day) comes to dominate the upper horizon. All visible faces of the great mountain appear to be steep walls of white limestone.

Climbing steeply up to Smuts Pass below the south slabs of Mount Smuts.

Climbing steeply up to Smuts Pass below the south slabs of Mount Smuts.

Glancing back over our shoulder, the imposing east face of Mount Birdwood looms over its snowfields and glacially-scoured cirque.

Looking S at the cirque of Mount Birdwood.

Looking S at the cirque of Mount Birdwood.

But the climb continues upward, leading us to high meadows with unobstructed views of Mount Smuts, a sight that becomes increasingly intimidating as we get closer.

Looking north at the south slabs of Mount Smuts from just below Smuts Pass.

Looking north at the south slabs of Mount Smuts from just below Smuts Pass. The south ridge (our route of ascent) is approximately the left skyline.

Looking north at the south slabs of Mount Smuts from just below Smuts Pass.

Looking north at the south slabs of Mount Smuts from just below Smuts Pass. The south ridge (our route of ascent) is approximately the left skyline.

At length we reach Smuts Pass (2,330-m), which is a broad plateau separating the Birdwood Basin from the Commonwealth Valley. From this perspective, Commonwealth Valley displays remarkable symmetry – ignoring The Fist, of course.

Looking east back down Commonwealth Valley. Note the symmetry of the valley, and also note The Fist on the north rim of the valley.

Looking east back down Commonwealth Valley. Note the symmetry of the valley, and also note The Fist on the north rim of the valley.

The Birdwood Basin is a veritable postcard of Canadian scenery, with the immense limestone cliffs of Smutwood Peak (2,690-m) towering above the emerald-hued Birdwood Lakes.

Looking west from Smuts Pass (2,330-m) at the east face of Smutwood Peak (2,690-m) rising above Lower Birdwood Lake.

Looking west from Smuts Pass (2,330-m) at the east face of Smutwood Peak (2,690-m) rising above Lower Birdwood Lake.

Looking up at Mount Smuts from Smuts Pass, it is possible to trace the majority of our route to the summit. It begins by scrambling up to the highest part of the scree slope, then ascends class-3 rock slabs in the gully up to the main notch. From the notch, climbers step right onto the south ridge and follow a series of class-4/class-5 chimneys to the airy summit.

Looking north up the south ridge of Mount Smuts.

Looking north up the south ridge of Mount Smuts. The south ridge (our line of ascent) is the most direct line to the summit.

Looking northeast at the south ridge of Mount Smuts.

Looking northeast at the south ridge of Mount Smuts. Doesn’t look possible from this angle!

The three of us drop our rucksacks at the top of Smuts Pass and initiate our ascent of Mount Smuts. Our first action is to traverse a huge scree slope to the base of the south ridge.

Crossing a vicious scree slope to reach the base of the south ridge of Mount Smuts.

Crossing a vicious scree slope to reach the base of the south ridge of Mount Smuts.

Looking up the south ridge of Mount Smuts. The route of ascent goes up the gully and thence onto the ridge near the top skyline.

Looking up the south ridge of Mount Smuts. The route of ascent goes up the gully and thence onto the ridge near the top skyline.

Reaching the base of the south ridge, we make the transition from unstable scree to solid rock. It’s not necessary to gain the crest of the ridge just yet; we climb the south couloir, sticking to the limestone slabs on the right side of the trough. The angle of the slabs gradually increases as we move higher, but the techniques never exceed class-4. We make extremely short work of this section, gaining over a thousand feet of vertical elevation in less than half an hour.

Easy class-3 slabs in the lower part of the south couloir.

Easy class-3 slabs in the lower part of the south couloir.

Steepening class-3 slabs midway up the south couloir.

Steepening class-3 slabs midway up the south couloir.

Looking south down the class-3 slabs in the south couloir.

Looking south down the class-3 slabs in the south couloir.

Near the top of the south couloir, the continuous limestone slabs give way to a smattering of broken ribs sticking out of a thin covering of talus. Keeping to these ribs ensures us the safest travel because the integrity of the rock greatly reduces the risk of avalanche.

Looking south at Darren and Aaron climbing the broken ribs of Palliser limestone in the upper part of the south couloir.

Looking south at Darren and Aaron climbing the broken ribs of Palliser limestone in the upper part of the south couloir. Mount Birdwood stands directly to the south, while glaciated Mount Sir Douglas occupies the distant horizon.

Looking west at Darren and Aaron climbing the broken ribs of Palliser limestone in the upper part of the south couloir.

Looking west at Darren and Aaron climbing the broken ribs of Palliser limestone in the upper part of the south couloir. Behind them, the east face of Smutwood Peak guards the basin containing Upper Birdwood Lake.

Eventually we come to a place where it is necessary to leave the south couloir and traverse across to the main south ridge. We find a thin class-3 ledge that leads us up to a small platform on the ridge – the point at which most parties begin using ropes and harnesses. The three of us, however, elect to continue in “free solo” fashion, without any type of technical climbing gear.

Looking south at Darren climbing onto the south ridge.

Looking south at Darren climbing onto the south ridge. Mount Birdwood stands directly to the south, while glaciated Mount Sir Douglas occupies the distant horizon.

The first of several crux sections presents itself immediately in the form of a steep headwall. We surmount this headwall by utilizing a shallow chimney, enabling us to keep the climbing at class-4 for now.

Looking up at Darren and Aaron climbing the first class-4 headwall on the south ridge.

Looking up at Darren and Aaron climbing the first class-4 headwall on the south ridge.

At the top of the headwall, we are forced to traverse a short distance across to the right using a blank slab. This section is largely considered the crux of the route due to its exposed, “blank” nature. However, this slab is easily crossed with one long, confident stride. Despite the definite potential for a thousand-foot plummet, we would hardly consider this a crux section.

Looking down at Aaron finishing the crux traverse on the south ridge.

Looking down at Aaron finishing the crux traverse on the south ridge.

The upcoming crux sections consist of several chimneys ranging from class-4 to low-class-5 in overall difficulty.

The first chimney is steep yet secure; climbers with experience in class-5 chimney technique should have no issues nor reasons to be nervous.

Looking up at Darren climbing the first class-4 chimney on the south ridge.

Looking up at Darren climbing the first class-4/5 chimney on the south ridge.

Looking down at Aaron climbing the first class-5 chimney on the south ridge.

Looking down at Aaron climbing the first class-4/5 chimney on the south ridge.

Looking down at Aaron climbing out of the first class-5 chimney on the south ridge.

Looking down at Aaron climbing out of the first class-4/5 chimney on the south ridge.

At the top of the first chimney, the ridge narrows and once again looks impossible to ascend. Darren leads us across a section of easy class-3 slabs to the bottom of a second chimney, which proves to be slightly easier than the first.

Looking north at the upper crags of the south ridge.

Looking north at the upper crags of the south ridge.

Looking north at Darren climbing the upper crags of the south ridge.

Looking north at Darren climbing the upper crags of the south ridge. The second crux chimney begins slightly further to the right.

Looking down the second class-4 chimney on the south ridge.

Looking down the second class-4/5 chimney on the south ridge.

The second chimney terminates directly on the airy crest of the south ridge, and once again there appears to be no way to continue upward. A brief time spent probing around either side of the ridge leads us to the discovery of a ledge. Although several body-lengths in width, this ledge is wildly exposed, jutting precipitously out of the east side of the main crest.

Looking south at Aaron moving along a safe yet exposed ledge on the south ridge.

Looking south at Aaron moving along a safe yet exposed ledge on the south ridge.

The ledge connects us to yet another chimney – one that looks decidedly steeper than the previous others. Looking up at the skyline, it appears to be the final pitch before the summit ridge. Inside the chimney, the maneuvers are awkward due to the fact that the left wall is severely overhung. My helmet scrapes against the limestone roof as I muscle my way up the tricky gap. However, the quality of rock in this chimney is the finest that I have yet to encounter on scrambles in the Rockies, thus it makes for fun and exciting climbing.

Looking up at Darren climbing the uppermost class-5 chimney on the south ridge.

Looking up at Darren climbing the uppermost class-4/5 chimney on the south ridge.

Looking down at Aaron climbing the uppermost class-5 chimney on the south ridge.

Looking down at Aaron climbing the uppermost class-4/5 chimney on the south ridge.

Once we’ve navigated this final crux section, it’s time to make our way to the true summit. The topmost crest is simple to follow, but rather narrow.

Looking north at Darren scrambling along the summit ridge of Mount Smuts.

Looking north at Darren scrambling along the summit ridge of Mount Smuts.

Looking back south at Aaron scrambling along the summit ridge of Mount Smuts.

Looking back south at Aaron scrambling along the summit ridge of Mount Smuts.

Balancing along the crest, we revel in the far-reaching views of mountains in all directions. One careful step after another takes us safely to the spectacular 2,938-meter summit of Mount Smuts. The fact that this is such a prominent peak means that we are able to enjoy a full 360-degree panorama from the heart of the Rockies!

To the north, the main crest of Mount Smuts continues downward to the Spray Lakes Valley, making one final exclamation mark in the form of Mount Shark. Below the east face of Mount Shark, one can barely make out the miniature dot of Shark Lake, which reflects a brilliant aquamarine colour. Beyond this, the cerulean-blue waters of the Spray Lakes trail off in the direction of Canmore and the Bow Valley.

Looking north at Aaron, Darren and myself on the 2,938-m summit of Mount Smuts.

Looking north at Aaron, Darren and myself on the 2,938-m summit of Mount Smuts.

Panorama looking north from the 2,938-m summit of Mount Smuts.

Panorama looking north from the 2,938-m summit of Mount Smuts. The tallest peak on the distant horizon is Mount Assiniboine. In the right half of the photo is the Spray Lakes reservoir.

Looking northeast down at Shark Lake from high on the north ridge of Mount Smuts.

Close-up photo looking northeast down at Shark Lake from high on the north ridge of Mount Smuts.

The tallest mountain on the northern horizon is none other than Mount Assiniboine, known as “The Matterhorn of the Rockies”.

Looking northwest at Mount Assiniboine (3,618-m) from the 2,938-m summit of Mount Smuts.

Looking northwest at Mount Assiniboine (3,618-m) from the 2,938-m summit of Mount Smuts.

Looking south from the 2,938-meter summit of Mount Smuts, there is a veritable sea of jagged peaks. The aesthetic yet monotonous fins of the Kananaskis Range make up the eastern horizon, while grander massifs such as Mount Sir Douglas characterize the southern horizon. The closest major peak to the south is Mount Birdwood, which looks absolutely epic from this perspective.

Panorama looking southeast from the 2,938-m summit of Mount Smuts. The broad basin on the left is Spray Valley; the prominent peak in the right-center is Mount Birdwood (with Mount Sir Joffre over its right shoulder).

Panorama looking southeast from the 2,938-m summit of Mount Smuts. The broad basin on the left is Spray Valley; the prominent peak in the right-center is Mount Birdwood (with Mount Sir Douglas over its right shoulder).

Looking south at Mount Birdwood (center) and Mount Sir Joffre (right; with glaciers) from the 2,938-m summit of Mount Smuts.

Looking south at Mount Birdwood (center) and Mount Sir Douglas (right; with glaciers) from the 2,938-m summit of Mount Smuts.

Looking north at Aaron, Darren and myself on the 2,938-m summit of Mount Smuts.

Looking north at Aaron, Darren and myself on the 2,938-m summit of Mount Smuts.

Eventually we tire of the summit and begin to long for the serenity of the meadows and lakes below. We choose to take the north ridge on the descent – although it has less stable rock than the south ridge, it is not nearly as steep.

Looking north at Darren scrambling down the north ridge. The peak at the end of the ridge is Mount Shark, with aquamarine Shark Lake below its east face.

Looking north at Darren scrambling down the north ridge. The peak at the end of the ridge is Mount Shark, with aquamarine Shark Lake below its east face.

Looking north at Darren scrambling down the north ridge. The peak at the end of the ridge is Mount Shark.

Looking north at Darren scrambling down the north ridge. The peak at the end of the ridge is Mount Shark.

We follow the ridge northward until it becomes too steep, then we look for a gully on the west side of the crest that we might be able to use to continue downward progress. The most sensible option is a moderately steep couloir containing extremely loose rock. With extreme caution, the three of us descend one-at-a-time.

Looking west at Darren surveying the north ridge for a safe descent route.

Looking west at Darren surveying the north ridge for a safe descent route.

Looking down at Darren descending a class-3 gully on the north ridge.

Looking down at Darren descending a class-3 gully on the north ridge.

Looking up at Aaron descending a class-3 gully on the north ridge.

Looking up at Aaron descending a class-3 gully on the north ridge.

Looking north at Aaron descending the north ridge. The peak at the end of the ridge is Mount Shark, with aquamarine Shark Lake sitting below its east face. In the distant right portion of the photo is the Spray Lakes Valley.

Looking north at Aaron descending the north ridge. The peak at the end of the ridge is Mount Shark, with aquamarine Shark Lake sitting below its east face. In the distant right portion of the photo is the Spray Lakes Valley.

The couloir leads us safely to the lower portion of the massive west face of Mount Smuts. There is a small section of class-3 rock to navigate before we are able to freely slide down the lower scree slopes.

Looking up at Darren and Aaron descending the lower west slopes of Mount Smuts.

Looking up at Darren and Aaron descending the lower west slopes of Mount Smuts.

Looking up at Darren leaping down the west scree slopes of Mount Smuts.

Looking up at Darren leaping down the west scree slopes of Mount Smuts.

In fact, we are able to run down the scree (like madmen) all the way down to Lower Birdwood Lake!

Looking south at Aaron descending to Lower Birdwood Lake. From left to right, the peaks are: Mount Birdwood, Mount Joffre (distant, with glaciers), and Snow Peak.

Looking south at Aaron descending to Lower Birdwood Lake. From left to right, the peaks are: Mount Birdwood, Mount Sir Douglas (distant, with glaciers), and Snow Peak.

Looking south at Aaron descending to Lower Birdwood Lake. From left to right, the peaks are: Mount Birdwood, Mount Joffre (distant, with glaciers), and Snow Peak.

Looking south at Aaron descending to Lower Birdwood Lake. From left to right, the peaks are: Mount Birdwood, Mount Sir Douglas (distant, with glaciers), and Snow Peak.

We climb the short slope up to Smuts Pass in order to retrieve our rucksacks, then begin making camp on the north shore of Lower Birdwood Lake. The wide-open meadows don’t do much to block the relentless wind, but they certainly provide a glorious setting for us to relax the afternoon away.

Looking back up the west face of Mount Smuts from the north shore of Lower Birdwood Lake.

Looking back up the west face of Mount Smuts from the north shore of Lower Birdwood Lake.

Looking north at our camp on the north shore of Lower Birdwood Lake (2,200-m). The west face of Mount Smuts dominates the right side of the photo.

Looking north at our camp on the north shore of Lower Birdwood Lake (2,200-m). The west face of Mount Smuts dominates the right side of the photo.

Afternoon swim in Lower Birdwood Lake!

Afternoon swim in Lower Birdwood Lake!

The three of us pass the remainder of the afternoon by the lake until we begin to get restless again. Darren stays by the lake, but Aaron and I can’t resist going on an exploratory romp. First we scramble up to Upper Birdwood Lake in order to gain views of the massive west face of Mount Smuts.

Looking northeast at the solar-illuminated west face of Mount Smuts from Upper Birdwood Lake.

Looking northeast at the solar-illuminated west face of Mount Smuts from Upper Birdwood Lake.

From this angle, the south ridge appears far too steep to be climbed! The setting sun defines our route at roughly the sun-shade line, and we are able to trace it all the way to the top.

Close-up of the class-5 south ridge of Mount Smut. The route of ascent roughly follows the sun-shade line.

Close-up of the class-5 south ridge of Mount Smut. The route of ascent roughly follows the sun-shade line.

Looking northeast at Mount Smuts from the south shore of Upper Birdwood Lake.

Looking northeast at Mount Smuts from the south shore of Upper Birdwood Lake.

Panorama looking north from the south shore of Upper Birdwood Lake. The dark mountain on the left is Smutwood Peak (2,690-m), while the brightened peak on the right is Mount Smuts (2,938-m).

Panorama looking north from the south shore of Upper Birdwood Lake. The dark mountain on the left is Smutwood Peak (2,690-m), while the brightened peak on the right is Mount Smuts (2,938-m).

Our curiosity propels us to scramble up a small sub-peak of Mount Birdwood, which I affectionately name Little Birdwood Peak. It measures approximately 2,500-meters and offers outstanding views of the area.

Looking south at Mount Birdwood (left) and Mount Joffre (distant right) from the 2,500-m summit of Little Birdwood Peak.

Looking south at Mount Birdwood (left) and Mount Sir Douglas (distant right) from the 2,500-m summit of Little Birdwood Peak.

Panorama looking south at Mount Birdwood (left),  Mount Joffre (center; in distance), and Snow Peak (right) from the 2,500-m summit of Little Birdwood Peak.

Panorama looking south at Mount Birdwood (left), Mount Joffre (center; in distance), and Snow Peak (right) from the 2,500-m summit of Little Birdwood Peak.

The most rewarding aspect of our short scramble up Little Birdwood Peak is the unobstructed head-on view of our route up Mount Smuts. Once again, the south ridge is highlighted by the sun-shade line; once again, the route looks impossible! We take pride in our achievement.

Panorama looking east at Mount Smuts (left) and Mount Birdwood (right) from the 2,500-m summit of Little Birdwood Peak.

Panorama looking east at Mount Smuts (left) and Mount Birdwood (right) from the 2,500-m summit of Little Birdwood Peak.

Looking north at Mount Smuts towering over Lower Birdwood Lake from the 2,500-m summit of Little Birdwood Peak.

Looking north at Mount Smuts towering over Lower Birdwood Lake from the 2,500-m summit of Little Birdwood Peak.

Looking north at the south ridge of Mount Smuts from the 2,500-m summit of Little Birdwood Peak. The route of ascent roughly follows the sun-shade line.

Looking north at the south ridge of Mount Smuts from the 2,500-m summit of Little Birdwood Peak. The route of ascent roughly follows the sun-shade line.

Looking north at Mount Smuts (2,938-m) from the upper north crest of Little Birdwood Peak.

Looking north at Mount Smuts (2,938-m) from the upper north crest of Little Birdwood Peak.

We descend rapidly to our lakeshore camp by sliding down a snowpatch on the north slopes of Little Birdwood Peak.

Looking up at Aaron glissading down a snowpatch in the north couloir of Little Birdwood Peak.

Looking up at Aaron glissading down a snowpatch in the north couloir of Little Birdwood Peak.

Aaron and I join Darren in the tent and brew a pot of tea before lying down to rest. The wind is so strong that the tent constantly flaps against our faces throughout the night.

12 AUGUST 2015

We awake around 8:30am and promptly begin packing small packs for a quick ascent of Smutwood Peak.

Looking northwest at the east face of Smutwood Peak from the southeast shore of Upper Birdwood Lake. The 2,690-m summit of Smutwood Peak is the tallest pyramid on the right.

Looking northwest at the east face of Smutwood Peak from the southeast shore of Upper Birdwood Lake. The 2,690-m summit of Smutwood Peak is the tallest pyramid on the right.

From the upper reaches of Birdwood Basin, we scramble up a small mound of scree in order to gain the primary south ridge of Smutwood Peak. Initially the crest is rather mellow – a pleasant change of pace from the class-5 terrain on the south ridge of Mount Smuts.

Looking south at Snow Peak from the lower south ridge of Smutwood Peak.

Looking south at Snow Peak from the lower south ridge of Smutwood Peak.

Looking northwest along the south ridge of Smutwood Peak.

Looking northwest along the south ridge of Smutwood Peak.

Looking north at Darren and Aaron scrambling along the south ridge of Smutwood Peak.

Looking north at Darren and Aaron scrambling along the south ridge of Smutwood Peak.

We stick to the crest, which affords exceptional views of the surrounding landscape – particularly westward into British Columbia.

Looking west at Darren and Aaron traversing a steep scree slope below the south ridge of Smutwood Peak.

Looking west at Darren and Aaron traversing a steep scree slope below the south ridge of Smutwood Peak.

Looking southwest at myself crossing a high meadow on the south ridge of Smutwood Peak.

Looking southwest at myself crossing a high meadow on the south ridge of Smutwood Peak.

Looking north at Aaron standing valiantly below the summit crags of Smutwood Peak.

Looking north at Aaron standing valiantly below the summit crags of Smutwood Peak.

Looking north at Darren and Aaron scrambling along the south ridge of Smutwood Peak.

Looking north at Darren and Aaron scrambling along the south ridge of Smutwood Peak.

Panorama looking north at Darren and Aaron scrambling along the south ridge of Smutwood Peak. The mountain on the right is Mount Smuts.

Panorama looking north at Darren and Aaron scrambling along the south ridge of Smutwood Peak. The mountain on the right is Mount Smuts.

The final stretch leading up to the summit consists of unstable class-3 talus. We delight in sending huge rocks down the thousand-foot slope on the west side and watching them tumble violently to the valley below.

Looking north at Darren and Aaron scrambling along the south ridge of Smutwood Peak.

Looking north at Darren and Aaron scrambling along the south ridge of Smutwood Peak.

Just before reaching the summit, we notice a trio of mountain goats lounging on a high saddle between Smutwood Peak and Mount Smuts. It’s difficult to make them out from such a distance, and they seem to be lying down and/or sleeping. Aaron insists that they are actually snowpatches until finally one of the goats stands up to adjust his “bed” of scree.

Looking down at a trio of lazy mountain goats lounging on a high saddle from high on the north ridge of Smutwood Peak.

Looking down at a trio of lazy mountain goats lounging on a high saddle from high on the north ridge of Smutwood Peak.

Looking down at a trio of lazy mountain goats lounging on a high saddle from high on the north ridge of Smutwood Peak.

Looking down at a trio of lazy mountain goats lounging on a high saddle from high on the north ridge of Smutwood Peak.

We channel the mountaineer spirits of our mountain-goat counterparts by scrambling directly up to the 2,690-meter summit of Smutwood Peak. The west face of Mount Smuts is prominently displayed from this perspective!

Looking east at Aaron, Darren and myself on the 2,690-m summit of Smutwood Peak. The west face of Mount Smuts stands in the background.

Looking east at Aaron, Darren and myself on the 2,690-m summit of Smutwood Peak. The west face of Mount Smuts stands in the background.

Looking back to the south, we see the now-familiar forms of Mount Birdwood and Mount Sir Douglas. The Birdwood Lakes seem to be 2,000 vertical feet directly below us! We can barely make out our camp on the north shore of the lower lake.

Looking south at Birdwood Peak towering above the Birdwood Lakes from the 2,690-m summit of Smutwood Peak.

Looking south at Birdwood Peak towering above the Birdwood Lakes from the 2,690-m summit of Smutwood Peak. The distant ice-covered massif is Mount Sir Douglas.

We run all the way back down to camp via the same south ridge, taking a moment to rest by the lakeshore and gather our things. Then we set course along the Commonwealth Creek trail to return to the vehicle.

Looking south at the Mount Birdwood cirque while descending from Smuts Pass.

Looking south at the Mount Birdwood cirque while descending from Smuts Pass.

Looking east down Commonwealth Valley on the descent.

Looking east down Commonwealth Valley on the descent.

Darren relaxing by the Commonwealth Cascades.

Darren relaxing by the Commonwealth Cascades.

Hiking north along the Spray Lakes Valley back towards the trailhead.

Hiking north along the Spray Lakes Valley back towards the trailhead.

It’s mid-afternoon when we arrive to our vehicle parked at the trailhead. The thermometer in the car measures 32-degrees celsius, which is about the hottest conditions I have ever experienced in these mountains. We roll the windows down and cruise all the way back to Calgary with Darren pointing out the names of all the peaks as I inquire about them.

——

Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed