I wanted to end my 2012 Rockies hiking season with a bang: annual visit to Skoki Larch Goodness. But when I pulled at parking lot I got turned back by Park Ranger informing me that "area was closed because of aggressive grizzly". So I ended up enjoying these views instead:
Driving down from Skoki Parking I felt deflated; I even briefly considered just heading back to the Coast right away. But day was beautiful; it would be such a waste. I turned into Bow Valley Parkway and drove south -- let's just go down to Rockbound Trailhead and run up Helena Ridge -- it's been a long time since I've been there last time.
Driving along I recalled how (one and only) Bob Spirko scrambled Television Peak via Protection Ridge, accessed by relatively unknown old miners trail. I had no clue where was the trailhead, or what was involved. I had no access to my hiking guides and I was not about to waste another hour going to Louise and looking for Internet. But how hard can it really be? I remembered how Marcel B of Calgary Outdoor Club organizes this scramble with some level of regularity -- there must be some obvious parking lot and trail. After about 10 km I passed large pullout, but it was on the west side with no cars parked or signs. So I continued & reached Protection campground in another couple of km. I stopped -- this must be the trailhead. But no -- only Parks Canada signs how campground was closed for the season. I almost gave up & drove to Rockbound, but something about that pullout I passed kept bugging me. I drove back and parked. There was creek and large meadow on the east side. I checked right side -- nothing. I crossed over to left (north) side -- bingo! Initially indistinct, but pretty soon well defined trail (no signs or flags) led in "right" direction. Ah! Anything Marcel can do I can do too -- only better. I quickly gathered my gear and off I was.
Couple of initial boggy sections were actually bridged, which told me this trail gets maintained at some level. It parallels the creek in northerly direction for 20 minutes or so without gaining much elevation, then crossed on east side on a good bridge:
From here trail steadily gains elevation and reaches treeline in about 2 hrs and ~750 vertical from the trailhead. Dotted with golden larches and expansive views towards Louise area this is very scenic spot indeed:
10 minutes from here trail ends at remains of old miners settlement. I sat here for few minutes and enjoyed my first break:
Protection Ridge was directly east. Mine Entrance was few minutes above me in large Talus slope. I studied the route for few minutes and decided I'd traverse mostly level until I was directly bellow low point on the ridge, then scramble above. This was good choice and had least amount of loose terrain (as I discovered on descent). It also allowed me to refill my water bottle, as one of gullies I had to cross still had running water lower down:
I checked out the mine shaft -- it was pretty cool (If there was ever case to be made for HDR, this is it. But I refuse to do it):
From here it took me about 90 minutes to the ridge. Lower half was mostly talus and not terribly loose, and upper had some boulders and one minor rock band (that could be avoided to the right). Despite not being technical, almost 1400 vertical of elevation gain left my sea lungs a bit out of air. But spectacular panorama was more than adequate reward:
(Far end of ridge on pano above is apparently named Armor Peak, and can easily be scrambled in another 1-2 hours)
From the saddle I walked along the ridge crest for 15 minutes or so till I reached south end that offered great views of Television Peak (which is, according to Spirko, actual summit of Protection Mountain).
I had no more than 3 hours of daylight left, so continuing was out of question. So I took extended break and returned to my vehicle the same way; descent was almost twice as fast as ascent and I was at my car before sundown. Map of entire route:
Finally some ramblings about this route, which hopefully someone can find useful. Scrambling Television from this side will be very healthy day out. From Protection Ridge you need to drop at least 100 vertical, then go up another 300-400. This brings the running total close to 2000 vertical -- solid coast trip! In addition the ridge leading to Television is scrambling, not just grovelling up talus (various reports I studied afterwards indicated it was at least upper moderate. Spirko and his partner actually turned halfway up, and scrambled from east side!).
Optimal way in my opinion is 1-way traverse from Protection to Rockbound. It will still be a long day. This is somewhat documented in M. Potter Ridgewalk guide. I also know (fit and capable) group from Calgary Outdoor Club did this traverse by heading up Rockbound Lake first, but this is "wrong" direction in my -- respectful -- opinion as I always prefer to climb than descend steep and technical parts. In addition Rockbound Lake trail is much easier to hike out with headlamp if necessary. There is no real scenic advantage either way. This is how I plan to do it next time I am in the area: Protection up, Rockbound down. Lack of 2 vehicles is not a problem -- about 10 km of biking on paved road -- 30 to 40 minutes maximum.
(Anyone interested in this traverse, let me know & maybe we can hook up next year)