This loop hike on east side of Lake Magog provides outstanding panoramic view of Mt. Assiniboine; helicopter flight from Mt. Shark crosses Cautley ridge entering Core area:
1: Horseshoe from Meadows halfway between Lake Magog CG and Mt. Assiniboine Lodge
2: Views from Horseshoe mid-point
Wonder Peak and Mt. Cautley can be done as separate trips; if returning the same way, Cautley is just a scree bash followed by great ridgewalk, while Wonder Peak is mainly easy scramble from Wonder Pass (with one moderate step near the summit). Traverse is more involved, but ultimately very rewarding trip, recommended for experienced scramblers with route-finding skills. I started off by hiking to Wonder Pass, about 45mins from Naiset Cabins, passing rather pretty Gog Lake along the way nestled under the Towers:
1: Lake Magog from the porch of one of Naiset Cabins; it was tempting just to fritter the day in the meadows!
2: Gog Lake about halfway between the Lodge and Wonder Pass; Towers behind
3: Wonder Pass
Main trail (eventually my hike-out path the next day) descends to Marvel Lake; for Wonder Peak turn left, cross bit of meadow and pick up excellent trail going up gentle scree towards the ridge. Views open up by the minute; halfway up another solo scrambler that just scrambled Towers overtook me; we chatted for a bit, and he gave me a bit more details about his ascent route, mostly visible on photo bellow:
Higher up trip becomes more involved. Route stays bellow the summit ridge on the right (south) side. I traversed set of ledges linking bits of trail beaten in scree; the further you go, the more loose it becomes. You can probably exit on summit ridge sooner, but most people probably do it near the "wishbone" (rock arch similar to the one on Mt. Tyrwhitt). If you come here, you have just overshot the summit -- turn back and scramble back to the summit in another 10 minutes or so. Views to Core basin are outstanding, same as Marvel Lake panorama on the other side:
Past this point I had no info. The day before I chatted with Park Ranger, inquiring about "Gmoser Highway" (normal route up from Lake Magog towards Hind Hut); he told me I can try it, if I am comfortable with Wonder/Cautley traverse first. So I decided to take a look. Again bits of trail now and then, staying on right side; loose with slight exposure at places, but still only easy scrambling. Then comes the Crux; big Rock Tower that appears impassable. I will try to give a bit more info, as correct route is not obvious:
1: View back to Crux Tower after descent
2: View from south apex of Cautley Ridge; Crux is marked with red "X"
Coming from above, there is even a little cairn -- but where to go? I came to a notch, and stared at a drop; can't be this way? Since all difficulties were bypassed to the right, I descended a bit on loose slope and found myself at edge of sheer cliff (seen at left side of pics above -- yikes!). Back to the cairn, I was about to quit, but wanted to at least descend to a notch. From there, only feasible route appeared steep, narrow chimney (visible as dark "V") on pic above. I couldn't see all of it though; good thing I didn't try, as there is chockstone in lower third, and I am not sure I'd be able to climb back if I was not able to go past it. Just as I was ready to turn back, I noticed what seemed to be a trail that hugs base of the tower on other side. It was worth taking a look; carefully sliding loose scree (and causing rock avalanche along the way), I came to a spot where cliff was much reduced and I was able to lower myself in a little chute, that was probably not harder than stiff class 2 (or low class 3) -- but again, with tons of rockfall. Few more steps, and yes -- it was human trail indeed! This last bit is visible on this pic further along Cautley ridge (but not apparent from above):
Rest was easy; after snapping few pics, I hiked easily to start of Cautley ridge and took my lunch break:
1: Bryant Creek, usual approach route to Mt. Assiniboine, with sea of familiar Kananaskis Peaks behind; Tent Ridge to the right
2: View along the spine of Cautley ridge; High point is about 45 mins of delightful ridge walking
Descending, there is large -- probably permanent -- snowpatch, with running water that allows for replenishing of water supply. There are no difficulties along this ridge and soon I was at Cautley summit cairn admiring great views back to horseshoe I just traversed:
Along the way I was able to watch that fire erupting in the Kootenays, that caused lots of smoke in Kananaskis and Calgary over next couple of days:
You can descend from Cautley pretty much anywhere; there is lots of scree, but no cliffs. Easiest perhaps is to continue to drop to saddle, then continue to lower point north, then loop back -- trail and cairns. As my senses were pretty much saturated by this point, I simply dropped down straight from the saddle, and descended to meadows where I intersected the trail. Later it disappears, but it is not really necessary -- just head in general direction of Naiset Cabins. There are tons of larches (and grizzly diggings) in this area; it must be just burning in 2nd part of September! Finally pano pic of Horseshoe as I descended to the Meadows:
Traverse can be done either way -- clockwise, or counter-clockwise (the way this trip is presented). There are arguments for both: If you go Cautley first, you will have better light for photos of main basin, and route-finding up Crux on Wonder Peak will be easier; however you will have to contend with piles of scree, that is much easier to descend than to ascend. Either way, this is highly recommended trip and hopefully info presented in this TR will be helpful!