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post #1 of (permalink) Old 05-13-2015, 01:32 AM Thread Starter
Hittin' the Trails
Join Date: Nov 2013
Location: Calgary, AB, Canada.
Posts: 24
Default Cougar Peak

Date: 19/04/2015
Total elevation gain: 1280 m
Distance: 18 km

Situated in the shadow of more famous Mount Lady MacDonald and Grotto Mountain in Canmore, Cougar Peak seems to be rarely ascended - perhaps because it is lacking an official name in published maps and books. There are only a couple of reports online, most notably the one by Bob Spirko. I think Cougar Peak deserves more attention, and in fact it may well become more popular due to the ease of access and the short drive from Calgary.

Cougar Creek is a breeze to hike along… 100 times better than the nearby valley that leads up to Mount Inglismaldie (now a huge mess after the 2013 floods). We were surprised how little deadfall and large boulders there are. The creek bed is mostly flat and wide, almost as if it had been flattened artificially. Sticking to Spirko’s description, the ascent drainage was easy to find, about an hour and 45 minutes after leaving the parking lot. It was initially quite steep, but there is a faint trail on the left side of the gully and even a cairn. After the steep bit, we made use of all the snow that was still lingering on the slopes during this time in April. At first, the snow helped a great deal because we simply had to plod up the drainage, which soon veered to climber’s left where the terrain got steeper. The gully became more narrow and a layer of ice underneath the snow made us switch to rock slabs wherever possible, which offered far more traction and more stability than the slippery snow. There were two or three places where avoiding the icy gully required climbing up some steepish rock faces to the left, with decent holds but significant exposure. With an ice axe in hand, the climbing was somewhat cumbersome, but it was a necessary tool to stop yourself from sliding down a few hundred metres in case of a fall here. I would assume that during summer when all the snow is gone, there’s hardly any difficulty here as you’d be able to simply scramble up the middle of the gully.

The gully gets steeper and steeper and eventually tops out on a broad ridge where fantastic views of Grotto and Fable greeted us. From here, it was a mere 10 minutes to the summit where the views got even better: Goat, Hassle Castle, Morrowmount and Fable all vie for attention. Cougar Creek appears to the west, with Canmore behind, all looking tiny and much farther away than you’d think. There is a terrific drop on the east side of the summit ridge – plunging perhaps 1000 m straight down.

It was a beautiful Sunday, unusually warm and sunny for this time of the year, so the snow had softened up quite a bit by the time we descended in the afternoon. To avoid an involuntary slide down the steep gully, we had to carefully retrace our steps and slowly downclimb the same rocky sections. Further down where the angle eased we tried to glissade, but the wet snow made for bumpy stop-and-go rides. We got back to the parking lot after 9 hours of fantastic early-season scrambling that felt remote and full of adventure and challenge. The trip is certainly more straightforward in the summer, but the drawback then is the tedious scree that was frozen and/or covered by snow when we went up. For an early season starter I can definitely recommend this trip and I might even come back one day and do it again.

Cougar Creek:

Ascent gully, lower section:

Climbing higher... now it's easier to scramble up rock slabs that flank the ice & snow-covered narrow gully:

Short sections of steep slabs present an enjoyable challenge:

View of our "crux" from above:

The summit comes into sight:

View west towards Canmore:

Mount Fable:

Descending the gully:

Route map:
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 05-13-2015, 01:42 AM
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Join Date: May 2009
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Beautiful, thanks very much for this. Yes, creek bed feels almost as it was flattened by buldozer!
How long approximately from the forks to bottom of ascent gully? 30-40 minutes?
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 05-13-2015, 09:48 AM
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Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
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Nice - thanks for sharing.

Vern Dewit
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 05-15-2015, 04:25 PM Thread Starter
Hittin' the Trails
Join Date: Nov 2013
Location: Calgary, AB, Canada.
Posts: 24

It took us about 40 minutes from the forks to the ascent drainage. From the parking lot it's about an hour to the forks at moderate pace. There are lots of creek crossings (we counted 17 on the way back!), but water levels were really low and jumping the watercourse was not an issue.
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 05-15-2015, 11:29 PM
Hittin' the Trails
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Banff, AB, Canada.
Posts: 8

I climbed this solo last Tuesday, May 12th. There is only a little snow in the gully now to ascend and descend; 3.75 hrs up and 7.5 hrs return.
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 05-16-2015, 12:23 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Abbotsford, B.C., Canada.
Interest: Hiking, Snowshoeing, and Photography. Enjoying the outdoors fresh air and fitness experience.
Posts: 17,920

Looks like an interesting and fun route, and really some eye-catching pictures of the gully and the views around. Beautiful shots.

Thanks for sharing.
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 05-18-2015, 12:30 AM Thread Starter
Hittin' the Trails
Join Date: Nov 2013
Location: Calgary, AB, Canada.
Posts: 24

You're welcome! Glad to see it is of interest
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 01-22-2016, 11:43 PM
Hittin' the Trails
Join Date: Jan 2016
Posts: 1

we had to return a few meters under the top, exaclty where you step down on the photo, descending. It was too bad winter conditions in January, nasty winds hurling around us, and crawling slowly through deep snow, up to the hips...
one hour more of time on this day would have brought us to the top, but i dont know if safely..
stabbing some pain to my ambition just checking out we have been so close to the top...
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