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post #1 of (permalink) Old 09-08-2018, 06:21 PM Thread Starter
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Default Red Deer River - Douglas/McBride Valley

This was 2 night, 3 day Skoki backpack into Red Deer Lakes. First night was spent at Baker Lake and after moving camp on day 2 via delightful Cottongrass Meadows below Oyster Mtn, I had full afternoon to explore this wonderful area I have not visited before. Smoke that obscured Rockies for most of the summer lifted (albeit briefly) and allowed awesome conditions. Well known back-country trail connects Pipestone and Red Deer River valleys; after exploring brief part of it, I ventured into beautiful alpine valley between Mt. Douglas and Oyster Peak -- easily the highlight of '18 summer hiking season. Initial part to Natural Bridge is reasonably well known; what was not expected was well defined trail that continues into upper valley; I suspect this is normal climber access for Douglas/St. Bride. I touched just a bit of it and wished I planned my logistics a bit differently -- next time. Picture(s) are worth a 1000 words:


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[Crossing Red Deer River flats past the campground. Oyster Peak upper right; snowy cone of Mt. Douglas center]


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[Pipestone Mountain]


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[Cyclone Ranger cabin. These guys know how to live. Had dinner on this porch. Douglas/St. Bride distance right]


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[Closer look at Douglas Mountain. You can clearly see series of crumbling rock-bands in middle part -- the crux. Only online report I could find is here, but this party approached from Baker lake side and this can not be recommended -- even by their own admission]



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[Signed junction ~2km east from Ranger cabin. Main trail continues straight - go right. There are couple of easy fords (ankle high this time of year) -- I did both with boots on and managed to have my feet dry (gaiters)]


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[Delightful hiking past the ford of Red Deer River]


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[Natural Bridge. It is quite awesome and well-worth the visit. Trail continues on the left side; upper valley is 10 minutes away]


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[Top of natural bridge looking back. Drummond glacier on the horizon. Facebook boys have great report of Mt. Drummond ascent here]


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[Upper valley. Well defined (and traveled) trail continues, which is my main reason for belief this valley is used for normal Mt. Douglas / St. Bride approach]


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[(In)famous notch on St. Bride that makes ascent technical; I can not find any online report - even on Steven Song site]


Last day I hiked back by looping around Skoki Mountain, and then via Skoki Lakes/Packer Pass. Smoke came back & I have no photos worth sharing. Finally couple of nice photos of Baker Lake from day 1 / morning of day 2:



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I will definitely come back to explore further -- main goal is Douglas Lake and Valley of Hidden Lakes; not much online data about this one either. I confirmed with Park Ranger that random camping is allowed by Douglas Lake so this is next summer trip.




Alternate report with more high-res photos here

Last edited by zeljkok; 09-09-2018 at 07:50 PM.
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 09-08-2018, 07:44 PM
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Very nice, first and last pictures are beauties. Is that new snow already there on Douglas Mtn?
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 09-09-2018, 03:34 PM Thread Starter
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Yes, new snow - there was a cool down & more coming next week. Still hazy as couple of major fires are not out yet.
1 more pano from Baker Lake:

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for you BC guys, there is official Parks Canada back-country campground here. It is about 3.5-4hrs only from parking @ Lake Louise. It is quite busy during the summer, but in the fall one can usually find space. All the peaks on pic above are class 2/3 scrambles. It is grizzly bear hotspot though, but I've not seen any signs this time. Main problem this summer, as I was told by park ranger, were porcupines that chew on hiker boots overnight.
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 09-11-2018, 08:17 PM
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Love your photo filled reports zeljkok, I've been checking them out over the last 6 months.
Me and my family arrive in Calgary [from NZ] this weekend for a month long trip to the Rockies and I'm fizzing with excitement.
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 09-11-2018, 08:57 PM Thread Starter
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There is snow in forecast 2nd half of this week (even in Calgary!) & this means mountains will be all white. But smoke is gone. With little luck it could be real magical -- autumn larches color change + snow that always adds to the scenery. I am thinking about my traditional 2nd half of September O'Hara trip
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 09-11-2018, 10:18 PM
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Yeah, we have been checking out the Wx via the ol interweb. Last I looked there was to be snow on Sunday which is our first likely day hike, I was thinking of doing the Lake Louise Tea houses as a gentle introduction for the kids. Lake Agnes first and if Wx not too bad and, if everyone is happy, on to the Plain of 6. Nice easy intro walk with light packs with the option of getting inside and warm at several points.
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