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post #1 of (permalink) Old 09-04-2021, 09:30 PM Thread Starter
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Default Piper Pass

This was the hike I wanted to do for quite some time, but for one reason or the other it always fell through. I try to visit Elbow Lake / Highwood Pass area at least once a year & had some great trips over the years (Mt. Rae, Mt. Tyrwhitt, Rae Lake/Glacier, Tombstone Lakes etc). Piper Pass approach necessitates crossing of (very young) Elbow River & trip needs to be done later in season when water level is low. Approach is via ever popular Elbow Lake trail, continuing on towards Tombstone Pass. Just below the Pass as Elbow Trail dips unmarked junction for Piper Pass is on the left side. After the ford -- that did leave bit of wet feet, but I didn't feel like taking boots off -- trail contours west slopes of Tombstone Mtn & stays below treeline for much longer than expected. Eventually, ~1hr from Elbow Trail it breaks into Alpine which is about as nice as it gets. The Pass is in the distance; trail fades away but direction is obvious. Good water from creek flowing off small tarn below the pass & eventual source of Piper Creek. Final rise to the pass is steep-ish scree grunt; mid-part is bit steep and poles are great asset here. From the Pass that hosted large cairn, trail drops on the other side towards very rarely visited valley that eventually links with west fork of Little Elbow and then over Paradise Pass towards Evan Thomas area. I scrambled up ridge on east side, easy class 2 talus ascent, but bit loose. There were some cairns here testifying others do the same thing. Higher orange cone on west side could probably be ascended just as easily. Views were fantastic down the Piper Creek valley towards Mt. Rae, with Mt. Elpoca dominating the foreground.


On return I took a shortcut; instead of going all the way to Elbow Trail, I trashed over Piper Creek then some meadows and small benches directly to Tombstone Pass; 2 fords were required (Piper Creek and Elbow) but both easy. Photo Story:



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[Mandatory shot of Elbow Lake, ~20 min from parking]


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[Tombstone Pass; Piper valley is left of Tombstone Peak in center. Normal access is further down on Elbow Trail, right side of photo, but on return I took shortcut that traversed these meadows lower left side]


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[Unmarked junction off Elbow Trail; note cairn on left side. It will be ~10 min from Tombstone Pass & ~5min from Edworthy Falls junction (that has "Waterfall" blue paint on rock). I will have GPS track with waypoint for download]


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[Elbow crossing; looks very benign here, but it was almost boot top & this was the easiest place. Main reason why this hike is best done later in season]


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[Finally breaking into Alpine after much longer than anticipated hike below treeline. Piper Pass is saddle just right of upper center, and Piper Ridge I scrambled from the Pass to the right]


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[Mt. Schlee access route, very unfrequently scrambled. This shot is just as trail breaks the alpine; drop to Piper creek on west side, then trash up talus and some slabs contouring to the right; lose class 3]


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[Very impressive dual rock spires called "Cats Ears"]

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[Closer look at trail beaten in talus leading to the Pass; central part is steepest and bit awkward]


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[North side of Piper Pass; rough trail switchbacks on talus and continues over towards West branch of Little Elbow / Paradise Pass / Even Thomas]


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[View south down Piper Creek from Piper Ridge; note cairn. Somewhat snowy Mt. Rae distant center, Mt. Elpoca to its right]


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[Alpenglow over Mt. Rae on shortcut return via Tombstone Meadows]


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[Back at Elbow Lake at dusk, with Mt. Rae reflected in calm water]


Took 7.5 hrs return for ~24km, Total: 970m vertical (+810, -170). Usual GPS based map and elevation profile:
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More photos with GPS Download Link: https://autumnsky.zenfolio.com/rocki...skis/piperpass
martin, solo75 and ColdBrook like this.

Last edited by zeljkok; 09-06-2021 at 03:32 AM.
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 09-07-2021, 08:57 PM
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brilliant shots. So beautiful.

Kananaskis, to me it's one of the best hiking areas in North America

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post #3 of (permalink) Old 09-08-2021, 03:49 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xj6response View Post

Kananaskis, to me it's one of the best hiking areas in North America

Large parts of Kananaskis are now getting overrun (like Joffre Lakes or Garibaldi on BC Coast). Read stat somewhere K-country last yr had almost twice as many visitors as Banff National Park; Covid side effect, people can't travel, escape city traps and closest to Calgary. But yes, it is very beautiful, specially K-Lakes and Highwood areas.


After smoky July + 1st half of August, conditions are incredible right now. Crystal clear with far reaching views, no bugs whatsoever, blue lakes and alpine starting showing fall colors. Just got back from very scenic afternoon up on Icefields. Hope this can extend into larch season which is around the corner.
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 09-08-2021, 12:28 PM
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I hiked K country mostly 1986 - 1988. It was magnificent. Back then there were so few people on the trails. I could also drive up to moraine lake on a late summer saturday morning, park easily then scramble up Tower of Babel with the route to myself.

On the coast this year smoke really wasn't much of a problem. The steady hi pressure system kept the interior fire smoke from reaching the coast except for a few days. Most of my hikes were local trips like Mt Mark, Mt Wesley on Van Isle and some sea to sky places. Many trails were busy, very busy. Even on Vancouver island many trails are so busy now. Bedwell lake, 5040 mountain, Cream lake, Mt Becher are crazy.

SAR is also very busy

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Last edited by xj6response; 09-08-2021 at 05:11 PM.
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