Photo by Dow Williams
|Best months for climbing:||Jul, Aug|
|Nearest major airport:||Calgary International|
Thanks to Bruce Dunbar for adding this peak.
Mist Mountain has three routes to the summit, a hiking route from the south via Gillean Daffern’s “Kananaskis Country Trail Guide Volume 2” and two scramble routes via Alan Kane’s “Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies”. I combined the two scramble routes, the Lipsett col and the north ridge, for a full traverse of the summit. Like Mount Rae and Storm Mountain directly to the north, Mist Mountain stands well above 10,000’ in the Highwood Pass area. Obviously the views do not disappoint including a close up of Mount Joffre’s east ridge/face.
Take the Kananaskis Trail (Highway 40) exit off of the Trans-Canada Highway between Calgary and Canmore. Drive past the Highwood Meadows Interpretive Trail parking area at Highwood Pass. Continue past the Lost Lemon Mine pullout on the right and after you cross a creek, turn around and drive off to the east side of the road by the bridge/creek. Kananaskis Highway is closed from December 1 through June 15, and I do mean with a gate. The closure is at Kings Creek (Canyon), meaning no access to any of the Highwood area mountains prior to June 15th, except by ski or bike.
This is a 3800'+/- total ascent day. I missed the start of the approach up the creek but of course discovered it on descent. To avoid at least part of the bushwhacking, look closely for a flagged (2006) start to the left of the creek right at the bridge. This is mostly just a faint animal trail, but it is much faster to follow than bushwhacking up the creek itself. You will hear the creek, but will be hiking out of view of it for most of this trail. This trail also skirts the heavy brush and allows you better vision which can be comforting as this is common bear habitat with several past sightings of the bruins on this approach. As you near an active drainage coming down the slopes from the left, you will have to leave the trail and bush whack up the creek as it circumvents Mount Lipsett’s base to the right. To exit the thick brush, I took the first major drainage/avalanche slope to the right and ascended its left flank (past grizzly tracks-photo) to above tree line so I could make a faster approach to the Lipsett-Mist col. Once into the larches, turn left and circumvent Lipsett to the col via a high traverse on its northern slopes.
Once at the col, ascend easy ground east to the solid rock base which represents the start of the scrambling. You have covered approximately 2300’ to this point. The final 1000’ is enjoyable scrambling. Alan Kane references this portion as difficult or at least more difficult than the north ridge, however I rather thought it to be on the easy side of moderate. Climb solid rock until it starts to become loose again. Stay to the right side of the middle rib during the ascent up the southwest flank. Circumvent the first wall to the left and then the second wall to the right, where I saw the first cairn of the day. Once you top out through this area, you can see the true summit from here and scramble along the summit ridge as it meets the southeastern ridge. A few meters more and you find yourself at the summit cairn. It was buried in snow during my ascent, but I assume it has a register. The views are typical for the area, Mount Joffre, Mount Assiniboine, Storm Mountain, Mount Rae and the front range peaks including Banded Peak, etc.
To complete the traverse, which in total only took me 5.5 hours, descend via the north ridge. Take off down the north ridge and of course you will no doubt have more snow to deal with than the ascent from the Lipsett col. It is narrow in places, but offers no significant cruxes. Most features are turned to the right (east). After descending and re-ascending a short section, you find yourself at a false summit on the north ridge (photo). Most of your descent from this point flanks the west side of the ridge. Avoid temptation to lose much elevation down the west flank. Stay close to the ridge and continue past quite a few tempting exits. Several of them might work, but during late or early season, they will all have a certain amount of ice on narrow sections of water worn rock. When looking back up to the north ridge from below (photo), they all appear to cliff out as well, not that you could not find a descent, but who knows. Continue traversing the west side of the ridge until you hit one gully that has a significant wall to the north that forces you to descend. This gully goes fairly easy, forcing you to skiers right a few times to descend short icy waterfall sections (photo).
When you get a chance move out right and stay high above tree line versus descending this gully to the creek. This will save you bushwhacking, not to mention giving you better views of the terrain and wildlife around you. Continue to traverse grassy slopes west until you can make out a sheep trail that descends these grassy slopes back to the creek. Follow this trail back to the road and your vehicle.