Elevation: 3095 m
Elevation Gain: 1000 m
George Dawson had a high affinity for the name “Storm Mountain” (and apparently poor luck with weather). Dawson is alleged to have named Storm Mountain after observing inclement clouds on its summit during his time in the Highwood Valley in 1884. The same man is also responsible for naming the Storm Mountain located in Banff/Kootenay National Park for the same reason during the same year. Regardless of Dawson’s lack for creativity, both Storm Mountains are stunning peaks – it seems unfortunate that Dawson’s view of them may have been obstructed by poor weather!
September 15 2011
After undertaking a little research into what peak I should solo scramble next on my on-going quest for 50 summits this summer, I stumbled across Vern Dewit’s trip report from Storm Mountain (the Highwood Storm Mountain). In the report, he notes that this peak makes for an excellent solo trip since you get out of the treeline and, therefore, out of bear territory quite quickly. “Sold” I thought to myself! In the back of my mind, however, I wondered about the “difficult” scrambling that Vern found himself undertaking high up on this peak. Memories of my ascent of nearby (and geologically similar) Mount Rae also crept into my thoughts making me question how great an idea it was to take on Storm solo. In the end, I reasoned that the peak was rated moderate (by Kane) and was, therefore, an appropriate objective for my day. Kane wouldn’t provide a misleading rating, would he?
Vern Dewit wasn’t kidding in his trip report. 10 minutes or so after leaving the car, I found myself enjoying spectacular views (like this one of Mount Storelk to the south) above the tree line.
The ascent route up Storm Mountain. One long scree bash to the highpoint in the center followed by exposed ridges and steep slabs. Whose idea was this again?
Like nearby Mount Rae, there are cool fossils littering the ground most everywhere that you look!
Having gained the ridge, I now had to do my best to avoid drop offs like this one.
The ridge crest leading to the false summit proved most annoying with repeated down climbs.
Hazy peaks to the southeast.
Mount Sir Douglas in the distance beyond the vertical west ridge of Storm Mountain.
Looking west: Glaciated Mount Joffre (3449 m) is the tallest peak in Kananaskis. The Royal Group can also be seen on the right side of the picture.
Looking east to the front ranges.
The Glasgow-Cornwall-Outlaw-Banded tetrad.
Looking over to the true summit of Storm Mountain from the southern-most high point on the ridge. This is where things turn tricky.
Scared and uncertain whether or not to proceed. This was the 'highpoint' photo to be used in the event that this trip report ended up being an “attempt” report. A snowy Mist Mountain provides the background.
I did decide to proceed after much deliberation and some near chickening-out. Looking back to the high point I'd just been on. The route crosses the ledge to the left of the ridge. Note the steep snow patches (took me a while to work up the nerve to cross) and the precipitous drop below them. Kane warns that this ledge should be bone dry to proceed. After this heart-palpitating traverse, I was certain that the worst was over and that the ridge ahead would be easier going. Man, was I wrong!
Summit cairn! This long a gap in photos can only mean that I was too terrified to take my camera out. After crossing the ledge, Kane suggests that you simply take the ridge crest to the summit. The ridge was, however, very exposed so I tried to stay off it as much as possible on slabby ledges. Even so, I had to cross several sections that resulted in further near chicken-outs. Thank God there’s an alternate descent and that I didn’t have to go back down the way I came!
#45 of the season! Was it worth it?
Looking back at my route up along the exposed ridge and the snowy ledge. Kicking steps across those snow patches looks idiotic from here!
Lovely views of another evil Highwood Pass peak, Mount Rae. Mount Arethusa is the smaller shaded peak in the foreground.
From Mount Rae to Banded Peak. The Elbow River starts on the lower flanks of Rae and winds its way out to the prairies past Banded.
Mount Pocaterra and the lower (reddish) Pocaterra Ridge above the Highwood Pass. The Royal Group beyond in the distance.
Mount Joffre under darkening skies. As if the ascent wasn’t frightening enough, it appeared that a storm was brewing to the west.
Pleasant weather to the south still, however.
Too alarmed to come up with anything more clever than this for the register.
Not wanting to have to go back down the scary ridge or cross the suicidal snow patches again, I opted for Kane's alternate descent of the west ridge. He notes, however, that getting to this ridge involves a 'tricky bit', pictured here. Woohoo, one more loose exposed ridge to crawl across!
Kane doesn't lie. After the short tricky bit, the alternate descent is rapid! Back down on terra firma a short time later with the descent route behind me! I found this descent to be much less terrifying than the ascent route – it was loose and generally moderate unlike the more difficult and exposed ascent route.
Crazy folds in the rocks on Storm.
Storelk to the south again...this time from a different valley! No matter, it was a simple hike down to the car from here!
A friend waiting for me at my car.
It never fails. No wildlife all day until I'm back down at the highway.
Kananaskis traffic jam on the drive home.