Richardson, Pika

Richardson from Pika

[I am back in the States, but still catching up on my Canadian outings. My totals were 12 11ers (plus a repeat of Temple) and about 20 other peaks — a pretty good haul.]

Temple in the distance

Mount Richardson is the highpoint of the area east of Lake Louise. While it is lower, drier, and therefore less spectacular than the 11ers surrounding Mount Temple on the other side of the Bow River, it is a moderate scramble with a bike approach and excellent views of its greater neighbors. I was staying at the Lake Louise campground with Mike and his family, so while they did “family things,” I rode over to the ski area, then circled around its right side up a steep dirt road, continuing several miles past the gate. Just beyond the trailhead sign, the road turns dramatically worse and a trail takes off climbing gently up Corral Creek. I locked my bike to itself next to the “no bikes” sign, then took off hiking and jogging up the popular trail.

Cutthroat trout are not mean-spirited!

Though it is only a few miles from the trailhead (or several more without a bike), the trail junction below the pass is a popular developed campsite, and there were a half-dozen “bear piñatas” hanging from a metal pole, a couple of tables, and tents at a number of the sites. I hiked through, quietly shaking my head at people who choose to lug a bunch of gear a few miles in order to sleep badly amongst the bears and rodents, and continued to Hidden Lake, where the official trail ends. I saw no one fishing or ahead of me on the route to the peak, deepening my incomprehension of the tents. I did, however, appreciate the cutthroat trout interpretive signs, informing me that they are not named for their vicious nature.

Temple, Hungabee, Lefroy, Victoria

Though there is no real use trail, I found some signs of traffic as I continued past the lake and up to the saddle on Richardson’s south ridge. The ridge itself was mostly easy, with a couple rock bands that I could probably have avoided, but which I took on more directly to add some scrambling. Along the way I stumbled upon a herd of mountain goats, who sullenly shuffled out of my way, then gave me dirty goat-looks as I passed. The upper mountain was a pile of horrible loose scree, so I instead climbed a steeper rock buttress to the right, then hiked back left to the summit. It was thankfully not smoky, and the view back to Lake Louise, Temple, and its neighbors was as fine as anticipated. Hector dominated the view to the northwest, though I did not recognize it from this angle, and beyond I could see the Wapta and Waputik Icefields.

Skoki Lakes

Rather than returning directly, I headed down the east ridge toward Pika and Ptarmigan Peaks, two sub-summits in the Richardson massif. The initial descent was mostly annoying dinner-plate talus, with one step that required a bit of scrambling. From the saddle, I found bits of trail and some scrambling leading to Pika. Though it is a lower summit than Richardson, Pika lies on the other side of the “Wall of Jericho,” a choss-fin pointing northeast, so it looks down onto the colorful Skoki Lakes, fed and colored by two small glaciers on Ptarmigan’s north side.

Hidden Lake and Temple from Pika

Dow Williams mentions traversing to Ptarmigan, but my brief exploration of the ridge toward it led to scary choss with dim prospects for continuing. I instead retreated to before the saddle with Richardson, where a goat/use trail makes a descending traverse along the base of the cliffs above Hidden Lake. Once past Pika and the nasty notch on its east side, I could have climbed Ptarmigan from the traverse, but it looked like a thousand feet of wretched scree, and I was not feeling sufficiently motivated. Instead I headed down to Hidden Lake, where I picked up the trail back through the campground. Feeling energetic, I jogged much of the way back to my bike, passing a few hikers in both directions. Back at the trailhead, the Arc’teryx puffy I had found in the morning was still where I had left it, so I considered it fair booty and a fine Canadian souvenir. I joyously flew down the dirt road, pitying the bike-less walkers, and returned to the Lake Louise campground by mid-afternoon, with plenty of time to shower and relax.

One response to “Richardson, Pika

  1. Bob Argiropoulos says:

    Hi Sean, sad to see you go but hopefully we will see you up here sooner rather than later, barring another pandemic. You accomplished more in a month than some of us do in years. Regarding this post, those were fun peaks for me done in two outings, Richardson and Ptarmigan first. The ridge between Richardson and Pika was snow covered, bad weather and in runners, so I dropped down to the lake after Richardson and headed up Ptarmigan. Pika was a one-off. Thought you should know that the Skoki lakes are named after the plants Zigadenus and Myosotis. Both sound like ominous genetic terms. Take care and happy peak bagging. Bob

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