Indian Head

Indian Head from near saddle

[More Canadian catch-up. — ed.]

Indian Head is a prominent peak southeast of Windermere along US/Canada Highway 93, which runs west of the Rockies and up the Columbia Trench. After my desire to climb Mount Farnham was thwarted by the lingering fire in Horsethief Creek (which I had seen blow up on the return from Sir Douglas some weeks earlier), I panned around on Peakbagger and picked out Indian Head at random as a last-minute alternative. It has almost 4000 feet of prominence, and had a trip report with a GPX track. As it turns out, it also seems to be a locally popular peak, with a deteriorating logging road leading to an excellent trail leading above treeline.

Well-maintained trail

Rather than fight with the deteriorating road, I parked near a slash pile just off the pavement, then took off up the dirt road by bike. It quickly deteriorated to the point where my car would have been unhappy, but remained drivable for quite awhile as it climbed steadily up above Madias Creek. There are many branching roads, but fortunately I had the GPX track for the hike itself, and my offline maps were accurate enough to lead me along the correct route. The road slowly deteriorated as it climbed, though I continued to see tire tracks surprisingly far up. After a significant descent, a washout blocked anything larger than a quad from continuing, but fortunately I was on a bike. I carried my bike across, then continued. I finally reached a well-developed campsite with a fire ring, benches, and woodpile, continuing a short distance farther before the trail became too steep for cycling to make sense. I simply leaned my bike against a tree — who else would be up here? — and began hiking.

Upper scramble

I was expecting some sort of western Rockies thrash, but the old quad track was in good shape. Where it ended, a good trail continued through the woods, with logs and branches sawn, and enough wear to indicate regular use. The trail climbed steeply to the saddle with Peak 2339, then turned left to ascend Indian Head’s west ridge. The trees thinned, and I eventually emerged in the alpine, with views of the Purcells behind me and the summit ahead. The trail faded somewhat, dodging and weaving around rocky outcrops on the crest. Sometimes I followed it, and sometimes I scrambled straight up the rock, which was never harder than class 4.

Distant high Rockies

The peak has two summits, each with its own register. The farther one looked a bit higher, and involved a bit more scrambling along a ridge, none of it particularly difficult. Reaching it, I saw that Indian Head is almost the local “workout peak,” with many ascents each summer. One person had even cycled from Windermere! Mount Harrison and the other high Rockies peaks were visible far to the east, while closer there were exposed layers of Rockies limestone. I took my time on the summit, then retraced my route. Other than the climb back above the valley, the bike descent was fast and fun, just rough enough to keep my mind occupied without being sketchy or slow. Some locals in a side-by-side were the only other people I saw. I returned to my car, then continued the hot drive south along the Columbia and east toward the border and Montana.

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