Big Bend Peak
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Big Bend Peak – Columbia Icefields

Scramble: Class 2 – Steep Hiking, Ski poles would be useful, 1,500 ft of very   loose scree on the Outlier

Class 3 for First Big Gully, quite a bit of hands down, gully may require crampons and ice axe later in the season

Highlights

This scramble offers big mountain views of Andromeda, Athabasca, Mt. Bryce, Mt Saskatchewan and many others. This is a scramblers scramble as most of the route is off trail with a steep unrelenting gully and substantial scree bashing on the big Outlier.

Perseverance would be a good quality to have for this one!

The Outlier with an ocean of scree can be seen above. True summit is further back and 800 feet higher. Little did I know what lay ahead after 2 hours sleep and leaving Calgary at 5am for the 3 hour drive

The bridge that takes you to the left side of the river. Cross there and hang a right.

Highway 93 is just above the gravel road, go to Big Bend parking area turn around and come back to exit into this spot

Grant or "Granticulous" is a strong scrambler used to doing long days, difficult scrambles and multi peaks in a day. I am glad the Lord sent him along on this one.

As we head up the wash a view of the small parking area.

As one approaches the trees there is a distinct trail that goes left and through the two bump treed moraine over to the main outwash of the Saskatchewan glacier. If you find yourself too far right and going toward the out flow of the river head back left along the trees until you find the path

On the good trail

As the trail comes out into the open and starts to descend this is the left turn up the slope and into the first big gully. It is a lot steeper and longer than it looks.

Unexplored possible alternative route angling left up to cliff base and onto treed slope

Approaching the big gully entrance, quite a steep hike even to this point

Good idea of the slope perhaps around 40 degrees. Mt Athabasca behind.

Grant ascending with a hand down, steeper than it looks

AA in the gully beginning the suffer fest!

AA nearing the top of the gully, still hands down! Unrelentingly steep!

Look back down where we left the trail, way steeper than it looks

After some gentler ridge terrain through the trees, the last big hump before the Outlier

Very foreshortened slope here

Looks pretty loose doesn't it

Just before the start of the Outlier a nice view of Mt Athabasca with Andromeda peeking out to the left and Hilda Peak to the right

Just before the Outlier is Mt Saskatchewan to the left

Looking back from the scree field on the Outlier

Grant just a small anomaly in an ocean of scree!! No good footing anywhere! Two poles may have been better here than the one pole I had

From the top of the Outlier still a ways to go

Took a break in the cool cleft of the rock contemplating whether to go on. Grant is already at the summit. A bottle of water, shot bloks and a power gel provided some restoration in the heat of the day. Had seriously thought of retiring on this spot.

The decision to plod on to make the suffer fest worthwhile

One small section at a time is how to do it

The scenery and spirits are improving

Grant just at the false summit, true summit not too much further. Grant came back down to hike the last part together

The summit block finally appears, just a few more steps

Haze from BC starting to enter from the west :( but its Mt Bryce in the distant center

Mt Columbia in the distant, quite a bit of haze now

Mt King Edward

AA with Mt Bryce behind

AA with Andromeda and Mt Athabasca

Closer view of Andromeda and Mt Athabasca

Another view of Mt Saskatchewan

Grant back at the Outlier on the way down, nice back drops all day

Long ways back still but the scree running was good.

One tough gulley left and it's saunter down the trail time

Whew! What a day! Al heads home!

Big Bend Peak - Columbia Icefields

Scramble: Class 2 – Steep Hiking, Ski poles would be useful, 1,500 ft of very loose scree on the Outlier

Class 3 for First Big Gully, quite a bit of hands down, gully may require crampons and ice axe later in the season

Altitude: 2,814m (9,230 ft)

Elevation Gain: 1,100m (3,610 ft)

Ascent Time: 4 to 5 hours

Best Season to Scramble: End of June to October

Highlights

This scramble offers big mountain views of Andromeda, Athabasca, Mt. Bryce, Mt Saskatchewan and many others. This is a scramblers scramble as most of the route is off trail with a steep unrelenting gully and substantial scree bashing on the big Outlier.

Perseverance would be a good quality to have for this one!

Getting There

Head west out of Calgary on the TransCanada highway # 1 to Lake Louise 187km (116.9 miles). Continue west on the TransCanada for another 2.5km and take the Icefield Parkways / Jasper exit (highway 93) going north. Head north approx 112km (70 miles) to just before you ascend to the Columbia Icefields as the road does the "Big Bend". Pull off into the Big Bend parking area and head south back the way you came for perhaps a km+ and take the small right hand turn into the trailhead for the Saskatchewan Glacier, you should see a small bridge to walk across to get to the left side of the river flow.

Route Description

Cross the bridge and head down the left aside of the wash or up on the bank there is a parallel foot trail also and head towards the treed moraine which is near the Big Bend parking and viewing area. Big Bend is above you and slightly left with the large Outlier looming. The true summit is yet aways behind the Outlier.

As you approach the trees on the wash there are some sporadic cairns and a left hand turn into the trees on a trail. If you are heading towards the outflow area of the Saskatchewan river you have gone too far right and need to go along the trees back left till you find the trail heading into the trees. This trail takes you up over the 2 humps of the treed moraine and into the large outwash area of the Saskatchewan glacier.

As the trail opens up and begins to descend into the large outwash area the ascent route we took climbs the steep open slopes to your left and into the first large gully. From the trail to the top of the gully is about 1,000 feet elevation gain of steep quad burning effort. The slope in the gully is quite hard packed and barely gives purchase when you have a good boot kicked or edged into it. Extra effort required. The left side of the gully is the side to ascend as it is the least steep. Care is required when going up and down the gully to hike side by side or close together or move up and stop as next one moves ups. Knocking down a loose rock on those below could easily be fatal with the steepness of the grade.

There may have been an easier route up to the face then left over to gain the treed slope but we did not explore. Another half kilometer down the big outwash there may be another spot where one could do an ascending traverse from right to left but we did not explore this either.

Once on the ridge proper there is a bit of navigating through the trees and up over a rocky hump area until you approach the big Outlier. It’s about 1,800 feet from the top of the gully to the top of the Outlier. The Outlier itself is about 1,400 feet of very loose scree that is annoying to say the least. Perseverance necessary here in large measure. From the top of the Outlier the way is straightforward with a short dip of 60 feet then skirting gendarmes on the left for another 800 feet to the summit. Return the same way.