19 June 2017
There is no denying it, the hiker’s/scrambler’s approach up Mount Lorette and its neighbour Skogan Peak is simply a terrible scree slog. While climbers appear to enjoy good, solid rock along Lorette’s south ridge (YDS up to 5.4 and lots of exposure), an easier and certainly much less elegant way of getting up there is to take the large drainage that comes down the southeastern side of the mountain and almost spills onto Stoney Trail. The route is well described in Nugara’s More Scrambles book.
Using a bike approach from the parking lot near the Nakiska ski resort, I thought I had made some good progress on the first 5 km along Stoney Trail, which is perfect for cycling… only to undo all my work by making a stupid mistake right at the beginning. I locked my bike to a big tree near the trailhead, and seconds later realized I had forgotten the key to the lock in the car. So I had no choice but to add on an extra 10 km walk at the end of the day, which wasn’t a pleasant thought to carry around while climbing the mountain for the next 8 hours. Well, some bonus exercise in beautiful Kananaskis, I told myself, so it wasn’t that bad.
The approach in the drainage took much longer than I had expected. If there is a definition of foreshortening, this is it! There is a decent trail that has formed in the rubble, so all you have to do is put your head down and trudge on. Nobody else was around on this Monday morning so I switched to autopilot mode and just kept on tramping up. It gets steeper and looser near the top of the col and on to the first high point, but it’s really just an easy hike on unpleasant terrain.
From the high point to the summit I stuck to the ridge as much as possible and quite enjoyed the hands-on scrambling that some of the narrow sections and nubs offered. There is a beaten trail just below most of the ridge crest that avoids any narrow or exposed sections, which to my surprise would actually put the entire route into the easy category – contrary to Nugara’s “moderate” rating. You barely need your hands if you stick to the paths that have developed, it’s simply a walk along a moderate incline covered in solid rock, some scree and some grassy bits. After a short summit stay, I chose the easy route back to the high point.
The highlight of the day was definitely the traverse over to Skogan Peak. It looks a bit intimidating from a distance with its steep south face and craggy ridge, and it’s also 160 m higher. The ridge walk starts off easy, but soon becomes more demanding where the ridge crest narrows. There’s lots of room for variation and I really enjoyed the route finding and scrambling challenges along the way. There were a few cairns that helped and I built a few of my own to facilitate my return, but the terrain is complex and there’s lots of ups and downs over small bumps and inclined ribs and gullies. Much of the rock is very solid and a joy to climb over, other parts are full of loose rubble strewn over slanted slabs of limestone that require slow and careful movements. Once up on the false summit, the hardest parts were over and it was an easy scramble over to the true summit. Needless to say, the views are gorgeous here as Skogan is one of the highest peaks in the area. It also offers a unique perspective of Heart Mountain/Grant MacEwan Peak, the Twin Towers and Mary Barclay’s Mountain to the N and NE.
The return trip along the ridge was at least as enjoyable as the ascent. I stayed a little higher in some sections, trying to stick to the ridge crest whenever I could unless the overhangs or drop-offs got too serious. The cairns certainly made it easier, although there’s lots of different ways to tackle this terrain and good route finding skills are definitely a bonus.
After the long trudge back down the scree drainage and along Stoney Trail to my car (and back to my bike again!), I could only conclude that Skogan Peak is what really made this trip interesting and worthwhile. Mount Lorette on its own is hardly anything special and really didn’t stand out to me. If you have the energy for a longer day and are interested in more demanding scrambling, then combining Lorette with Skogan is definitely the way to go.
DISCLAIMER: Use at your own risk for general guidance only! Do not follow this GPX track blindly but use your own judgement in assessing terrain and choosing the safest route.