2 April 2016
With Priyesh & Wen
We were looking for an easy objective and a relatively stress-free day, but also wanted a bit of an adventure – or at least something off the beaten track that would involve a little bit of exploration. Enter Thrift Peak! Not the most obvious of choices, but I suggested to try it out after I had gone up Thunder Mountain a few weeks earlier, which lies just to the south of Thrift. My suggestion also appealed to both Priyesh and Wen because it involved a short river crossing at the beginning and end – I guess it must be a psychological barrier that either keeps people away, or draws people to it because they know there’s fewer people and more to explore behind it.
We parked at “the Gap”, that windy corner where the Maycroft Road hits the Front Ranges and makes a sharp bend around the northern edge of Thunder Mountain. There was a large pull-out on the left side of the road where we parked our car. From the road overlooking the river, it looked like there were tons of big boulders that would allow us to just rock-hop across the water, but upon closer inspection and some erring around, this wasn’t the case unfortunately. There were lots of boulders, but there was always a gap somewhere that was a bit too wide to jump. So we had no choice but to take off our shoes and wade the river. It was so cold, it almost froze my brain! Priyesh and Wen were so relieved when they reached the other side and had it behind them, they started screaming for joy!
The hike after the river led us through a flat expanse of golden grass fields and small patches of light forest on a good track that took us north, parallel to the long N-S ridge that culminates in Thrift Peak. It was lovely here – peaceful, quiet, and the grade was gentle as the track narrowed and slowly led us up a long valley to the col between Thrift Peak and Camp Ridge. The only creatures temporarily disturbing our peace were ticks – we sat down for a quick snack and before we knew it there were a whole bunch crawling around us! So if you hike in the area in the spring, make sure you watch out for ticks and check yourself once you get back to your car and also when you get home.
The only tricky part of our trip was between the col and the ridge itself. Although really short, this section took us forever! Lingering snow made tromping up the slope a nuisance at first, but was downright exhausting higher up and made us wonder whether we could even continue. Wading through waist-deep snow between the trees was slowing us down, and it was a lot of work! But by taking turns breaking a path through the forest and up the final slope we managed to gain the ridge crest just metres away from the fire lookout hut – the summit of Thrift Peak. It was a sunny and warm day, so trudging up in the snow was a real workout and we were quite sweaty once we arrived at the summit. Because of all the wet snow our feet were just soaked… and every step squishy!
I had been looking for a nice extended hike that would take us south along the ridge, then back down to the river to complete a loop. The ridge walk, however, was disappointing. There was no trail to speak of (perhaps it was simply hidden under the snow), and the ridge crest itself was mostly treed, not bare rock as I had anticipated. Lots of small detours around dense patches of trees and some bushwhacking was the order of the day along this ridge, which also had an annoying propensity for unnecessary elevation gains and losses. Priyesh seemed unfazed by all of this; once he took the lead, he just marched on and gave Wen and me the much needed motivation to keep on going. We followed the ridge for a while until, at a more pronounced dip, there was an opportunity to head down easy slopes to the left. This was a good descent option as the grade was not too steep and the terrain was mostly grassy and only through very light forest in the upper part. Down in the valley we rejoined our ascent path and then only had one last hurdle to worry about: crossing that super cold river again! The execution this time around was much smoother: just don’t think about it too much, keep your boots on, and then steadily march through it as if it’s not an obstacle at all! So if you have a set of old boots, the key is to keep them on during the river crossing as it really helps repel the water in the first seconds and, more importantly, it gives you more traction and hurts less when you stomp across slippery river pebbles.
Thrift Peak wouldn’t be among my top recommendations for a hike (or scramble) in the area. However, I do like the gentle landscape of the Front Ranges in the Livingstone Range and the river crossing was both suffering and enjoyable adventure. In the end, however, it was the company of Priyesh and Wen that made this trip both memorable and thoroughly enjoyable.
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.
IN MEMORIAM: Priyesh Menon
My dear friend and hiking partner Priyesh passed away in a tragic accident on Mount Lawson in Kananaskis on May 23rd, 2016. He was only 30 years old. He touched on countless lives with his most generous and loving spirit that will be remembered by many, many people in Canada, India and around the world. Like many other hikers and scramblers from Calgary, I feel hugely honoured to have met him and to have had the chance to hike with him. To preserve some of the beautiful moments we shared, I have decided to keep the reports of my trips with him on my site (after consultation with his family). We would like people to remember him for who he was: the most joyful, uplifting, kind, and selfless boy who never stopped smiling. As many of his fellow-hikers recounted, he had the unique ability to bring people together and bring positivity into their lives. There was genuine happiness wherever he was. A true ray of sunshine in our world! Thank you, Priyesh, for enriching our lives. You will be dearly missed.