After Kelly Wood and I hooked up with Kelly's brother, Chris Wood, the
previous night in Jasper, Alberta, we all set off on 4 June 2005 to bag
nearby Hawk Mountain. On the way in, we somehow missed the good
trail heading upward from the historic Overlanders Route and had to
bushwhack through a mess of fallen timber to get back on track.
When we finally reached the crux chimney, Chris opted to ascend the
exposed ledges to the right. Kelly attempted to follow Chris, but
feeling uncomfortable with the exposure, she backed off and decided to
turn around for the day. I tried the chimney and barely made it up
on a few small friction holds. Above the chimney, Chris and I
scrambled up more steep and rocky terrain until we eventually gained the
crest of the northwest ridge. Other than the overall length of the
remainder of the route, we had no further difficulties as we ascended
interestingly varied terrain en route to the summit.
After spending about half an hour at the summit, we began our long
descent back down the ridge. With numerous flagging and cairns
along the route, we had no trouble retracing our steps. We took a
short rest break at the cairn just before the route drops down the west
face from the ridge. As mentioned already, the terrain here is
steep with not a lot of room to manoeuvre. A few minutes after we
began descending this section, Chris turned a corner and suddenly stopped
dead in his tracks. I was a few steps behind him and heard him make
an exclamation of surprise. Then I heard a growl coming from
somewhere below us. Chris instantly turned around and started
running back up the trail, and a split second later, I saw a big, black
and brown bear snorting loudly and charging toward us at an alarming
speed! My first instinct was to run like hell back up the way we
came, but as I began doing so, I quickly glanced over and saw that Chris
had run off into the trees near the corner and the bear was now closing
in on me. I had no hope of outrunning the bear, so I immediately
ducked behind the closest tree. My only thought was to keep the
tree between the bear and myself, and as the bear came around the upslope
side of the tree, I grabbed some branches and swung around the down-slope
side. Instead of chasing me around the tree though, the bear kept
running up the trail and soon disappeared from sight. The whole
encounter probably lasted only 10 or 15 seconds. After uttering a
few expletives, I heard Chris call out to me, and I quickly stumbled over
to where he had run off the trail. Uncertain of the bear's
whereabouts, we took a few minutes to collect ourselves before we
cautiously ventured back onto the trail to continue our descent.
||Chris and Kelly check out one of the
popular rock climbing spots near the trail head. The Palisade
dominates the view across the Athabaska River.
||The scramble route for the lower half
of Hawk Mountain is shown. The letter C marks the location of
||Kelly waits as Chris surveys the
ledges to the right of the chimney.
||Chris and Kelly begin ascending the
airy ledges. Kelly would turn around here.
||Chris ascends the steep terrain above
the crux chimney.
||Hawk Mountain's summit is still a long ways off from this vantage point.
||Along the ridge, there are numerous
false summits such as this one.
||This is the main summit block
of Hawk Mountain.
||This section provides the most
enjoyable scrambling of the day with lots of possible route
||Chris works his way up the slabs.
The Athabaska River is visible far below.
||Chris takes the last few steps to the
||Sonny and Chris stand on the
2553-metre summit of Hawk Mountain.
||This is Pyramid Mountain as seen from
Hawk Mountain's summit.
||Chris tries to suck the residual
moisture from the register canister as he begins to run low on water.
||The striking peak to the northwest is
Roche de Smet.
||This is Mount Colin with the
connecting ridge from Hawk Mountain visible in the foreground.
The Mount Colin Centennial Hut is somewhere in that patch of trees at
crux chimney, we easily descended the exposed ledges that Chris had
ascended earlier in the day and followed a good trail out to the
Overlanders Route. Kelly was getting a little anxious by the time
we rejoined her not far from the trail head. Our round-trip time
ended up being just a little under 10 hours.
The following day, we reported the bear encounter to a warden at the
Jasper Information Centre. I am still not certain if it was a
grizzly or black bear, but I do remember that its coat was black with
some brown fringes and that it looked frighteningly big. After much
discussion, we concluded that the bear must have wandered down the
scrambles route from the ridge above some time after Chris and I had
passed through on our way up the peak (we didn't notice any diggings or
fresh scat at anytime). When we surprised the bear, its instinct
was probably to escape, but because of the steep terrain, its only escape
route was up the trail that Chris and I were descending. In light
of the killing of a woman by a grizzly bear in Canmore that same weekend,
I feel very fortunate that nothing more serious or tragic resulted from
our chance encounter.
||Three mountain goats pose for a
photograph near the summit.
||In this view from the upper ridge, the
top of Morro Peak is barely visible at lower left.
The distant clouds clear briefly to reveal Mount Edith Cavell.
||Moments after the bear encounter,
Chris sits down on the steep slope to try and catch his breath and
calm his nerves. This is roughly at the spot labelled with the
letter B in the earlier route photo.
||Chris descends the ledges beside the
||Here is another look at Hawk Mountain