Cockscomb Mountain
A few years ago, some friends lent me a book called Rice Crust From The Bottom Of The Pot:  A Journey Across South East Asia.  Written by a Calgarian named Parry Loeffler, the book chronicles his adventures in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.  At the time, my reading interests were heavily centered on mountaineering disasters and cannibalism, and as a result, I did not greet his book with a great deal of enthusiasm.  In fact, I put his book on the back burner for a few months before I finally got around to reading it.  By the time I was finished though, I was intrigued by all the exotic places Parry had visited (and all the food he had eaten!).  More importantly, I was impressed by his courage to leave the proverbial Rat Race behind to pursue his dreams.  I could relate to Parry's philosophical outlook on life, but I had no idea that we also shared a common passion for climbing mountains.  Having stumbled onto my website, Parry recently contacted me and suggested hooking up to do a scramble together.  This was tougher than it sounds, but on 22 October 2006, the stars and planets were aligned just right for me to join him on a group trip up Cockscomb Mountain in Banff National Park.  The others in the group were Mike Fisher, Kari Hass, Jen Robinson and Phil Walters.

The morning got off to a rather inauspicious start.  Parry had suggested that we all meet at Phil's house but inadvertently gave everyone the wrong address--actually a non-existent one!  Miraculously, we all somehow managed to find Phil's house anyway, and after agreeing that this was likely the crux of the entire trip, we all piled into two cars and headed out to the mountains.

Parry had gotten the idea to scramble up Cockscomb Mountain from Bob Spirko, and we essentially followed the same route with some minor deviations.  After a fairly long and tedious approach through forest and up Ranger Creek, we ascended a broad, open gully to climber's left of Bob's route.  A light dusting of snow made the already loose rubble here even more slippery, and consequently, the footing was terrible.  Halfway up the gully, the group split in half with Mike, Parry and Jen scrambling over steep terrain onto an adjacent ridge (rejoining Bob's route) while Kari, Phil and I continued up to a high col at GR891773.  From the col, the three of us bypassed a gendarme before scrambling up a rather challenging ridge to a shoulder just north of a false summit.  The other three awaited us there.  From the shoulder, we all proceeded easily over the false summit and reached the true summit shortly thereafter.

On descent, we retraced our steps back to the shoulder and then dropped down to tree line while angling over to a narrow gully on skier's left.  Unlike our ascent gully, this gully is guarded on the sides by steep slabs, and we had some trouble getting down here.  The grassy slopes in the trees were so steep and slippery that I considered donning my crampons.  With six of us descending here, rockfall was also a serious hazard.  Remarkably, we all managed to drop down into the gully unscathed.  Though we ended up a little further northwest on the highway from where we parked our cars, our hike out Ranger Creek was largely uneventful (round-trip time was a little over 9.5 hours).  While Cockscomb Mountain is not likely to make many peak-baggers' top ten lists, the views from the summit are surprisingly good, and on this day, it was my pleasure to scramble with some fine company.
Much nicer to look at than to scramble up! The morning sun lights up Pilot Mountain.
Bushwhacking seems so much more fun in a large group! The group endures some light bushwhacking.
Hardly seemed necessary for such a short distance. Parry carefully crosses a man-made boardwalk.
I wouldn't put a lot of faith in this ladder--the bottom rung had already snapped in two! Jen descends a rickety old ladder while Parry and Mike wait below.
The novelty of rock-hopping up the creek wears thin pretty quickly. The group tramps up alongside Ranger Creek.
Since views are limited, it's the little things that keep you going up Ranger Creek. An ice curtain forms below a log.
Another peak that is nicer to look at than to scramble up! Mount Ball is one of the first peaks visible to the west as the views begin to open up near the head of the valley.
It's steeper than it looks! Mike heads up steep, snowy terrain.
Phil actually left his trekking poles behind at one point and had to backtrack a long way to retrieve them! Phil and Kari slog up a long and slippery slope of rubble.
That east ridge looks rather scary from this perspective! The sight of Mount Ishbel alleviates some of the misery in climbing Cockscomb Mountain.
Kari, Phil and I would circumvent this obstacle on the right. An ominous-looking gendarme blocks the ridge north of Cockscomb Mountain's false summit.
This would have been a very nice day to go up Cascade Mountain--clear skies, no bugs, no tourists! The south end of Cascade Mountain can be seen to the east.
Hardly the walk-up we were all expecting! Kari watches as Phil scrambles up a slippery corner to bypass the gendarme.
They took Bob Spirko's ascent route...mostly. Parry (left) and Jen ascend an adjacent ridge to the west.
Anyone wanna scramble Mount Ishbel with me? Here is the view to the northwest showcasing Mount Ishbel's south ridge.  Eisenhower Tower (Castle Mountain) and Mount Temple are also visible in the distance at centre.
The rest of the ascent is straightforward. Mike charges up the false summit of Cockscomb Mountain.
This was the most enjoyable part of the ascent. The true summit is a short distance away.
Easier than it looks. The group climbs up the final slope.
Mount Norquay is also visible in the middle foreground. The most striking view from the summit of Cockscomb Mountain is that of Mounts Fifi and Louis to the southeast.  Mount Rundle dominates the horizon.
Looks just like a COC group summit photo, n'est-ce pas? Standing around a kneeling Sonny on the 2776-metre summit of Cockscomb Mountain are (L to R) Phil, Kari, Parry, Jen and Mike.
Thank goodness Parry didn't get a shot of me falling on my butt! Sonny descends from the false summit.
Photo courtesy of Parry Loeffler
It's probably best to stick to the ridge crest all the way down. The group descends the ridge that Mike, Parry and Jen came up.
Again, it's the little things that keep you going down Ranger Creek... There are some interesting ice formations in Ranger Creek on this day.
She looks like she actually enjoyed this scramble! Jen is all smiles upon arriving back at the cars.