Warrior Mountain And Mount Cordonnier
When Linda Breton proposed a group backpacking/scrambling trip to Aster Lake in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park for the weekend of 21-23 July 2006, I was less than enthusiastic about participating.  I had previously backpacked into Aster Lake and vividly remembered the horrendous thrash to get around Hidden Lake which was full to the brim.  I was counting more on a return visit in autumn when Hidden Lake would likely be drained and easier to cross.  The initial response to Linda's proposed trip from the Rocky Mountain Books WebForum was quite overwhelming, but Linda could only book camp spots for one night, 22 July 2006.  As the date drew near, only Dave MacDonald was committed to joining Linda for the trip.  In support of Linda, I decided to join them and even managed to drag my friend, Dan Millar, to come along.  Much to Dan's chagrin, we decided on a pre-dawn start in order to beat the midday heat and to also allow us time for peak-bagging later in the day.

On 22 July 2006, I crawled out of bed at about 1:30 AM and was already wondering if three hours of sleep would sustain me for the long day ahead.  After picking up Linda and Dan, I drove us out to the trailhead, and we were a little surprised that Dave was nowhere in sight.  As we began gearing up, Dave's car suddenly pulled into the parking lot; he had been waiting for us at the wrong trailhead!  We were finally on our way by 5:15 AM and ploughed through a gauntlet of annoying invisible spider webs all along the south shore of Upper Kananaskis Lake.  Reaching the north end of Hidden Lake at 7:00 AM, I was not surprised but still disappointed to find that the lake was full.  We took to the bushy and deadfall-choked trail winding and undulating around the east shore, and thankfully, the great company alleviated some of the misery.  After reaching the south end of Hidden Lake and climbing up through the trees, we took a break at 9:00 AM at the base of the rubble slope below the headwall guarding Aster Lake.  A large group of day hikers doing the Northover Ridge loop passed us here, and I watched with some dismay as they waltzed up the rubble slope with seemingly little effort.  It took us an hour to climb up the headwall at which point the sun was beginning to take its toll on us.  We reached Aster Lake campground by 11:25 AM, and after setting up camp, we all had a snack and promptly took a nice long nap in the shade.

Some time later, we all woke up and began organizing ourselves to scramble up Warrior Mountain and possibly Mount Cordonnier.  We left camp at about 2:15 PM and hiked around the south shore of Aster Lake before heading across the river flats to the base of Warrior Mountain.  The heat of the day was becoming unbearable as we scrambled up the lower slopes, and about halfway up the mountain, Linda and Dan decided to turn around.  I was not feeling particularly energetic myself, but in my mind, I had already resolved on bagging both peaks.  I pushed on with Dave up to the foot of the remnant glacier hugging the east side of Warrior Mountain.  Clear patches of ice attested to the fact that this indeed was a glacier and not just a snowfield.  Dave and I donned our crampons and began trudging up the glacier where we met a roped party of four and a dog on their way down.   It only took us about twenty minutes to climb up the glacier, and after removing our crampons, Dave and I slogged our way up scree for another thirty minutes before reaching the top of Warrior Mountain at 5:30 PM.  I was so exhausted that I actually caught myself falling asleep a couple of times while trying to sign the summit register!  I did eventually doze off with dreams of climbing Mount Cordonnier...

Check out Dave's trip report and photos here.
Actually, it was already light enough to hike without a headlamp. Linda, Dan and Dave get ready to set off from the parking lot in the dark.
Dave calls the undulating, deadfall-choked trail around the lake "The Steeplechase"--an apt description. Hidden Lake is unfortunately full to the brim.  The headwall guarding Aster Lake is visible beyond.
The horror...the horror... Dave looks back along one of the "tamer" sections of the trail around Hidden Lake.
It's a good thing that the hot sun hasn't hit this section yet. The group begins the steep climb up the headwall.
We're now about 4.5 hours into the trip. This is looking down on Hidden Lake from further up the headwall.  On the horizon are (L to R) Mount Warspite, Mount Invincible and Mount Indefatigable.
Not exactly easy with a full backpack but infinitely more enjoyable than the thrash around Hidden Lake. The group scrambles up a rock band near the top of the headwall.
Whew.  I'm tired already. Dan and Dave pause at the top of the headwall.  In the distance are Mount Cordonnier and Warrior Mountain.
Lotsa annoying mosquitoes here. After setting up camp, the group hikes around the south end of Aster Lake.  Mount Sarrail is visible at far left.
Looks scary, doesn't it? This is Mount Northover as seen from the river flats west of Aster Lake.
Take the boots off, or just slosh through? Dan looks a bit nonplussed as he fords one of the braided streams.
Just run through real quick, Linda, and you won't get wet! ;-) Linda decides to keep her boots dry while fording.
What a moonscape! Dan and Dave gaze up at Mount Joffre while crossing the river flats.
Can you see that stupid biffy from here? Dan climbs up the lower slopes of Warrior Mountain with Aster Lake in the background.
I was really tired at this point and could hardly keep up with Dave. Dave climbs up typical terrain on Warrior Mountain's lower slopes.
If you look closely, you can barely make out some people at the low notch. This is the remnant glacier hugging the east side of Warrior Mountain.  Dave and Sonny would eventually ascend to the left of the exposed ice patch before angling right toward the low notch on the skyline.
Crampons weren't absolutely necessary to cross the glacier, but they added a measure of security. Dave dons his crampons.
If you look carefully, you can see the party of four (and their dog) in the rocks at upper left. Dave sets foot on a glacier for the first time in his life.
Crossing the glacier was easier than I had expected. Dave approaches the top of the glacier.
Dave thinks it looks like a Sarlaac pit.  Glad to know that I'm not the only scrambling Star Wars geek! Near the top of the glacier is this interesting snow formation.
Quite the demarcation between slab and rubble! Dave trudges up the final slope of Warrior Mountain.  Mount Northover can be seen at far right.
Great effort, Dave! Dave stands beside the summit cairn of Warrior Mountain.
Over 12 hours from the parking lot! Sonny stands on the 2973-metre summit of Warrior Mountain.  Behind him is Mount Joffre.
Looks like a difficult climb... This outlier to the west of Warrior Mountain is known as Waka Nambe.
Northover Ridge looks like it's in great shape too. The view to the north includes Mount Northover (right), Mount Sir Douglas (distant middle) and Mount Assiniboine (very distant far left).
I think I can still see that biffy.  What an eyesore! To the east are Aster Lake and Mount Sarrail.
I'm getting sleepy... Mount Joffre dominates the view to the south.  At right is Mount Cordonnier.
Looks pretty bone-dry. Here is another look at Mount Northover.
After my short nap on the summit of Warrior Mountain, I turned my attention to Mount Cordonnier.  Dave opted to return to camp, so we parted ways after descending to the low point of the connecting ridge between Warrior Mountain and Mount Cordonnier.  Aside from my fatigue, I had no problems traversing the ridge.  I reached the top of Mount Cordonnier at 7:55 PM, and despite a chilly wind, I managed to squeeze in another summit nap before commencing my descent at about 8:30 PM.  Taking Alan Kane's alternate descent route, I enjoyed a superb glissade down a big snow patch before hiking down successive benches of rubble and snow.  It was already quite dark by the time I crossed the river flats, but I could still see the trail around the south shore of Aster Lake well enough to hike without my headlamp.  The unrelenting mosquitoes were a real nuisance though and marred what was otherwise a very pleasant hike back to camp.  When I returned to camp, I decided to forego dinner and just drank some juice before changing into fresh clothes and crawling into the tent I was sharing with Linda and Dan.  Dan, half asleep, asked me if I was "beat", and I simply replied, "I'm beyond beat."  I looked at my watch which read 11:15 PM before pulling my sleeping bag over me and closing my eyes.  It had been a very long day.
Ugh.  Looks like quite a long haul to get there, and it's already 6:13 PM. The connecting ridge to Mount Cordonnier is clear of snow on this day.
Can you spot Dave crossing the glacier? This is the view of the remnant glacier from along the connecting ridge between Warrior Mountain and Mount Cordonnier.
Steer clear of the Sarlaac pit, Dave! Here is a close-up of Dave crossing the glacier.
Any snow would make this particular knife-edge quite dangerous to traverse. Parts of the connecting ridge are surprisingly narrow and exposed.
If I wasn't so tired, this ridge walk would actually be quite enjoyable. This is looking back at Warrior Mountain (centre) from further along the connecting ridge.
The summit is only another twenty minutes away. Sonny continues along the undulating ridge to the summit.
This was the only time I actually felt cold all weekend. Sonny holds up the register canister on the 3021-metre summit of Mount Cordonnier.
Not the best time of day for photographing The Royal Group. Mount King George and The Royal Group look rather ominous under the evening clouds.
It took me about an hour and forty minutes to go from summit to summit. This is the view north from Mount Cordonnier's summit.
Makes the long slog worthwhile I guess. Mount Joffre and Mount Mangin look great late in the day.
Looks like strawberry ice cream...mmmmm... Alpenglow lights up Mount Joffre.
I had a great glissade down that snow patch in the middle. This is looking back up Kane's alternate descent route.
A beautiful end to a long and tiring day! Mount Northover is silhouetted against a beautiful evening sky.