Beehive Mountain
Not to be confused with the Beehive near Lake Louise, Beehive Mountain is a beautiful peak located near the headwaters of Oldman River in southwest Alberta.  From looking at images of the mountain such as the one published in Gillean Daffern's Kananaskis Trail Guide, I was certain that a scramble route existed for this peak, but surprisingly, there is very little information available on the Internet.  Rick Collier had published a somewhat cursory trip report on in 1991, and I used this in conjunction with images from Google Earth to cobble together a route with specific waypoints to lead me up Beehive Mountain.

Aga Sokolowska joined me for an attempt on Beehive Mountain on 11 July 2015.  We drove up Oldman River Road via Maycroft and SR 940.  The road was partially washed out at one point, but we managed to get around this and drive for another couple of kilometres until we reached the collapsed bridge at Slacker Creek.  A vehicle with very high clearance is required to bypass the collapsed bridge and continue up the road, but since this was our starting point anyway, I simply parked my car just before the bridge.

After walking past a large meadow with good camping sites, Aga and I forded Oldman River and made our way through a marshy fen to the start of an obvious cut line heading westward.  Although it is unclear whether or not this was Collier's approach route, he likely would have looked at the same topo map (82 J/2) and noted the marked trail which coincides with the location of the cut line.  We followed the cut line until it began to turn northward on a high bank overlooking an unnamed creek.  We stayed on the trail as it descended slightly until it seemed reasonable to drop down the bank to cross the creek.  From there, we did some moderate bushwhacking up the far side aiming for a clearing that I had spotted on Google Earth.  Well before we reached the clearing, we stumbled onto an unexpected trail.  This trail is not marked on the topo map, but it appeared to be well-maintained.  We followed the trail up to tree line and ended up on the Great Divide Trail (GDT) without even realizing it.  We briefly hiked the GDT northward before leaving it to climb up an open ridge below Beehive Mountain's northeast face.

Higher up, Aga and I picked up another trail which led us around the north side of Beehive Mountain to a massive west-facing scree slope granting access to the summit ridge.  As we climbed up this slope, a thunderstorm crept into the area, and with it came a steady rain.  About a hundred metres short of the summit, we hunkered down under a short cliff face to try and wait out the storm.  However, this storm would not go away, and when lightning struck the top of a nearby ridge, we quickly pulled the plug on our ascent.  We carefully descended the scree slope and then hurried back around the north side of Beehive Mountain as fast as we could with lightning flashing and thunder crashing all around us.

Once Aga and I got back to the lower trail and descended into the trees, we could relax a bit.  Although it was tempting to follow the mysterious trail out, we were still unsure where it would lead us.  Therefore, we left the trail near where we crossed the unnamed creek and thrashed up the steep bank to regain our original cut line.  Our return from there was straightforward.
Lotsa good camping spots here. Aga begins hiking in the meadows near Slacker Creek.  Beehive Mountain is visible in the distance.
And looks pretty sexy doing it too! ;-) Aga fords Oldman River.
It was a bit disheartening to lose some elevation here and then plunge into the forest for some bushwhacking. This is the view of Beehive Mountain from near where the cut line turns north.
The summit is nearly 700 metres above us here. This is the spot to leave the GDT and head uphill.
Good trail, gorgeous weather...I think we've got this summit... Aga follows a good trail that traverses grassy slopes below the north face of Beehive Mountain.  Ahead is Mount Lyall.
At the time, this seemed like a great idea... Aga enjoys some alpine napping.
Ugh. Aga begins climbing a massive scree slope on the west side of Beehive Mountain.
Child's play for Aga! Some cliff bands higher up help alleviate some of the monotony of the scree bash.
Make no mistake; Aga is one tough cookie! Aga looks up to see how much more suffering she has to endure to reach the top.
She actually looks very comfortable here! Aga relaxes with an apple as she prepares to wait out a passing thunderstorm.
What the heck happened to our sunny skies?? The thunderstorm intensifies over the entire area.

 Why is she still smiling?

Aga huddles under her emergency bivy sack as rain begins to fall.


That was a little too close for comfort! This is moments after lightning struck the top of this ridge immediately to the west of Beehive Mountain.
I'll be back... Despite missing the summit and getting soaked by rain, Sonny and Aga are happy just to make it back to the car safe and sound.
In the weeks after my failed attempt to climb Beehive Mountain, I consulted Dustin Lynx's Hiking Canada's Great Divide Trail and also corresponded with Gillean Daffern to find out more about the enigmatic trail that Aga and I had stumbled across.  I learned that the unnamed creek had a name--Soda Creek--and the trail was known by the same name.  Daffern told me that she had also used the cut line for the approach to Beehive Mountain years ago but admitted that Soda Creek trail might be a better access route.  In the meantime, I also discovered a geocaching web site that mentions using Soda Creek trail for the approach.  Armed with this additional information, I tried to return with Aga and others for another attempt on 19 September 2015, but that trip got derailed before we even reached the trailhead.  I finally returned in earnest on 25 September 2016, and this time, I was accompanied by Zosia Zgolak.

After arriving late and camping the previous night near Oldman River Provincial Recreation Area, Zosia and I ate a quick breakfast at the campground before driving up Oldman River Road.  The washout along the road a few kilometres before our starting point at Slacker Creek was still unrepaired over a year later.  Fortunately, the bypass had not gotten any worse, and I was still able to drive across albeit with a little bit of scraping on the bottom of my Honda CR-V.

From the same spot that I had parked at last year, Zosia and I walked across grassy meadows to the Oldman River and were delighted to find a downed tree spanning the waters.  Our joy was short-lived though as we both found that crossing atop the tree was trickier than expected.  On the far bank, we searched around a bit before finding a trail which paralleled the river.  We followed this trail southward until we reached Soda Creek where we found the start of its namesake trail.

With the exception of a few muddy spots, the Soda Creek trail was in excellent shape overall.  Zosia and I hiked up to the GDT without any issues, and from the junction, we hiked northward for another 200 metres before leaving the trail as before to head up the open ridge northeast of Beehive Mountain.  Unlike my previous trip, the trail which traverses the north side of the mountain was completely covered with snow on this day.  I was still able to discern where the trail went, and the post-holing was not bad.  However, the snow was wind-blown and crusty, and I was concerned about the possibility of encountering icy conditions higher up similar to what I experienced on Mount Kidd South Peak years ago.  As we rounded the north side of the mountain though, my concerns about the snow were quickly forgotten as we were pummeled by powerful winds.  Every step forward now became a struggle as we slowly gained height while traversing toward the vast scree slope on the west side of the mountain.  Although much of the scree slope was plastered with snow, conditions were not yet icy, and the snow made climbing much easier.  Still, the slope was steeper than I remembered, and because of the foreshortened view, it seemed to take an inordinately long time to reach the broad summit ridge.

At this point, the fierce wind was actually at our backs, and I felt like I was being pushed right up the mountain.  At the crest of the summit ridge, the wind was strong enough to knock both Zosia and me off our feet, but we found calmer conditions after stumbling for a few metres to the lee side of the ridge.  It felt like heaven to get out of that wind and warm up a bit in the afternoon sunshine!  The remainder of the ascent is an easy plod, but we tried to minimize our exposure to the wind by staying to the lee side of the summit ridge.  As it turned out, the wind was not as bad at the double summits of equal height, and we were able to prolong our stay there.  Unfortunately, we both forgot to look for a geocache which is supposedly stashed in the summit cairn.

For our descent, Zosia and I retraced our steps almost completely.  We ran into the teeth of the ferocious wind again while dropping down from the summit ridge, but we quickly got through the worst of it by plunge-stepping down the snowy scree slope.  A few steep spots where the snow coverage was thin proved to be a little tricky to descend, but we both managed to get down safely without incident.  The hike back around the north side of the mountain went without a hitch, and it was nice to get out of the wind once we regained the GDT and Soda Creek trail.  The remainder of our hike out was uneventful.

In retrospect, the route up Beehive Mountain turned out to be more challenging to research than to climb, but after all my tribulations, checking this one off my to-do list felt especially gratifying.
Reminds me of North Kintla Creek... Zosia crosses Oldman River on a downed tree au cheval.
No bushwhacking today! The white blaze is a reassuring marker along Soda Creek trail.
And the golden larches are a bonus! Zosia approaches the junction with the GDT under the east face of Beehive Mountain.
Is that roaring sound from the wind? Before leaving the GDT here, Zosia looks north toward Mount Lyall and other peaks along the Continental Divide.
The roaring is getting louder... After leaving the GDT, Zosia climbs up the ridge on the northeast side of Beehive Mountain.
If it's windy, here's your last chance to pee in peace! Behind Zosia is the approach valley (Soda Creek).  Visible on the eastern horizon at right are the Twin Peaks of Cabin Ridge.
The slope seems steeper when it is snow-covered. Sonny follows the snow-covered trail that traverses the slopes below the north face of Beehive Mountain.  Ahead is Mount Lyall.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

We're getting blasted here! Zosia temporarily takes shelter from the wind behind a large rock.
Someone should build some windmills here! A chinook arch forms in the sky above Zosia.
Zosia is as cold as she looks! ;-) Zosia borrows Sonny's mittens so that she can slip in some hot packs to warm her fingers.
Not sure what I hate more--the wind or the lightning... Across the pass is the ridge that was struck by lightning on Sonny's previous trip.
Just keep planting one foot ahead of the other, Zosia! Much of the ascent is a steep grind up endless rubble.

 But it's fairly calm from where I'm taking this photo.

Zosia can barely stand up in the fierce wind as she gains the broad summit ridge.


The Elevators might be worth another look in the future... The Elevators are an uplifting sight to the south.  The top of Tornado Mountain is hidden in clouds just left of centre.
We could actually warm up a bit here in the sunshine. Zosia stays below the crest of the summit ridge to avoid being blown off the mountain.
Sunshine on a summit--how novel! In this view from the top of the west summit, Zosia approaches the cairn on top of the east summit.
This was the only time I used my axe on this day. Zosia and Sonny raise their arms on the east summit of Beehive Mountain (2890 metres).
No short cuts today! Zosia climbs back over the equally high west summit.
We should have brought skis! The snow makes plunge-stepping easy.
The wind seems to have died down a bit here...or maybe we're just used to it now! Zosia stops to re-adjust her gear below the north face of Beehive Mountain.
So glad to be out of that nasty wind! Here is a last look at Beehive Mountain behind some larches.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

She even managed to keep her feet dry! Zosia quickly runs across Oldman River.
All that recent slacklining practice paid off here! Sonny re-crosses Oldman River on the downed tree.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Pick a calm and sunny day to do this one! Total Distance:  15.8 kilometres
Total Time:  8 hours 17 minutes
Net Elevation Gain:  1169 metres

GPX Data