Mount McPhail And Mount Muir
In our camp at the headwaters of McPhail Creek in Alberta's Kananaskis Country, Zosia Zgolak and I woke up to an overcast sky on the morning of 13 July 2016.  We had made plans that day to ascend Mount McPhail and possibly Mount Muir, but during breakfast, those plans seemed like wishful thinking given the deteriorating weather.  Rather than spend all day cooped up inside a tent, we decided to at least get a little exercise and hike up to Weary Creek Gap as per Gillean Daffern's description in Kananaskis Country Trail Guide.

Between the wet vegetation along the trail and a light rain that began to fall, Zosia and I were both slowly getting soaked as we climbed the headwall guarding Weary Creek Gap.  At the top of the headwall, we circled around the north side of an unnamed tarn and began traversing across a large scree slope below the southeast face of Mount McPhail.  Although a light rain continued to fall, we were both feeling pretty good here and decided to forego Weary Creek Gap and take a stab at ascending Mount McPhail.  As we had expected from Andrew Nugara's route description in More Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies, much of the ascent of Mount McPhail is a long and wearisome scree slog made all the less appealing by the wet drizzle and the complete lack of views on this day.  Despite slippery rocks and low visibility, we had no problems navigating through a couple of rock bands just below the summit.

Our summit stay was understandably short, and after signing the register, we made a hasty retreat down the mountain.  As we got lower, the weather showed signs of improvement, and we began entertaining thoughts about ascending Mount Muir which is also described in Nugara's book.  We veered westward as we descended and stopped for a break not far from Weary Creek Gap.  By this point, the rain had stopped, and we were even blessed to get a few sunny breaks.  In contrast to the slog up Mount McPhail, the ascent of Mount Muir was a hiker's dream as we followed a series of gentle rises and finished with a very enjoyable ridge walk.

Descending from the top of Mount Muir, we took a shortcut and regained the top of the headwall after working our way down a long scree slope and successive grassy benches.  The only issue we had was trying to cross the outlet stream of the unnamed tarn.  This involved a short but rather awkward thrash through very thick alders covering the stream.  We regained our original access trail immediately after this and had an uneventful hike back to camp.  That evening, Zosia and I enjoyed a well-deserved dinner made all the more satisfying by our accomplishments of the day.

In retrospect, the disappointment of not having any views from the top of Mount McPhail was tempered by a very enjoyable ascent and descent of Mount Muir.  More memorable for me though was the great company I had throughout this adventurous day.  Thank you, Zosia, for your unwavering optimism and enthusiasm!
Just kidding... Sonny grabs a boreal toad for breakfast.
Hmmm...I could be sitting in a nice, dry office typing e-mails right now... Sonny is having second thoughts about scrambling in the rain.  Behind him is Hill Of The Flowers.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Not feeling motivated at this point... Zosia approaches the headwall guarding Weary Creek Gap.
This tarn is virtually surrounded by thick bush--it's not easy to get around it! A tarn sits at the top of the headwall in this view from the southeast slopes of Mount McPhail.
Let the slogging begin... Zosia traverses across a lot of rubble at the foot of Mount McPhail.
Who's idea was this again?? Sonny watches his footing on the rubble slope made slick by rain.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Well, at least I can start using my hands a bit here... Zosia scrambles up the southeast slopes of Mount McPhail.
Well, there's no turning back now! Visibility begins to deteriorate on the upper mountain.
Sorry about the foggy lens, but it's f**cking raining! Zosia works her way up some cliff bands.
We must be nuts! Sonny and Zosia reach the 2889-metre summit of Mount McPhail.
We would aim for that patch of rubble at centre to minimize unnecessary elevation loss. In this view from the southeast slopes of Mount McPhail, Weary Creek Gap is at far left.
The ridge is not as far as it looks! Zosia begins ascending the west ridge of Mount Muir.  The summit is not visible here.
Both the weather and our spirits were improving here! Sunlight falls on Hill Of The Flowers at distant right.
You're looking into British Columbia now. The headwaters of Weary Creek is probably seldom visited.
Very enjoyable hiking here! Zosia heads for a false summit (right).  The true summit of Mount Muir is at left.
It is also possible to bypass the false summit. Zosia climbs up some easy blocks below the false summit.
Zosia has climbed Mount Strachan already. I have some catching up to do! Immediately to the southeast is an unnamed tarn and Mount Strachan.
The summit block reminds me of a squid's head... Zosia ascends the final section of the west ridge.

 Much nicer than Mount McFAIL!

Sonny and Zosia are all smiles on the summit of Mount Muir (2742 metres).


I think Andrew Nugara has bagged most of them though... Most of the peaks of the Highwood Range to the north are unnamed.
Some good scree surfing here! Zosia takes a shortcut down to the headwall (centre).
Yes, she threw her trekking poles down first. Zosia down-climbs some tricky slabs.
Need to go left a bit here to avoid some drop-offs. Zosia continues down easy terrain toward the top of the headwall.
I wouldn't want to ascend Mount Muir this way though! Sonny is pleased with the shortcut that he and Zosia took to descend Mount Muir (approximate route shown).

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

 Looking good, Zosia!

Zosia arrives back at the tarn at the top of the headwall.


So much nicer cooking out here than in the bushes! Sonny cooks up his dinner back at camp.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Lousy start, great finish! Total Distance:  14.7 kilometres
Total Time:  11 hours 44 minutes
Total Elevation Gain:  approximately 1600 metres

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