Located about 18 kilometres southeast of Golden,
British Columbia, Kapristo Mountain is the highest peak in the Beaverfoot
Range and has been on my peak-bagging radar for some time. When Josée
Menard and Fabrice Carrara published a trip
for Kapristo Mountain in 2016, they made it sound like a fairly
straightforward outing, and I half-expected a flurry of visits to follow
given how prominent the peak appears along the Trans-Canada Highway
between Field and Golden. As it turned out, their remarkable ascent
failed to inspire much interest beyond myself and Rafal (Raff)
Kazmierczak. After chatting about Kapristo Mountain for a couple of
years, Raff and I finally decided to give the route a go on 22 July 2018.
From the Trans-Canada Highway, take the turnoff to Beaverfoot Road about
30 kilometres west of Field or 26 kilometres east of Golden. The
westbound exit and the eastbound exit join at a T-intersection on the
south side of the Trans-Canada Highway. From there, drive southeast for 1
kilometre and cross a bridge over the Kicking Horse River. Drive another
300 metres past the bridge and turn right onto Kicking Horse Road (there
was one washout with running water along this road, but it was passable in
my Honda CR-V). Drive west for 5.5 kilometres and turn left onto Kapristo
spur road (high clearance vehicle recommended). Follow this rough road
for 3.4 kilometres to its end at a small parking spot in a clearcut. Be bear-aware
as there are lots of raspberry bushes here.
Starting from the parking spot, we headed south and walked over a small
berm to follow remnants of the road continuing to the edge of the clearcut. Here, we were within earshot of the creek which
Menard and Carrara
followed upstream on their approach. Raff and I were already bushwhacking
here, and we soon dropped down a loose gully into the creek bed. Almost
immediately, Raff and I were alarmed by the substantial amount of water
flowing in the creek, and any thoughts of an easy approach quickly
evaporated. We moved up the creek bed as best as we could scrambling on
whichever side of the creek provided the least resistance. The spray from
the raging waters rendered many of the adjacent rocks dangerously slick,
and we would often rely on very tentative footholds to get up challenging
sections. Both of my feet were soaked early in the proceedings after a
couple of inadvertent slips. More frequently than we would have liked, we
were forced to temporarily leave the creek bed and climb along the steep
embankments. This entailed a lot of miserable bushwhacking through
alders, devil's club and a host of other unpleasant vegetation. As a
result, our progress was insufferably slow.
The route heads through the clearcut at right and eventually drops down
into the obvious drainage.
||Raff drops down into the creek bed
near the beginning of the trip.
Early in the proceedings, Raff realizes that going up
the creek bed is not going to be easy.
After about 4.5 hours of grinding up the creek, we finally entered an
open basin below the northeast face of Kapristo Mountain. We took a
well-deserved break here although mosquitoes, which had been largely
absent in the creek bed, now harassed us incessantly. When we resumed
hiking, we headed to the back of the basin and climbed steep but easy
terrain to reach a high col on Kapristo Mountain's southeast ridge. From
the col, we climbed up the ridge crest for a short distance before
heading to climber's right to follow a faint path traversing across the
northeast face of a subsidiary bump. We eventually crossed over the ridge
crest and bypassed another minor bump to reach the base of the large
Here, we tackled the ridge crest directly and scrambled as far as the
bottom of some ominous-looking cliffs before traversing to climber's
right on a ledge of sorts. When it became feasible to do so, we climbed
up the northeast face on a mix of slabs and loose rubble. Some
route-finding is necessary here, but the scrambling should never be more
than moderately difficult. Once we gained the summit ridge, we still had
to go over a couple of disheartening false summits before finally
reaching the true summit.
While taking a well-deserved break
in an open basin, Raff studies the northeast face of Kapristo
Raff heads for a high col on the
southeast ridge of Kapristo Mountain.
Raff climbs up a slope which leads
to the head of the basin.
At the head of the basin, the
shortest route to the col climbs up the steep, grassy ramp at right.
Raff waits patiently on the ridge
crest for Sonny to catch up to him. The route goes a little
left just behind the big tree.
From where Raff is, the route
traverses right to go around the next bump. The summit block is
visible just left of centre.
Here is a clearer view of the
summit block from the ridge crest. Raff can be seen near the
base of the summit block.
On the summit block, the route
heads up the broken terrain at centre before traversing to the right
near the top of the light-coloured band of rock.
Raff scrambles up the summit block.
This is looking back down the
southeast ridge of Kapristo Mountain. Note the wildfire burning
at distant right. The pointy mountain in the distance at centre
is Bicarbonate Peak.
Raff traverses a ledge onto the northeast face.
||After traversing onto the northeast
face, Raff climbs up slabs and rubble.
||Raff walks over one of the false
summits on the summit ridge.
Sonny and Raff stand on the summit of Kapristo Mountain
By this time, the mosquitoes had relented considerably, and Raff and I
were able to enjoy a nice break on the summit for an hour before
retracing our steps down the mountain. We had built a couple of cairns on our
way up, and these were helpful for descending the summit block safely. Our descent back to the open basin went without a hitch, but once we
dropped below the high col, mosquitoes once again set upon us. This only
made us quicken our pace, and we were soon re-entering the dreadful creek bed.Just as before, our egress along the creek was painfully slow. In many
ways, our return trip was worse because some sections of the creek that
were already a bit sketchy to ascend proved to be much more challenging to
descend. We ended up detouring onto the embankments much more frequently
which was both time-consuming and demoralizing. For the most part, we
usually detoured onto the western embankment on both the ascent and
descent. At one point, I made the mistake of leading Raff onto the
eastern embankment, and after expending a lot of effort thrashing among
some horrible alders, we ultimately had to backtrack to the creek bed and
try the other side.
||This survey marker is located on
Kapristo Mountain's summit.
||To the northwest,
sits at centre beyond two outliers of Kapristo Mountain.
(right) is the most noticeable peak to the northeast.
Chancellor Peak (in shadow) and the three peaks of Mount Goodsir attract
the most attention to the east.
With growing fatigue and the onset of darkness, I started to lose some of
my focus, and on several occasions, I even felt some genuine despair
albeit fleetingly. I also had quite a few nasty spills including one
tumble into the creek that brought back unpleasant memories of a similar
dunking on Redstreak
a few years back. Being completely soaked actually afforded me the option
of walking directly in the flowing creek although this was not without
Raff and I became separated slightly upstream of where we first entered
the creek bed in the morning, but we both had the right instinct to
abandon the creek here. After donning headlamps and shouting to one
another, we quickly regrouped and then sidehill-bashed our way to the
clearcut. The miserable thrashing continued even in the clearcut as we
were unable to locate, in the dark, the remnants of the road until we
were almost back at my car.
After changing into fresh clothes and enjoying some sodas from my cooler,
we rolled down the access road and made it back to the Trans-Canada
Highway without any problems. The subsequent drive home to Calgary was
long but uneventful.
Distance: 17.6 kilometres
Round-Trip Time: 15 hours 35 minutes
Net Elevation Gain: 1320 metres