Monola Peak
On 14 October 2018, Ali Shariat, Zosia Zgolak and I traversed Monola Peak near the headwaters of Oldman River in southwest Alberta.  Our inspiration for this ascent came from Vern Dewit's trip report and our previous ascent of Monad Peak which shares the same approach.  As reported by Dewit, the name "Monola" is derived from a combination of Monad Peak and nearby Isola Peak.  The possibility of seeing golden larches was another reason we wanted to revisit this area at this time of year.

From the junction with Highway 532, drive south for 7.3 kilometres along Forestry Trunk Road 940 and turn right onto a rough road which soon ends on the east bank of Livingstone River.  Park anywhere along the east bank and ford the river to start the hike.

While Zosia braved the icy waters of Livingstone River wearing sandals, Ali and I kept our boots on and successfully crossed a somewhat awkward log further downstream.  After regrouping on the far side of the river, we found that a short section of the road had been completely obliterated probably to dissuade motorized vehicles from venturing up Isolation Creek.  We picked up the road again after walking across the short stretch of devastation and quickly settled into a steady plod up the valley.  While the road was easy enough to follow, a light covering of snow slowed our pace a bit, and we had to pay attention to avoid plunging through the occasional half-frozen mud hole.

About two kilometres west of the river, there is a split in road.  On our previous trip to Monad Peak, we made the mistake of taking the wider right fork and had to bushwhack a bit to get back on track.  We correctly took the rougher left fork this time and carried on without any issues.
The log was solid and not slippery at all. Ali crosses Livingstone River on a downed log.
The road looks tempting to ski on, but the snow is still a bit too thin. Ali and Zosia hike along Isolation Creek road.  Monola Peak is visible in the distance at left.
Second crux of the day. Ali and Zosia traverse above a washed-out section of road.
Some bear actually broke trail for us for part of the way up the road! Larches appear alongside the snowy road.
The road eventually swings southward and climbs up to a pass between Monad Peak and Monola Peak.  Ali, Zosia and I left the road here and turned eastward aiming for some ATV tracks that appeared to come from an alternate access road to the south.  We followed the ATV tracks partway up the northwest slope of Monola Peak on another exploration road.  Deepening snow likely forced the ATV driver to stop, and it looked like he or she walked a bit further up the road before giving up and turning around.  From this point, Ali and Zosia took turns breaking trail through the ankle-deep snow, and we soon broke out of the trees onto open slopes leading to the windswept summit ridge.  Despite a lengthy plod, we had no further problems reaching the top of Monola Peak which consists of two distinct summits about 250 metres apart and of roughly equal height.

I'm amazed how far up the mountain someone drove their ATV through the deep snow!

Zosia leaves the road and aims for the tracks at centre with Monola Peak in the background.


This slope would make for some nice easy skiing! Zosia and Ali grind their way up the northwest slope of Monola Peak.
Not so great for skiing here! Ali follows Zosia up a rocky section to gain the summit ridge.
It would have to cloud over just as we reach the summit! Grrrr... Zosia and Ali hike up the broad summit ridge.

Ali and his apple!

Sonny, Zosia and Ali stand on the west summit of Monola Peak (2536 metres).


Maybe next shoulder season... Some unnamed ridges to the south invite further exploration.  Visible on the distant horizon are Chief Mountain and Mount Cleveland.

Gould Dome is high on my to-do list...

The view to the southwest includes the Twin Peaks of Cabin Ridge (left) and Tornado Mountain (highest peak on right horizon).


One of these days, I would like to take a closer look at The Elevators. The Elevators (left) and Beehive Mountain (right of centre) are visible to the west.
A blue sky is coming from the west... Monad Peak dominates the view to the northwest.
I biked up Plateau Mountain many years ago with my good friend, Raman Srivastava. Stretched across the horizon behind Isola Peak to the north are Plateau Mountain, Sentinel Peak and Hailstone Butte.
Monola Peak's northeast ridge looks enticing, doesn't it? Windy Peak, Mount Hornecker, Mount Livingstone and Coffin Mountain round out the views to the east.  Monola Peak's northeast ridge can be seen at lower left.
Okay, let's do it! Zosia and Ali scout out a possible alternate descent route from the east summit (2538 metres).
A frosty wind prompted Ali, Zosia and me to keep moving, and after tagging the east summit, we took a gamble by descending Monola Peak's enticing northeast ridge in hopes of shortening our return trip.  Initially, we encountered few difficulties as we descended the open ridge, but upon reaching the forested north end, I was alarmed by how precipitously the slope dropped down into Isolation Creek.  We cautiously plunge-stepped down this terrifyingly steep slope, and good route-finding was required to avoid occasional drop-offs or impassable deadfall.  One notably large cliff band gave me some worries, but we were fortunate to find a weakness after a brief traverse.  By some miracle, we managed to slip and slide our way down to Isolation Creek without any mishaps, and after crossing to the north bank, we bushwhacked uphill for a short distance until we regained our approach road.  Despite some anxious moments during the steep descent, we were pleased to shave off at least four kilometres from our return trip, and we had no further problems for the remainder of our hike out.

The drive back to Calgary was a bit more problematic when we encountered a jack-knifed horse trailer blocking Highway 532 near Hailstone Butte.  We ended up backtracking to the Forestry Trunk Road and driving north all the way to Highway 40 at Highwood Junction before heading home through Longview.  I find it ironic that after taking a shortcut down Monola Peak, we still had to take the long way home!

The tricky part is getting down the end of the ridge...

Zosia and Ali descend the northeast ridge of Monola Peak.


Not too difficult, but the snow makes for slippery footing. Ali and Sonny carefully descend a rocky outcrop along the northeast ridge.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

This is where things get interesting... Zosia drops down a steep snow slope at the end of the northeast ridge.
The descent of Monola Peak's northeast ridge is challenging enough without the snow. The snow actually makes it easier to descend some bushy sections.
Tempting fate...  

Ali gingerly crosses an early-season snow bridge over Isolation Creek.

Only recommended for experienced route-finders! Ali looks back at the forested end of Monola Peak’s northeast ridge which he just descended.
Looks like she just came back from shopping! Zosia walks across Livingstone River in her boots at the end of the trip.
Deserves more visits...and maybe also an official name! Total Distance:  19.0 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  8 hours 36 minutes
Net Elevation Gain:  835 metres

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