Racehorse Peak
Hoping to avoid rain on 9 September 2018, Eva Nagyova, Marta Wojnarowska, Zosia Zgolak and I headed to the Crowsnest Pass area of southwest Alberta to scramble up Racehorse Peak.  The route is described in Andrew Nugara's More Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies, but the original idea for this scramble came from a trip report in 2008 by Trevor Helwig.  About a month before Nugara and Dave McMurray climbed this peak independently but coincidentally on the same day in 2014, Dinah Kruze, Bob Spirko and I aborted an attempt due to inclement weather.  Instead, we settled on climbing nearby Mount Racehorse as a consolation prize.  Dinah and Bob would return in 2016 to complete the ascent of the main summit.

Just as I had done in 2014, I parked my car at the junction between Allison Creek Road and the road to Racehorse Pass about 18 kilometres north of the turnoff from Highway 3.  I had contended in 2014 that I probably could have driven my Honda CR-V all the way to Racehorse Pass, and I still stand by that statement.  However, after the long drive from Calgary, we were all more than happy to get out of the car and walk the easy 4.5 kilometres to Racehorse Pass.
Keep an eye out for ATVs that frequent this road. Zosia starts up the road to Racehorse Pass behind Marta and Eva.
Mount Racehorse looks like it would make an awesome ski ascent... Mount Racehorse looks inviting as the group approaches Racehorse Pass.
The weather still looked favourable when we reached the pass, and we promptly left the road to head up the south face of Racehorse Peak.  For the most part, we followed Bob's ascent route which is to climber's left of an obvious gully in the middle of the south face.  Other than being a steep grind, this route presents no difficulties, and we eventually tagged a subsidiary bump to the west before traversing easily to the main summit of Racehorse Peak.
The obvious gully is not the best choice both going up and coming down... The group arrives at Racehorse Pass and prepares to ascend the slopes in the background.
Get ready for a long uphill grind... Zosia and Eva approach an obvious gully in the middle of the south face.  They would stay to climber's left of the gully during the ascent.
Rubble, rubble, toil and trouble... The upper mountain consists mostly of loose rubble.  Eva and Zosia can be seen at upper left while Marta is at lower right.
Don’t worry, Marta. There will be plenty of hands-on stuff to come… Marta looks for some hands-on scrambling to break up the monotony of hiking up loose rubble.
Eva:  Now where the heck did I put the key for my storage locker?? Eva sorts out her gear on a subsidiary summit.  The main summit is at left.
That northeast peak needs a horsey name too, I think… Marta heads toward the main summit.  Visible at left is a higher peak to the northeast and the peak dubbed “The Pony” by Dave McMurray.
Good warm-up for later on... Sonny down-climbs an easy drop-off along the ridge between the subsidiary and main summits.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Whew! I just can’t keep up with these European girls! Zosia and Eva take the last few steps before the main summit where Marta is standing.

Too easy!

Sonny, Zosia, Marta and Eva sit on the summit of Racehorse Peak (2671 metres).


Everything is burning this year! Smoke, possibly from a wildfire, can be seen just beyond the ridge behind the summit of Mount Racehorse to the south.
If you like long approaches with massive elevation gains, Mount Washburn’s the peak for you! Here is a look back at the subsidiary summit to the west. Barely visible on the hazy horizon at left is Mount Washburn.
Lots of unnamed peaks here for those that are interested… The High Rock Range stretches away to the north.
After taking a short break at the main summit, we turned our attention to a higher peak to the northeast which Nugara had climbed with some difficulty.  Not interested in difficult scrambling, Eva and Zosia generously offered to wait at the main summit while Marta and I went to investigate the route more closely.  Initially, we had no problems traversing the connecting ridge to an intermediary high point which McMurray dubs "The Pony".  From here, the connecting ridge drops precipitously to a high col before rising sharply to the top of the northeast peak.

In his report, McMurray aborted his attempt on the northeast peak because he did not think that he could retrace his steps and safely descend the final rise which certainly looks intimidating from The Pony.  In actuality, this final rise is fairly straightforward and not too difficult to go up or down.  The real crux is the harrowing descent from The Pony to the high col.  Where it was no longer feasible to stay on the ridge crest, we descended some fairly exposed down-sloping ledges and rock bands to skier's right.  A couple of sections with limited holds proved to be quite challenging to descend, and we had to employ some awkward slithering and even a layback move to get down unscathed.  Once we reached the high col, the remainder of the traverse was comparatively simple as already mentioned, and Marta and I were soon standing atop the northeast peak.
Zosia looks like she’s game for the challenge! Here is the view of the connecting ridge to The Pony and the higher northeast peak from the main summit.

Most sane scramblers will want to stop at The Pony, but the insane scramblers will want to carry on to The Nag!

Marta approaches the top of The Pony.  At right is the northeast peak (I suggest calling it “The Nag”!).


Not for the faint of heart! From the top of The Pony, the most difficult aspect of the traverse to the northeast peak is the descent to the high col at lower right.
Good route-finding and nerves of steel required here! Marta carefully makes her way down steep and loose terrain below The Pony.
Good thing she’s tall! At one of the trickier sections to down-climb, Marta stretches out to reach the next foothold.
I had to use a layback move to get down here. Marta awkwardly gets down another tricky spot while descending from The Pony.
Surprisingly easy scrambling here. Marta climbs up the final rise before the top of the northeast peak.
Success!! Marta and Sonny reach the top of the northeast peak in this view from the main summit.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Thumbs way up! Here is a closer view of Sonny and Marta on top of the northeast peak (2686 metres), their high point for the day.
Because our companions were still waiting for us at the main summit, Marta and I did not stay long before retracing our steps back along the connecting ridge.  Of course, climbing up to The Pony from the high col was infinitely easier than going in the opposite direction, and we both thoroughly enjoyed the steep scrambling here.  From the top of The Pony, we had no trouble returning to the main summit where we reunited with Eva and Zosia.
If not heading back to the main summit, it might be possible to drop down the basin at lower left to return to the road. Marta is already back at the high col as she heads back to The Pony and the main summit in the distance.

Hard enough for ya?

Marta climbs back up a formidable-looking fin of rock above the high col.

Hopefully, Marta’s mom doesn’t see this!

Almost hands-in-the-pocket territory here! The remainder of the traverse back to the main summit is fairly straightforward.
It's tricky mostly because of loose rocks. The most challenging spot between the main summit and The Pony is this gendarme which is trickier coming down than going up.
On descent, we again followed Bob's route by dropping down Racehorse Peak's uncomplicated southeast ridge.  While Eva and Marta stayed close to the ridge nearly all the way back down to Racehorse Pass, Zosia and I veered back toward the aforementioned obvious gully on the south face.  Instead of entering the gully though, we stayed to skier's left and found plenty of surfable scree to speed our descent.  Zosia and I also managed to avoid most of the trees on the same slope, and we enjoyed an easy and painless trek back to the pass before regrouping with Marta and Eva there.  The subsequent hike back to my car was long but uneventful.
Going down for good! Eva, Zosia and Marta commence their descent from the main summit.
Seems like a lifetime ago when I visited those peaks. Zosia descends the southeast ridge of Racehorse Peak.  Visible in the distance are Seven Sisters Mountain, Crowsnest Mountain, Mount Ward, and Allison Peak.
This is the way to go for the descent! Good surfable scree can be found to skier’s left of the obvious gully (far right) on the south face of Racehorse Peak.
Back on easy street! The group hikes out along the access road.
Too bad it’s going in the opposite direction. Maybe we could have hitched a ride! Zosia and Marta step aside as an ATV drives up the access road.
Something for everyone ranging from an easy walk-up to balls-to-the-walls difficult scrambling! Total Distance:  13.8 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  7 hours 34 minutes
Net Elevation Gain to Summit:  948 metres

GPX Data