Starting from Ribbon Creek trailhead (past the HI-Kananaskis Wilderness Hostel at the end of Ribbon Creek Road), we biked the first 3.4 kilometres of the wide and gently-graded trail which ultimately leads to Ribbon Falls. This was my third time biking Ribbon Creek trail but the first time since the biblical floods of 2013 wiped out significant portions of it. Despite my long absence, I noticed that many sections of trail had been re-routed with the addition of new bridges. This, in effect, makes the trail a lot more twisty than before, and there are now a couple of short sections that require some pushing at least for us non-hardcore mountain bikers. The bulk of the trail is still relatively easy to ride though, and it took us less than 40 minutes to reach the unsigned turnoff to North Ribbon Creek. We ditched our bicycles here and continued on foot up North Ribbon Creek trail which also has seen extensive re-routing due to damage from the 2013 floods. North Ribbon Creek climbs fairly gently for the first 3 kilometres before reaching a scenic waterfall where there is a somewhat confusing maze of trails seemingly going every which way. The correct access for Wind Mountain is the trail that climbs the most steeply up the slope to the north, and we would gain over 300 metres in a little more than a kilometre to enter an open valley just south of our objective.
Near the last trees of the open valley, Marta and I got our first good look at Nugara's "direct route", and we were both a little apprehensive about how much snow was still plastered on the south side of the mountain. Fortunately, we were both equipped with ice axes, and Marta had also brought along cleats while I had full crampons. As we progressed up the valley, we made the mistake of trying to gain elevation while side-hill bashing, but the rubble on the valley's sides are very loose and tedious to walk across. It would have been better to stay in the valley bottom longer before climbing directly up to the first big snow patch. Nevertheless, we muddled our way with some difficulty to the bottom of this snow patch and subsequently donned our cleats and crampons. The snow turned out to be ideal for kicking steps, and Marta did a great job of leading us up to the first significant cliff band guarding the upper mountain. We took off our cleats and crampons at the bottom of this cliff band, but unsure if we would need them higher up, we continued to carry them in our packs. The cliff band itself has several weaknesses that can be climbed up (moderate scrambling with mild exposure), and we each took a different route to avoid knocking loose rocks down on each other. Above the cliff band, we were largely able to avoid most subsequent snow patches by veering to climber's right and ascending a mix of scree and slabs. There are many possible route variations here, but the idea is to ultimately gain the crest of the southwest ridge which then leads to a final set of slabs--the crux--about 60 metres below the top. The crux slabs are not too difficult to climb up, but I was thankful that they were dry as there is significant exposure only a short distance to climber's left. The real test would be down-climbing the slabs on the way back. For the moment, I was happy to clear them and grind up the remaining easy rubble to the summit. The views were exceptional on this day due to the amazingly clear skies, and we took an extended break here before commencing our descent.
Retracing our steps, Marta and I carefully down-climbed the crux slabs which proved to be tougher in this direction due to a paucity of good handholds and footholds. We managed to get down this section without a slip, but afterward, we both agreed that Nugara's moderate rating is probably a little soft and that this is more in the realm of a difficult scramble. After clearing the crux, we slowly worked our way down easier but still steep terrain, and occasionally, we would find a good patch of scree to surf. Once again, we avoided most of the snow patches on the upper mountain, and as before, we also took separate routes to descend the first significant cliff band. Below this cliff band, we took out our ice axes and glissaded the big snow patch that we had ascended earlier. While this was not the most graceful glissade I have ever done, we lost a lot of elevation quickly and were soon tramping down easy rubble to the valley bottom. The remainder of our hike down to North Ribbon Creek and back to our ditched bicycles was long but easy. Of course, the real highlight of the day was the rip-roaring bike ride back along Ribbon Creek trail. The twisty trail made for a slightly more challenging ride than the straight coasting that I remembered from before, but this also made the ride that much more fun. With a couple of brief stops along the way, it took us about 20 minutes to return to the trailhead to cap off a most enjoyable and rewarding trip.
A big thank you goes to Marta for hauling
our bicycles on her car and for her great company throughout the day. Marta and Sonny reach the summit of Wind Mountain (3096
metres). Sonny prefers to face outward as he steps down the crux
slabs. Photo courtesy of Marta Wojnarowska
Photo courtesy of Marta Wojnarowska
Marta pushes her bicycle up one of the
steeper sections of Ribbon Creek trail. Note the wood carving
beside the trail.
This waterfall along North Ribbon Creek is near the spot where a side
trail begins to climb steeply up a valley to the north.
Marta gets here first good look at Wind Mountain.
This is not the best approach to the snow patches at centre because of
the loose rocks here. It is better stay low in the valley and climb
the slope with the patches of vegetation further to the left in the
Marta climbs up a big lingering snow patch.
The rock band ahead of Marta has several weaknesses that can be ascended.
Some are wetter than others.
Marta picks one of the drier routes up the rock band.
Despite more lingering snow patches higher up, Marta is able to avoid
most of them.
Marta scrambles up steep slabs past a
Up ahead are the crux slabs.
sits to the southwest. On the horizon at right is Mount Assiniboine.
The other three peaks of
overlap each other to the northwest.
The peaks of the Fairholme Range can be seen to the north. The town
of Canmore is visible at far left.
Notable peaks to the south include
Fisher Peak (far
left horizon), Mount
Ribbon Peak (centre),
Mount Kidd South
Peak (right of centre), and
Marta carefully descends the crux slabs.
Good handholds and footholds are few and far in between on the crux slabs.
Sonny takes advantage of a very loose section to scree surf.
Here is another look at Ribbon Peak (centre) flanked by Mount Kidd (left)
and Mount Kidd South Peak (right). Also visible at bottom right is
Marta glissades a large snow patch.
Marta is all smiles on the thrilling bike ride to finish the trip.
Distance: 23.5 kilometres
Round-Trip Time: 12 hours 56 minutes
Net Elevation Gain: 1637 metres
Marta and Sonny reach the summit of Wind Mountain (3096 metres).
Sonny prefers to face outward as he steps down the crux slabs.
Photo courtesy of Marta Wojnarowska
Photo courtesy of Marta Wojnarowska