Serendipity Peak
On 1 August 2022, Zosia Zgolak and I scrambled up unofficially-named Serendipity Peak in Alberta’s Don Getty Wildland Provincial Park.  The name was coined by Bob Spirko who first published a description of his ascent route for the peak in 2005.  Others have since followed in his footsteps, and many of them have also extended their trips to include Patterson’s Peak further to the east.  Zosia and I had similar intentions for a two-peak day, but we would ultimately find Serendipity Peak to be more than enough of an adventure for us.

From our parking spot on the side of Highway 40 (44 kilometres south of the junction with Kananaskis Lakes Trail or 11 kilometres northwest of Highwood Junction), Zosia and I headed eastward into the forest and soon were climbing up a small boulder field leading to a very steep grassy slope dotted with striking rock pinnacles.  Past the pinnacles, we continued to climb steeply until we gained the start of a series of forested ridges running eastward toward our objective.  Travel was generally easy as we usually had a beaten path to follow or the bush would be fairly light.  About three kilometres from the highway, it is necessary to drop off the ridge crest in order to access a north-trending ridge which ultimately connects with the main west ridge of Serendipity Peak.  Unable to find an obvious path, we simply plunged into the thick bush here fully aware that the climb back up on the return would really suck.  While descending the steep and bushy slope, we stumbled onto an overgrown but well-defined trail angling downward to skier's right.  We followed this trail to a four-way junction at a low point.  Going straight, we soon gained the north-trending ridge and were able to follow a horse trail along most of its length until we broke out of the trees onto a vast grassy slope at the start of the main west ridge.  We side-sloped here for a short distance but eventually worked our way onto the ridge crest which we climbed all the way up to tree line.  Beyond the last trees, the west ridge becomes steeper and necessitates a fair bit of moderate scrambling.  Some route-finding is also needed to circumvent a couple of steep drop-offs, and in general, easier terrain can be found to climber's right although there is still a lot of loose rubble to contend with.  Ascending this upper part of the mountain was fun but also time-consuming.  By the time we reached easier ground on the summit ridge, we were well into the afternoon, and I was already having doubts about making it to Patterson's Peak.

Zosia and I stopped for an extended break at the summit of Serendipity Peak partly to recharge but also because we were procrastinating about traversing to Patterson's Peak.  The intervening rubble did not look very appealing, and we were also both concerned about the lateness of the day.  In the end, we gave the traverse a rather half-hearted try, but after only a few minutes of stumbling below the summit of Serendipity Peak, we decided to quickly pull the plug.  With the burden of a second peak lifted, we retreated to the summit ridge of Serendipity Peak before dropping back down its west ridge.  The descent of the scrambling section went fairly efficiently without any mishaps, and we were soon rambling past the vast grassy slope to the end of the main west ridge.  When we returned to the aforementioned four-way junction, we stuck to the overgrown trail we had stumbled across and found that it went all the way back up to the ridge crest from which we had made a bushwhacking descent.  Somehow we had missed this trail on the way in, and therefore, Zosia built a cairn and marker to make it more noticeable.  For the remaining hike out, we deviated a few times from our up-track at a few ambiguous spots, but I consulted my GPS often enough to keep our course corrections minor.  Descending the steep grassy slope with the pinnacles felt quite airy, but thankfully, the footing was better here than on the final short but annoying stumble down the small boulder field at the bottom.  The ascent of Serendipity Peak turned out to be more arduous than we were expecting, and we were both relieved to be back at my car at a reasonable hour.
Look both ways before you cross the road! Zosia crosses the highway aiming for the ridge peeking above the trees at left.
Why not start the day with some ankle-breaking rocks? Zosia ascends a boulder field near the beginning.
Very steep here! Zosia climbs past some striking pinnacles on a steep grassy slope.
What a grunt already! Clouds obscure distant peaks as Zosia climbs high above the highway.
Not fun! After a lengthy but relatively easy approach, Zosia plunges blindly down a steep and bushy slope.
Yikes...still looks far away!

Zosia gets her first clear look at the west ridge of Serendipity Peak.

I was getting tired just looking at the forested ridges in the left foreground that we would have to climb back up on the way out...

Peaks along the Continental Divide can be seen behind Zosia as she traverses a grassy slope.

Climbing up this part seemed to take longer than it should have... Zosia sticks closely to the crest as she ascends the west ridge.
Perhaps I may have underestimated this ascent... There is a lot of scrambling to be done on the upper part of the west ridge.
This ain't making the ascent any quicker! Zosia carefully bypasses a drop-off along the west ridge.
A scrambler's paradise! There are lots of rock slabs that are easy to ascend such as this one.
Bad ankles will make you do that! Sonny is constantly looking down to check his footing.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Ugh...what time is it? Zosia gains the summit ridge of Serendipity Peak.
Almost there! Zosia takes the last few steps before the top of Serendipity Peak.
A hard-won summit for us. Zosia and Sonny stand on the summit of Serendipity Peak (2667 metres).
Just wasn't meant to be for today! Zosia briefly contemplates the tedious traverse to Patterson's Peak at distant right.

I was one of the first bloggers to get Head...

Mount Head and Holy Cross Mountain dominate the view to the southeast.


Let the stumbling begin!

Zosia retreats down the summit ridge.

We have some work to do here... Here is a comprehensive view of Serendipity Peak's west ridge (bottom left).  The Misty Range is also visible on the centre horizon.
Loose rubble? Could be anywhere in the Canadian Rockies! Zosia carefully descends a steep slope of loose rubble.

Now it's just a long slog to get outta here...

Here is a last look to the northwest as Zosia regains easier ground.


At least I still had plenty of refreshments in my pack!

At this point, it is sobering to realize that the hike out entails going over the distant forested ridge at far left.

If we eventually do Patterson's Peak, it won't be from here!

Here is a last look back at Serendipity Peak from its west ridge.


The steepest of several annoying uphill climbs on the hike out. Zosia finds an overgrown trail to ease her climb back up the ridge she had earlier descended via some unpleasant bushwhacking.
Too bad we were too tired to play on some of these pinnacles! Late in the day, Zosia descends past the pinnacles near the start of the trip.
More arduous than expected especially for old guys like myself! Total Distance:  14.0 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  11 hours 13 minutes
Cumulative Elevation Gain:  1344 metres

GPX Data