Mount Ishbel
With a great weather forecast for Canada Day 2009, I figured it was an opportune time to tackle a peak that had been on my radar for quite awhile--Mount Ishbel in Banff National Park.  In my haste to leave my house that morning, I had forgotten to print out some excellent route descriptions that I had at my disposal (see Dow Williams' and Andrew Nugara's websites; special thanks go to Bill Kerr for providing me with Robert Lee's trip report from as well as photos and first-hand advice).  Nevertheless, I had a good working knowledge of the route as I marched confidently into the forest at the edge of Hillsdale Meadows to start the trip.  Upon gaining Mount Ishbel's south ridge, I encountered a fair amount of annoying deadfall, but otherwise, my ascent to tree line was largely trouble-free.  Approaching the first significant rock wall on the ridge, I detoured to climber's left before scrambling up a weakness in the rock wall to an amphitheatre where I was able to easily regain the ridge crest (as described by Lee).  I had my first glimpse of the summit here, and it looked hopelessly far away.  However, it would not be long before my attention was focused solely on the increasing exposure along the ridge.  The crux of the ascent--a narrowing of the ridge followed by a short but very exposed drop-off--was encountered fairly early in the proceedings.  Rather than test my luck on an insanely exposed ledge on the west side of the crux, I backtracked a little and scrambled down a steep and slippery crack on the east side.  Down-climbing this crack was by no means easy (a blood-spurting gash on my hand will attest to that), but at least the exposure was more forgiving.  Still, it took me nearly 30 minutes to get through the crux, and I wondered if there would be more nasty surprises ahead.  Fortunately, the ridge beyond the crux is not as demanding, and I was actually enjoying much of the hands-on scrambling until the last 200 metres or so before the top.  At this point, scrambling along the ridge crest was becoming more exposed and challenging again.  As fun as this might have seemed at the start of the trip, I was growing weary of the whole game and opted to take to the ledge on climber's right as described by both Williams and Nugara.  I followed the ledge for most of the remainder of the ascent and finished by traversing back to climber's left and then scrambling directly up to the summit.

After spending over an hour on the summit, I retraced my steps back down the ledge.  When the ledge petered out, I decided to drop down the east side of the ridge into the hanging valley below.  This entailed some route-finding and some difficult down-climbing, but it was worth it to avoid revisiting all the ups and downs on the south ridge.  A bushy but otherwise uneventful hike out Ranger Creek had me back at my car after a round-trip time of 12 hours.
Good views already! This is Pilot Mountain as seen from near the start of the south ridge of Mount Ishbel.
I get tired just looking at this peak! Mount Ball looks resplendent in the morning sunlight.
One of the most confusing ascents described in Kane's book. Copper Mountain is not quite as snowy as Mount Ball (far left).
Isabelle is like Ball's ugly sister! Isabelle Peak also looks resplendent in the morning sunlight.
Also known as Phacelia hastata. Silky scorpion weed are in abundance on the ridge.
Follow a beaten path to the left and look for a weakness in the wall. Near tree line, the first significant obstacle is the rock wall at right.
And of course, that's Eisenhower Tower on the far left. Visible to the northwest are Castle Mountain, Stuart Knob and Helena Ridge.
I figure I would get all these gratuitous mountain photos out of the way early! Also visible to the northwest is Mount Temple.
Now the fun begins... Sonny gets his first glimpse of Mount Ishbel's summit (just left of centre) from the ridge.
If you're returning this way, be sure to drop down to the right. This is looking south at the part of the ridge which Sonny bypassed.  The amphitheatre described by Lee is at bottom right.
The crux is somewhere in the middle of this photo. The summit is more distinctive in this view.
The exposure to the right of the rock step is insane! This is the crux as seen from just a bit further north along the ridge.  Sonny's route around the crux is shown.
Lots of fun hands-on scrambling, but it does get mentally wearisome after 5 or 6 hours! Sonny continues his trek toward the summit.
If you look carefully, you can spot a hole in the ridge! This is an unnamed ridge to the east of Mount Ishbel.  The valley below is the usual exit route for climbers who descend the east ridge.
At this point, I just wanted to get to the top. Sonny scrambles up the easy ledge near the summit.
The ledge is still exposed in a few spots though, so some care is still required. Here is a more extensive view of the ledge running along the east side of the ridge.
The ascent took me about 7 hours. Sonny stands on the 2870-metre summit of Mount Ishbel.
I actually caught myself dozing off as I was trying to sign the register! Sonny takes a well-deserved break on the summit.
Maybe an attempt later this summer? The most prominent peak to the south is Mount Assiniboine.
Lots of unnamed peaks here. The Sawback Range dominates the view to the north.
Maybe I'll give Old Goat a try this year as well. Also visible to the south are Mount Cory (at centre), Mount Bogart (snowy peak at upper left) and Old Goat Mountain (pointy peak on horizon).
Even dogs get mountains named after them! Mount Fifi (left) and Mount Louis can be seen to the southeast.
I wasn't relishing returning along the ridge. This is looking down Mount Ishbel's south ridge from the summit.
Took me about 90 minutes to get here from the summit. This is the view of Mount Ishbel (left) from the hanging valley.  Sonny's approximate descent route is shown.
It gets bushy lower down. Sonny takes advantage of some snow patches to descend toward Ranger Creek.
Don't trust it!  This thing is ready to snap and fall apart! This is the infamous Ranger Creek ladder.
Time for a double cheeseburger and an extra large Fresca! Here is a last look at Mount Ishbel from Hillsdale Meadows late in the day.