Tallon Peak And Robertson Peak
Given a dangerous avalanche forecast for the 2016 Easter long weekend, I felt it was prudent to go for an easy hike, preferably somewhere dry like the Crowsnest Pass area of southwest Alberta.  Zosia Zgolak agreed to accompany me and also invited Asieh Ghodratabadi and Ali Shariat to join us.  After perusing Bob Spirko's website for ideas, I sent Zosia a list of potential trips that I was interested in doing, and she expressed a preference to try Robertson Peak and Tallon Peak.  Spirko describes two different approaches for these peaks, and I opted for the longer but simpler southern approach.

The weather did not look promising when we left Calgary early on the morning of 25 March 2016.  Overnight snowfall blanketed much of the countryside, and snow continued to fall even as we arrived at Leitch Collieries which is the starting point for the southern approach.  After briefly wandering through the ruins of the failed coal processing plant, we left the interpretive displays behind and hopped a fence to ascend an open slope to the north leading to a grassy plateau.  While Spirko had done a clockwise loop which entailed ascending another ridge further to the west, we decided to do his loop in reverse by first ascending the south ridge of Tallon Peak.  After crossing the plateau, we settled into a moderate but steady climb up the lightly forested ridge.  Fresh snow made for slippery conditions at times, but the route-finding was not too complicated.  We still had to contend with a couple more annoying fences on the way up though.  Because of cloud cover, views from the summit of Tallon Peak were disappointingly non-existent on this day.

Without much else to see, we dropped down the west ridge of Tallon Peak far enough to circumvent some cliff bands before continuing along the connecting ridge to Robertson Peak.  Along the way, we encountered a few snow patches that were still deep enough to post-hole, but thankfully, these were short-lived and of little consequence especially after Zosia broke trail for the rest of us!  We also hiked over an intervening unnamed high point which someone like Vern Dewit might count as a separate summit!  When we arrived at the summit of Robertson Peak, we were rewarded with a partial clearing of the cloud cover which afforded us our first somewhat expansive views of the day.

After heading over to the west side of Robertson Peak, we took a short break to consider our options for our return trip.  Firstly, none of us were interested in returning the way we came.  Secondly, completing Spirko's loop would have entailed having to drop and regain about 200 metres of elevation to reach the crest of his ascent ridge--a somewhat unappealing prospect for us.  Thirdly, we considered just descending the valley directly south of Robertson Peak.  This was the most appealing option, but we were uncertain if we would encounter a lot of deep snow or nasty bushwhacking in the valley bottom.  We decided that it was at least worth investigating and that, at worst, we could always escape the valley and climb up to the crest of Spirko's ascent ridge.

When we resumed hiking, Zosia carefully led us down the largely open south side of Robertson Peak.  Most of the fresh snow that covered the ground earlier in the day had melted by now, but I was still finding my footing to be somewhat unreliable while descending the rubble-strewn slopes here.  When we eventually entered the forest in the valley bottom, we found the snow cover to be minimal and the bushwhacking light, but best of all, we stumbled onto an exploration road which we easily followed all the way back to the grassy plateau near the start.  Unfortunately, getting from the plateau to the parking lot at Leitch Collieries turned out to be more complicated than expected since we took a slightly different route than the one we started with at the beginning of the day.  Regardless, it just added more adventure to an already enjoyable and fun-filled day which was due in no small part to the excellent company I had.
Actually, I was looking for the washroom which is located in the basement of this place. Unfortunately, it was closed and locked up. Sonny approaches one of the ruins of Leitch Collieries.

Photo courtesy of Ali Shariat

Walking in a winter wonderland...oh wait, it's spring, isn't it? Ali, Asieh and Sonny hike up a slope before a grassy plateau.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

The Mines of Moria, this ain't! Sonny and Zosia investigate an adit located at the edge of the grassy plateau.

Photo courtesy of Ali Shariat

This is like a typical COC outing--lotsa people, shitty weather! :-) The group marches steadily up the ridge.
At least there's no wind today (note the krummholz)... Zosia carefully negotiates the slippery snow-covered rocks.  Ali is barely visible further down the ridge.
We almost look coordinated! Sonny, Zosia, Asieh and Ali celebrate reaching the summit of Tallon Peak (1843 metres).
Hmm...doesn't look much clearer over there... Robertson Peak appears briefly through the mist.
I guess we'll just have to stare at the cairn and each other! Views from the top of Tallon Peak are limited on this day.
Zosia probably wishes she was skiing right now! The group carefully descends the west ridge of Tallon Peak.
We won't be coming back this way! Here is a look back at the rugged northwest side of Tallon Peak.
This is what spring hiking is all about! Ali and Asieh do a bit of post-holing along the connecting ridge between Tallon Peak and Robertson Peak.
Second summit of the day? Asieh and Ali stand on the 1822-metre unnamed high point between Tallon Peak and Robertson Peak.
She sure is colour-coordinated--matching pack, shirt, gaiters, and ice cleats! Zosia is still all smiles despite the soupy visibility ahead.
Hope that snow isn't too deep! The mist begins to clear, revealing the east ridge of Robertson Peak
Great job breaking trail, Zosia! Sonny and Asieh follow in Zosia's tracks up the east ridge of Robertson Peak.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

That was easy! Zosia approaches the summit cairn of Robertson Peak.
Shall we dance? Sonny, Asieh, Ali and Zosia jump for joy on the 1903-metre summit of Robertson Peak.
Good timing! Zosia and Asieh stare in awe as the sky begins to clear to the south.

Yep, thumbs up all around!

Ali, Asieh and Zosia show their approval of the blue sky over the summit.


Jesus is LORD! Sonny is also overjoyed to see blue skies.
The thought of climbing up the far ridge held little appeal at this point... At the west end of Robertson Peak, the group stops to contemplate their return route.  The forested ridge just beyond was Bob Spirko's ascent route for Robertson Peak from the south.
Worst case scenario would only be miserable bushwhacking and exhausting bad can it be? The group descends in hopes of finding an easy hike out through the valley bottom.
Okay, we kinda got lucky, but hey, we deserved it!! Zosia is elated to find an exploration road at the valley bottom.
Looks like we're home free...maybe! Zosia, Asieh and Ali walk across the grassy plateau near Leitch Collieries.
Lean on me...when you're not strong...and I'll be your friend...I'll help you carry on! Ali uses Sonny for support as he climbs over a barbed-wire fence.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Ali is getting good at this! Ali climbs the fence surrounding the Leitch Collieries.
Pushes this trip up to the realm of a difficult scramble, I think! The last obstacle of the day is a five-foot high retaining wall near the parking area.
Great shoulder-season trip with great company! Total Distance:  13.6 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  6 hours 55 minutes
Total Elevation Gain:  930 metres

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