Mount Lipsett

On 30 October 2021, Asieh Ghodratabadi, Ali Shariat, Wil Tabak, Zosia Zgolak and I ascended Mount Lipsett in Alberta's Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park.  A straightforward route up the southeast ridge is described in Gillean Daffern's Kananaskis Country Trail Guide, and there is also an option to traverse to a subsidiary peak with an alternate descent down to the highway.  As we drove to the unsigned trailhead (north side of Highway 40, 13 kilometres south of Highwood Pass or 25 kilometres north of Highwood Junction), we dropped off a second car about 8.3 kilometres south of Highwood Pass, but given the abundance of fresh snow in the area, I was already having doubts about reaching the summit let alone completing the traverse.  When we arrived at the trailhead, there was already a truck there with what appeared to be a couple of hunters.  Although they did not get out of their truck to speak with us, they were obviously dismayed by our arrival and promptly drove off.  I was dismayed that the hunters would not be breaking trail through the snow for us.

Passing a couple of snow-covered bear warning signs on the north side of the highway, Asieh, Ali, Wil, Zosia and I entered forest to follow a partially-overgrown exploration road winding up the southeast ridge of Mount Lipsett.  Despite about a foot of fresh snow covering the ground, the road was still fairly easy to follow, but of course, some extra effort was required to break trail.  Surprisingly, a couple of backcountry skiers came up behind us, and we leap-frogged each other a couple of times before they finally took off ahead of us.  Although we now enjoyed the benefit of a broken trail, hiking up the road was still wearisome due to the slippery footing and general lack of views.  About 6.3 kilometres from the start, we finally broke out of the trees for good, and while the road traverses left across an open slope here, we left it to ascend directly up the ridge.  Above us, the two skiers were descending at this point, and we noticed one of them wiping out seemingly for no reason.  As we would soon find out, the snow pack had no base and was still a tad thin; the skiers were likely scraping on rocks throughout their descent.  After the skiers passed by us, we followed their tracks up to a false summit which is where they had turned around.  This part of the ridge was exposed to a light but bone-chilling breeze, and we felt quite frosty as we dropped down slightly before grinding up the final uncomplicated section to the summit.

Ali, Wil and Zosia had climbed Mount Lipsett in 2011, but they had taken a different route from the north and had done so under marginal weather conditions.  Upon reaching the top on this day, they noted that the summit seemed different, and there was some doubt about whether or not they had actually reached the true summit ten years earlier.  Regardless, there was no ambiguity about reaching the summit this time, but given the abundance of snow and poor scrambling conditions, we decided to abandon both the traverse to the subsidiary peak and the alternate descent.  The light breeze also made it too uncomfortable to linger on top, and we promptly turned around and retraced our steps back over the false summit.  On our way down, we took a couple of short cuts to skip some lengthy switchbacks along the road, but otherwise, there was nothing else worth noting about the long but easy descent back to the trailhead.
I wonder what the hunters were hunting...

A bear warning sign marks the start of the trail which enters the forest at left.  In the background is Nameless Ridge.

Walking in a winter wonderland!

Sonny follows an exploration road through the snow-covered forest.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

We're not out of the woods just yet!

The road breaks out of trees briefly at a long switchback.

I should hike Odlum Ridge one of these days...

Zosia and Wil finally break out of the forest for good.  At right across the valley is Odlum Ridge.

Still too early for skiing, I think, but kudos to these hardcore guys!

A couple of intrepid backcountry skiers get probably their first turns of the season on the slopes of Mount Lipsett.  One of them has wiped out presumably after hitting a rock under the thin snow cover.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Feels like an Everest expedition!

Zosia and Ali follow the skiers' broken track up Mount Lipsett.  At right is Mist Mountain.

The wind really bites here!

This is the view of the true summit from the false summit.


Too bad I didn't have skis for this part!

Sonny breaks trail en route to the true summit.

Photo courtesy of Ali Shariat

One of the rare occasions when I'm leading the pack!

Ali, Asieh, Zosia and Wil follow in Sonny's footsteps up the ridge.


Tricky footing underneath the snow! Ali and Sonny climb up the last stretch before the summit.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Everyone is looking pretty frosty here! Sonny, Zosia, Ali, Asieh and Wil stand on the summit of Mount Lipsett (2591 metres).
The subsidiary peak at centre will have to wait for another day...

Highwood Pass can be seen at distant right in this view to the northwest.

And you can pick out Alan Kane's north ridge route for Mist Mountain as well.

Highwood Pass can be seen again at distant left in this view to the north.

Doesn't look like anyone going up there today!

Mist Mountain dominates the view to the northeast.

In snowy conditions like this, it's probably wisest to go back the same way.

Leaving the summit, Ali, Asieh, Zosia and Wil return the way they came.


Too bad this slope isn't readily accessible for a ski descent in winter...sigh.

Zosia takes advantage of the snow to descend more quickly down the ridge.

The short cut is more efficient for the descent than the ascent! The group takes a steep short cut down the ridge to save some extra walking.
It wasn't really this dark when we got back. Wil and Zosia return to the trailhead as the last rays of sunshine for the day light up Nameless Ridge.
I think it's licking the asphalt! A moose spreads its forelegs in order to sniff at something on the ground beside the highway.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Might be worth returning for a hike during larch season or a ski before the highway closes... Total Distance:  12.7 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  6 hours 44 minutes
Cumulative Elevation Gain:  755 metres

GPX Data