BCP308 Mt Courcelette (Courcelette Peak)
Posted: N 50 17.471 W 114 48.500 Ele: 3,044 m
My GPSr: N 50 17.471 W 114 48.502 Ele: 3,044 m
This cap had captured my attention long ago when I noticed that it was an unfound high elevation cap. I had read the epic story from 2010 of SH & reastick trundling over the Continental Divide with eyes set on the SE face of Courcelette Peak. Even if they didn't get snowed out on that adventure, based on their photos of the peak I think it would be very difficult to get up to the summit from any SE aspect. So I shelved the peak & cap under the "maybe some day" category.
But late last August, while standing atop the summit of Mount MacLaren, I noticed something interesting: as I looked south I could clearly see Courcelette Peak (the highest peak in the area) and its NW ridge. The ridge appeared to offer reasonable access all the way to the summit from the valley bottom. And once back at home, some satellite imagery seemed to suggest the same. Interesting! It sure looked a lot more inviting than that SE face! But the thought disappeared as winter settled in.
Recently the idea of Courcelette Peak and the potential of the NW ridge popped back into my head. Though it seemed like a good idea, I still wasn't convinced enough on the route to march dozens of kilometres back there to go check it out.
Anyway, last week I sent an email to OFTH just for fun to ask him about the history of the cap. When I mentioned my potential route choice, he sent me a link which ultimately led me to finding THIS closeup photo of the NW ridge. Aha! This vital piece of information was enough to convince me that the route would likely work! What a huge assist by OFTH!
So with a good forecast and a specific route in mind, the plan was set!
Day 1: Approach to Fording River Pass & Mt Armstrong
The approach to Fording River Pass follows a well travelled trail as it forms part of the massive Great Divide Trail. So, from a small pullout on Hwy 40 near the Coyote Hills it was a straight-forward bike west towards the pass along the GDT feeder trail. That's not to say the trail wasn't without its ups, downs and swamp sections, but overall it was pretty good. A few strategically placed log bridges meant no creek or river fording was required. When the trail started to deteriorate, it was time to continue on foot. A steep but good trail eventually led to a small tarn which was promised to be an excellent home base for exploring the surrounding area (it is indeed!).
So with the tent set up and plenty of daylight left, it was time to explore! Mount Armstrong to the north seemed like a reasonable target considering that from the high camp it was "only" another 500m of elevation gain to the summit. Long story short, it was an excellent moderate scramble along an obvious ridgeline to the summit. The "true" summit was actually a little further east and required a tricky little downclimb to reach. The return to camp was straight-forward.
Day 1: 24.2 km, 1,300 m ele gain, 8.5 h
Day 2: Courcelette Peak and Mount Aldridge
The day had arrived to attempt Courcelette Peak! With clear bluebird skies above and just a gentle wind, it couldn't have been a nicer day. The trail from the tarn followed up and over Fording River Pass (a beautiful alpine location) then dropped steeply down into BC. To save some unnecessary elevation loss it was possible to traverse off-trail a few times before reaching the base of the NW ridge - 1.5h from camp.
Story continued below...