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An Ascent of GR 495876 or The Kistahorn

Difficulty: 
Difficult Scramble
Elevation [m]: 
2352
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
24.5
Net Elevation Gain [m]: 
900
Total Elevation Gain [m]: 
1270
YDS Difficulty: 
4
Ascent Time: 
6:00
Bushwhackyness: 
Quite Dense In Places
Tripdate: 
Monday, February 22, 2016

When driving in to Abraham Lake from Rocky Mountain House one striking peak is first visible on the south side of the lake like a large rocky tooth jutting upwards.  After having tossed around the idea of ascending the peak for a couple years a plan was finally hatched to take advantage of the frozen lake and a patch of good weather to sort it out.  Key to this was deciding on a name for the peak, as Google lists the connected peak to the south as Kista Peak, we decided on 'The Kistahorn' as an appropriately impressive name for so striking of a peak.

 
Setting off from the DTC highway we aimed to cross the lake in roughly the same stretch of ice as for Mount Michener but trending east to intersect the large bay leading towards the peak.  As with the last couple times I had crossed Abraham Lake the eery feeling off seeing the ice fractures below your feet takes a minute or two to become familiar again.
 
It seemed to take a fair while but after a little under an hour we arrived on the far side of the lake, switched out of our crampons and set off towards the peak.  Our route would stick roughly near the shoreline until reaching the creek draining into the bay.  On the way we ended up hitting an ATV track which made for less bushwhacking (always a plus!).  One neat thing en route was hearing a pack of wolves howling on the east side of the bay, cool critters.  Lingering ice patches made some of the crossing of the marshy areas fairly slippery.
 

Midway across the lake, neat reflection of Mount Abraham in the ice.

 

The Kistahorn sure juts out a fair bit.

 

Across the lake onto the south shore.

 

A wider view from the south shore with Eric and Mike in view.

 

Looking towards the peak with broad icy bay.

After reaching the creek we set off into more sustained bush trying to trend generally to intersect the more northerly of The Kistahorn's ridges somewhere near it's base.  As luck would have it we hit another ATV road that sped up progress!  Once leaving the road the bush became quite dense and sticking on an efficient line was difficult.  A few hours later we were on the ridge and quite glad when the bush started to thin and progress became easier.  Sticking to the ridge resulted in a section of difficulties; a large slab clefting the upper and lower sections of the ridge guarded by a loose downclimb.  After some deliberation Eric and Mike downclimbed the crux and were gearing up for the slab.  For whatever reason I really wasn't digging the downclimb and after eyeing it up for a few tries opted to loose ~200 m of elevation to reach a less sketchy crossing and then meet up with the boys higher up.
 

Lots of ATV trails around here.

 

One last patch of icy grass before reaching the creek.

 

Not the thickest ice around here.

 

Another ATV track that links up directly to the creek.

 

Approaching treeline looking back towards Mount Mitchener.

 

There are two possible ridges for ascending the peak, ours (north) or another to the south.

 

The boys ascending towards treeline.

 

Dividing the summit from the ridge is a big patch of slab.

 

I opted to descend a bit to a more textured crossing below.

 

Sure enough the lower route on the slab did have better footing (and a less tricky downclimb) but the elevation loss and gain was going to ear up some time.  With some huffing and puffing I bashed my way up a snowy gully and then lightly bushy scree slopes to regain Eric and Mikes route amidst a long section of sidehilling on less exposed slab.  The upper mountain of The Kistahorn is very foreshortened and there is a sizable amount of elevation to be gained even after 'the big slab' traverse!  Thankfully the upper section is straightforward scree bashing so didn't take too long.  We ended up reaching the summit 6 hours from the car and were surprised to see a very sizable cairn adorning the top (no register though sadly).  The Kistahorn is a pretty solid front range viewpoint and made up for a lot of the views I couldn't see from Mount Michener a couple years prior.  The day was fast passing so after some pictures and a water break it was time to head back down.
 

After regaining some elevation looking back up towards the false summit.

 

Mike with the true summit in sight.

 

Summit views from The Kistahorn.

 

Looking towards the front ranges.

 

A zoomed in pano towards the front ranges.

 

Another towards Abraham Lake.

 

Not a bad viewpoint here.

 

One last pano looking south.

 

Eric gaining the summit.

 

Quite the cairn up here.

 

On descent we took a different line, first crossing over to the more southerly ridge connected to the peak before descending a steep snowy gully to link up with my ascent line.  I quote liked some of the sliding and canyoneering moves in that section (reminded me of the alternate descent on Roche De Smet).  Once back on our ascent ridge we set a course staying further east than our ascent line,; with the goal of sticking on less bushy slopes before reaching lower elevation and regaining our ascent line.  This worked decently for a while but sure enough the bush eventualy crept up and started to get denser.  It didn't help that it was near dark enough for headlamps at this point too!  Before long it was truly night and navigation before more tricky.  With some GPS aid we eventually got back on track and found the ATV road which would get us back to the bay and then across the lake.  Crossing the lake by headlamp was interesting but thankfully uneventful.
 

Descending down to reach the snowy gully that intersected with my lower ascent line.

 

Back down at my up-tracks, a bit of interesting scrambling on the way.

 

Still a bit of slab to be defeated lower down but some texture.

 

Bushwhacking back towards our ascent line at sunset.

 

A long exposure from the south side of the bay looking towards Abraham Mountain.

 

There was a campfire or something set up near windy point as we crossed the lake.

 

Thankfully the wind was somewhat warm for this crossing!

 

I'm not sure if The Kistahorn will ever become a popular route but it is a worthwhile objective for those  (not so?) Cold February days when many other peaks are not in shape.
 

Nice to get some scrambling in February!

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