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Hiking Along The Whiterabbit Creek Trail and An Ascent Of GR 474695 or "Leporidae Peak"

Difficulty: 
Moderate Winter Scramble
Elevation [m]: 
2629
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
28.0
Net Elevation Gain [m]: 
1250
Total Elevation Gain [m]: 
1530
YDS Difficulty: 
3
Ascent Time: 
3:45 From A Camp Beside Whiterabbit Creek
Bushwhackyness: 
Not Bad At All
Tripdate: 
Friday, November 25, 2016

A trip that has been on my todo list for quite some time is a bike and scramble to the Upper Red Deer River valley heading west from the Ya Ha Tinda ranch along towards Mount Tyrell and the curiously named Boar Station Peak.  With lower elevations still surprisingly free of snow it seemed like a good time to go for it . After packing the car and my currently wounded (flat tire) bike I had a few quick stops before leaving the city (mainly a new tire and tube to fix the bike).  Thinking things were sorted out I would change out the tire the next morning and be on my way.  Around Rocky Mountain House I reckoned that being tired and chilly in the morning switching the tire while driving out would probably be a better idea.  After getting the old tire off and fixing to inflate the new one I came to the troubling realization that I had packed the wrong pump (one that only matches to road bike tires not mountain bike tire), a change of objectives was in order (mostly as I had loudly vowed last time Steven and I did that approach for Wapiti Mountain that given how perfectly bikeable it is I would never walk it again :) )!   Switching over to somewhere around DTC seemed like a decent idea.  Eventually I decided to ramble up Whiterabbit Creek and hopefully ascend something, weather permitting.

 
Whiterabbit Creek is on the south side of the Saskatchewan River and can be accessed via the Glacier Trail in Kootenay Plains starting at the Siffleur Staging Area (while most of the creek itself is in the Upper Clearwater/Ram PLUZ).  There is surprisingly little information on the internet about the trail paralleling Whiterabbit Creek other than 'it exists' and connects up to the Mud Lake Trail (eventually connecting to the Hummingbird Staging Area) or into Banff if you follow it all the way south.  Armed with those tidbits of information it seemed like a fine plan to ramble around and get a feel for the area.
 

Setting off from the staging area, not a very popular place today!

 

The monument describing the Ex Coelis peaks and for whom they were named.

 
Setting out from the Siffleur Staging Area (that shares the first bit of trail with the popular Siffleur Falls viewpoint) the first order of business is crossing the Saskatchewan River on a very well-fortified suspension bridge.  After the bridge and a quick promenade along a boardwalk, the Glacier Trail splits off from the route to the Falls and winds its way towards Whiterabbit Creek.  While not critical like for the Ya Ha Tinda plan, a bike would be really nice to have, especially for the return trip.  Getting a rather late start, reaching a campsite near Whiterabbit Creek was the only real goal for the day and sure enough from the goodly sized firepit near the creek, someone else had the same plan before.  After scouting out where the trail left the creek on the east shore (no suspension bridge over this one sadly) it was time to set up camp and make use of that fire pit to drive off some of the wintery chill.

 

Looking towards Mount William Booth and GR 474695.

 

An actual boardwalk after crossing the river on the suspension bridge.

 

Crossing the Siffleur River on a second bridge.

 

The 'Glacier Trail' is quite wide, would be great for biking.

 

A very well stocked horse-camp at the start of the Whiterabbit Creek Trail.

 

Quite a nice open clearing between Wilson and Whiterabbit Creeks.

 

Whiterabbit Creek still has a good amount of flow for this time of year.

 

Looking up at Normandy Peak from Whiterabbit Creek.

 

Making use of the firepit back at camp.

 

By the numbers it shouldn't be too long of a trek to get up the peak but both the quality of the trail and the ferrocity of the bushwhacking were somewhat unknowns.  After some breakfast the first order of buisiness was finding a good crossing of Whiterabbit Creek.  Just east of the campsite a single log spanned the creek and had been entombed in a coating of ice.  If anything the ice made it nicer to cross (quite a narrow log otherwise), and after a quick undignified slither I was on the east shore of the creek!  The Whiterabbit Creek Trail was just as good as on the west side of the creek, if you would be willing to haul a bike across the creek you could keep peddling a long ways up the valley!  After another couple km of distance I was at the base of my ascent rib and left the trail heading upwards.

 

A single log bridge fortified with an ice shell made for a good crossing point.

 

The Whiterabbit Creek trail is just as nice after the creek crossing as before.

 

After leaving the bush heading up towards the col.

 

The bush is actually really nice for quick travel.  A few denser patches lower down quickly give way to more open (and more steep) slopes where the main complication of the day was avoiding slipping on the thinly snow-covered foliage.  Sticking roughly near the nose of the rib I eventually hit treeline and looked up to see some very clear sheep trails etched into the hillside, this may be quite a popular route for the beasties.  The classic DTC wind was really starting to pick up, and taking a break beneath a rock outcrop was a good time to gobble some lunch.  Reaching the col between Mount William Booth and GR 474695 was very straightforward scree travel and from there the rest of the route looked quite straightforward to the summit.  At this point I had decided upon giving the peak a 'rabbit themed' name based on Whiterabbit Creek below, the problem became picking a famous rabbit or other rabbit-type word to use!

 

Just below the col taking a break out of the wind for a snack.

 

Looking up towards GR 474695, the true summit is just out of view.

 

Looking back down towards the col, fairly slippery rocks given the thin snow coating.

 

Travel up the ridge was quick but slippery.  In dry windless conditions there would be lots of nice places to stop for pictures or snacks, given the frostyness of the late November wind that wasn't really in the cards!  From the summit, views were pretty limited with the low clouds.  Things started to clear slightly to the east just enough to make out some peaks along the long ridge on the eastern edge of the front ranges, north of the Hummingbird Staging Area.  On a clear day, the views across the Saskatchewan River Valley would no doubt make for some pretty nice pictures.  After a quick search of the summit cairn for a register and turning up nothing I started to ramble back downwards, still a fair bit of distance to go back to the car!  A bike would have been quite handy for the way back, have to remember to bring one along and try a longer trip (it is ~15km to what Google Maps calls 'Aires Peak' from where I left the trail, if travel stays good that is not that long of a bikeride!). 

 

Not far to the top at this point.

 

A decent sized summit cairn, could be pretty nice views on a clear day.

 

Looking east from the summit further into the Upper Clearwater/Ram PLUZ area.

 

Things started to clear up a bit on the way down, Mount William Booth in the center.

 

Zoomed in towards an outlier south of Kista Peak to the east.

 

Looking back up towards the peak, an hour or so too late for decent views!

 

Quite a nice nook just below the ridge, could be a decent bivy site for sunrise pictures.

 

Back at the ice-log bridge, quite slippery!

 

One last look from Whiterabbit Creek before heading back towards the road.

 

Quite dark when I got back to the staging area.

 

A pretty good introduction to the area, linking up the Whiterabbit Creek trail to the Hummingbird Staging Area could be neat in the future!

 

After getting back to the car I had still not thought of a decent personal name for the peak (how to choose between such famous wascily wabbits as Bugs Bunny, Peter Rabbit, or Thumper!).  In the end, I reckoned that the genus name that includes rabbits and hares leporidae might work, Leporidae Peak does roll off the tounge a little better than a GR number sequence.

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