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Warden Rock

Easy Scramble
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Not Bad At All If On The Trail
Monday, March 30, 2015

After having gotten to the Ya Ha Tinda the day before (and ascending Eagle Mountain), after a good nights sleep Steven, Vern, and I set off towards our main objective for the weekend, Warden Rock (a prominent peak guarding the eastern flank of Banff National Park on the south shore of the Red Deer River).  We had known of one other ascent of Warden Rock by Rick Collier in 1992 from the west side, but as that would require an excessively long approach we opted for trying an eastern-line which seemed reasonable based on views from other peaks in the area.

Leaving the trailhead in the cold dark of morning we shortly made a navigational blunder taking a road leading more towards the ranch-house rather than the river which added a few minutes to our journey but quickly after we were back on route and making short-work of the road approach.  Almost 6km from the trailhead (as measured using the right road), we hopped off the road and set off to cross the Red Deer River.  Thankfully given the time of year the river was at most knee-deep.  Stone in the river were also not overly slippery making for a quick crossing (one of the more pleasant river crossings I have done).  This could easy be the crux (or turn-around point) of a trip later on in the season when the river is flowing more fiercely.


On the other side of the Red Deer River just after sunrise.


Passing the river we set off trying to follow somewhat climbers right of a creek draining from the above valleys and ended up intersecting several trails.  Not knowing where the trails were leading (there are trails EVERYWHERE around the Ya Ha Tinda) we kept plodding on until coming across a well defined trail leading pretty much where we were intending to be.  On no this trail travel was swift with very little bush blocking our path (though many icy sections made jumping to and fro on either side of the trail essential).  Quickly we gained elevation moving upwards and climbers rightwards curving into our ascent valley.


There was actually a very good trail leading up to the valley beneath Warden Rock.


Taking a break in the bush (out of the wind!).


Eventually we lost the trail as lingering snow patches obscured the track so we opted to traverse onwards minimizing loss/regain until coming across more open terrain.  Thankfully this proved to be a decent choice and after a bit of bushwhacking came across open (and very windy) grassy slopes that would take us to the base of the mountain.  We could feel a chill from the biting wind even back down on the road and the closer we got to Warden Rock the more intense the wind was becoming, the ridge was going to be blustery!


Nice scenery on open slopes below Warden Rock.


Finally our objective is in view (left) the smaller peak on the far right we termed "Little Warden Rock"


To get up to the ridgecrest we took a prominent snow gully (having hauled crampons all the way might as well make them useful) which alternated between easy kicked steps and less easy front pointing.  In any case, elevation was gained and shortly after we gained the ridge and came into the full force of the wind, and oh my was it windy.  I later described the wind to Pat as “a steady 80 km/h gusting to frightening”.  Battling forward through the wind we made it to a col where the windy intensified further.  Keeping at least two limbs on the rock at all times was critical.  On a related note, the windy was strong enough to break one of my poles (the Z ‘tent-pole’ folding design which have a little doodad that allows for the segments to interlock, apparently the wind extended one of the sections and then blew away the doodad!).  Thankfully past the col things got less ridiculous and while breezy the summit was not dangerously so.


We took the snow gully up to bypass a bunch of the scree.


VERY windy on these upper slopes.


An easy traverse to the summit, just had to hang on and not get blown off the edge.


Views westwards from the summit of Warden Rock.


Eastwards summit views.


We didn’t want to stick around any longer for the wind to get even more intense so quickly retreated back down to the base of the mountain and made our way back down the trail.  On descent we struck a different line closer to where we anticipated the trail would lead and sure enough eventually struck trail-gold, reaching the path, and eventually our ascent tracks.  Crossing the river on return was very pleasant (a nice refreshing jolt for the feet).  Slogging back on the road was less so (I have renewed my oath to never walk all the way to the park boundary again, that road is oh so bikeable).  All in all quite a good trip given the time of year and conditions.  Aim for Warden Rock early or late season to decrease the sketchitude of the river crossing.


Back down at the base of the snow slope looking back towards our approach line.


Back down at river-level before crossing over to the road.


Looking back up at Warden Rock from the river.


A bit of a road-slog to get back to the car.


Good timing, soon after we got back to the road the weather turned for the worse.


Its a long ways to get to Warden Rock, but worth it when you get there.

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