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Cataract Peak

Round Trip Distance [km]: 
Net Elevation Gain [m]: 
Total Elevation Gain [m]: 
Surprisingly Pleasent
Friday, September 19, 2014

As the summer started to draw to a close Steven and I wanted to make the most of 3 days (the latter two of which having awesome weather) to go for a worthy objective.  Our short list came down to Mount Amery (along with a traverse to Monchy and Hooge like Eric and Vern's trip), or the less well known Cataract Peak.  We waited to decied until reaching the rainy trailhead at Mosquito Creek and quickly decided that in rain the approach to Amery would be no fun so set off Cataract-wards.  Cataract Peak is part of a chain of large near 11000er peaks in Banff Park and would be sure to grant excellent views!

For previous route beta we had Rick Colliers trip report and a vague description from Liam but the trip still had an exploratory feel.  Setting out from the Mosquito Creek Hostel parking lot at the very not alpine time of 930 we made our way down the approach trails.  First to the Mo5 campground, then to North Molar Pass, then Fish Lake, and finally crossing the Pipestone River a distance of some 18 km.  Thankfully as this was on trail we didn't get soaked from bushwhacking in the rain but did have to contend with near constant mud and horse excrement (damned trail-mangling fell beasts...).

Views were intermittent along the approach, but when they did clear out were quite stunning.  All the while we were waiting to catch a glimpse of the upper ledges on Cataract.  Most of the nearby mountains were almost fully dry which would make the ledges icy and perilous.  Thankfully the clouds parted to reveal snow, lovely snow, only on the upper reaches and enough that kicking steps up to the summit was a real possibility!  Fish Lake itself is worth mentioning.  Not too far from the road, but certainly worth visiting for views and probable tranquility.

Past the lake the devestation of horse travel on the trail was more prevelant and we pretty much had to mudslide down to reach the river.  Crossing the river was straightforward this time of year and from there we set out into the bush following a bearing that would bypass a waterfall/possible cliffs and lead us towars our bivy.  For the first time in a while bushwhacking was actually very pleasent.  The forest below Cataract is not very dense and has lots of springy moss to make travel easier on the knees.  Following up a somewhat gentle rise we quickly came across the creek flowing from the Cataract glacier and followed it to its head.

Bivy sites abound below Cataract and there is plenty of flat space, water, and even larches to make for a great environment.  By the time we got to the bivy we were a bit ahead of schedule so make some grub, took it easy, and headed to sleep just as an evening rainstorm moved in.

The next morning we were treated to a pretty red sunrise and delightfully clear skies.  To ascend Cataract we aimed for a prominent scree gully which would lead to rising slabby stratta.  The slabs proved to be even slabbier then expected and made for poor travel on mountaineering boots.  Thankfully slab-travel was shortlived and quickly we were back on scree rambling upwards.  There were a few scrambly moves but mostly scree bashing to gain the upper slopes.

Once a little higher the rest of the route was visible, trapsing up some hard ice-scree we were on the ledges kicking steps up ideally thick snow.  With our conditions the ledges wernt a big deal but I can see how if fully melted out it would be a long way front pointing.  Once at the end of the ledges the summit ridge presented itself with a nice plod on snow while being treated to exceptional views.

On descent we followed our steps except for bypassing the slabs by following an exceptionally loose drainage.  Once back at camp we knew we wernt getting back to the car today so took our time wandering back westwards enjoying the views, especially Cataract in evening-glow.

The next morning we awoke to alpineglow on Dolomite and Nosseum Peaks before doing the rest of the frosty trudge back to the car.  All in all a great trip, highly reccomended.



A soggy steven near the Mo5 campground.

The junction to north and south Molar Pass.

Our first look at Cataract Peak from near Fish Lake.

Getting closer to the bivy site, nice snow!

Steven almost at the bivy.

Really nice area around here.

Looking back from the bivy towards Fish Lake.

Looking at our ascent route.

Waking up to a sky the next morning.

Steven negotiating some loose terrain.

Lots of rubbly terrain around here.


Almost up at the ledges to access the summit.

The snow made for great travel conditions.

The summit ridge.

Steven traversing to the true summit.

Partial summit pano.

Another partial summit pano.

A third partial summit pano.

Looking over towards Mount Hector

Steven descending the loose gully.

Back down in the bush, not dense though thankfully.

Lovely fall colors looking towards Skoki.

Enjoying the nice trail around Fish Lakes.

Looking back towards Cataract from above Fish Lake.

We waited around for evening-glow, totally worth it!

Cataract Peak aflame.

Steven enjoying the views.

Nice stars that evening.

More stars above the unnamed tooth.

Looking up at Nosseum Peak the next morning.

Reflections always make for neat views.

Almost back at the trailhead things were pretty frosty still.

GPS path showing the route.


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