Mount Tyrwhitt. Ever since hiking Pocaterra Ridge last year, Paul and I have wanted to conquer Mount Tyrwhitt. From the cirque, the natural rock archway formation on the east ridge of Tyrwhitt is clearly visible. It just looks so cool. As we ascended Pocaterra, we said we’d hike to the top of Tyrwhitt at some point. That ‘some point’ was on Sunday.
As usual, I was running slightly late. I blame this on the fact that I had to pick up a tall white mocha from Starbucks for Paul. My tardiness certainly had nothing to do with the fact that I also ordered two breakfast sandwiches for myself, a coffee, a sandwich for lunch, and picked up a vitamin water from Safeway. Eventually, we set out on the long drive to Highwood Pass.
The late morning was cool and chilly. It was a sign that winter was close by, and so we knew we needed to make the most of the day. Similar to the day before, the larches looked amazing. We began the hike and quickly found ourselves in the basin of Pocaterra cirque. Instead of heading right to Pocacterra Ridge, we veered left and hiked to Grizzly col. The landscape in this area is incredible. I did a quick read in Alan Kane’s Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies and discovered that the col sits on top of the Lewis Overthrust. The fault line runs from Glacier National Park in Montana to Mount Kidd, and this is why there is a sharp divide between ‘gentler shale slopes east of the col versus higher-angled grey limestone on Tyrwhitt’. Huh… learning something new every day.
Once at Grizzly col, it was another 250 m to the summit of Mount Tyrwhitt. The archway is about halfway up, so we kept to the east of the ridge and headed in that direction. This proved to be extremely nerve-wracking! Tyrwhitt is rated as a moderate scramble in the Kane book, and now I know why. The exposure was crazy. There was so much scree and loose rocks to climb. Every step forward was followed by a slight slide down the mountain. And one point, we came to an edge unexpectedly, and a misstep could lead to falling off the ridge. At first we thought we were headed the wrong way, but after consulting the book after the hike, we scrambled the recommended way. We ended up find the archway (thank goodness!), and after a few awesome photos, we continued the challenging ascent to the summit.
I know I say this on all mountains, but the views from the top were incredible. In fact, I think it ranks in the top 3 summit views that I’ve experienced in Alberta (Mount Sparrowhawk and Mount Eiffel are the others). The Kananaskis Lakes are in full view; Pocaterra cirque and the ridge lie to the north; and the valley of the Lewis Overthrust seemingly runs forever. It was a huge plus that we hiked in the fall because the colours were amazing. The icing on the cake? An official geocache greeted us at the top of Tyrwhitt. We signed our names and proclaimed that the scramble was worth it for the spectacular views!
It was then time for the sometimes painful and sketchy descent. I can recall lots of sliding and screeing. I had a rock crush my hand. Paul rammed his knee into another rock. With every step, the possibility of dislodging rocks and causing a bit of a rock slide was very real. At one point, a large rock was sent flying down the entire mountain. We felt so amateur, because that rock would have killed anyone in its path. It’s a good thing we were the only two climbing Mount Tyrwhitt that day. The scramble gave us a lot of stress and uneasiness :S.
After gaining steady footing again, we stopped to eat a late lunch. We were so frazzled by the scramble that we never paused to eat! So we sat on a few rocks among the trees, chatting about what we had just hiked and conquered. Then we continued onward, happy that we on target to reach the car in 6 hours flat. But then we ran into a problem. Before reaching the small lake, we encountered a group of Rocky Mountain sheep. Five of them, to be exact. They were en route from the rocks on the right of the trail to the forest on the left of the trail. I don’t think Rocky Mountain sheep are bothered by people that much, but these ones were definitely on alert, staying close together and keeping close eyes on us. Those shifty eyes were….. shifty. There was one sheep that looked like the ‘dad’, and he was the first to cross the trail. And then he just stopped. Right on the trail. And these sheep were huge! Paul readied the bear spray just in case. There was a lot of staring going on, and our attempts to stare down that sheep were not working. Once the ‘dad’ disappeared among the trees, we proceeded, but every time we did, he would come back out onto the trail. It was frightening to say the least. This little song and dance carried on for at least 10 minutes until we were joined by some other hikers. Power in numbers! We passed the sheep, very slowly. Their shifty eyes were on us the whole time. What a crazy experience! Between the possibility of bears while getting lost on Tent Ridge the day before, and then having the feeling of almost being charged by sheep with massive horns, it certainly was an eventful weekend.
In total, it took 6 hours and 15 minutes to complete the hike (11:15 am – 5:30 pm). Mount Tyrwhitt is at an elevation of 2874 m. Even though the elevation gain is about 650 m, it was intense because of the scree/slab scramble. We’re so happy to have completed another moderate Kane scramble!
I really enjoyed conquering Tyrwhitt with Paul. I can always count on him to hike the big peaks with me, and among all of the ridiculousness and laughter, he’s a safe hiker, a great friend, and I can always trust his judgement. Until the next big hike, Paul. Thanks for another great season filled with epic hikes!