OverviewMount Packenham is a striking tower next to Mount Evan-Thomas in the Opal Range of Kananaskis Country. The 3000 metre (9,843 ft) summit of Mt. Packenham shares a jagged and sharp col with the King of the Opals, Evan-Thomas. First ascent of the mountain was in 1972 by J. Pomeroy, M. Simpson and D. Forrest and G. Boles via North-West Face, North Ridge. In 1954 M. Dixon, N. Gish, S. Pearson and P. Rainier reached the summit of Mt. Evan-Thomas, but was mistakenly recorded as an ascent of Mt. Packenham.
Mount Packenham is an official name, with the documented spelling as Packenham, but this is an official spelling mistake. The mountain is named after Rear Admiral W.C. Pakenham (1861-1933), the name was applied by the Interprovincial Boundary Commission in 1922. Like most Opal Range names, the name honours the Battle of Jutland. Rear Admiral W.C. Pakenham was in command of the Second Battle Cruiser Squadron at the Battle of Jutland during World War I.
Getting ThereEasy highway access from Highway 40 along the western edge of the Opal Range provides the best approach. Highway 40 does provide access from the Trans Canada Highway in the north, and continues south to the Longview area, but the southern section is closed for wildlife protection from December 1 to June 15 each winter/spring. Best vehicle access from Canmore/Banff or Calgary is via the Trans Canada Highway, south along Highway 40.
Park in the ditch beside Ripple Rock Creek, not signed, approximately 45 km south of the Trans Canada Highway. Ripple Rock Creek is 1 km south of Grizzly Creek, which has a highway sign, and 1 km north of the signed Hood Creek. This parking area, and the adjacent trail on the north side of the creek, are clearly obvious and getting more and more beaten in because of the popular hike to GR 328248, “Grizzly Peak”.
Red Tape/Camping and BivouacsThe parking area, the approach and most of the climbing on Mount Packenham are located in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. No permit is required to park or climb in this park. The ascent of Mount Packenham can be completed in a long day and a bivouac is not usually required.
Random backcountry camping without a permit is allowed in most Wildland Provincial Parks, but Provincial Parks require consultation with park staff. If wishing to bivy, please consult with staff at the Barrier Lake Visitor Information Centre or the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park Visitor Information Centre during normal hours of operation.
When to ClimbTypical Canadian Rockies situation with July and August providing the driest conditions. Later summer and early fall (October) can provide dry conditions. If a party desires a snow climb up the north gully then an ascent from late May to late June would provide best chance of safe and stable conditions.
ApproachThe trail to Grizzly Col and GR 328248, “Grizzly Peak” provides fast and quick access to tree line and the meadows of upper Ripple Rock Creek. About halfway between tree line and Grizzly Col (about GR 330245) head due east; easy travel through steep alpine meadows. Continue eastwards into a tight basin between Mt. Evan-Thomas and Mt. Packenham. At the far eastern edge of the basin, take the tallest and most eastern scree cone towards a long gully system on the north face of Mt. Packenham. This gully system will provide rubblely access to the eastern summit and summit ridge.
Route DescriptionThe North/North-West Faces of Mt. Packenham have a series of deep gullies and sections of low angled faces and a variety of reasonable options exist. The only published route information is in the “The Rocky Mountains of Canada South”, Boles, G.W., Kruszyna R. & Putnam W.L. (1979) guidebook and two trip reports (Collier and Miskiw) online at bivouac.com . See separate route page North Gully/East Summit Ridge, Alpine II, 5.6 for more information on ascents and descriptions.
- North Gully, East Summit Ridge, Alpine II, 5.6
I believe the 3 or 4 routes described are only variations on the same face, so only one description is provided. At the far eastern edge of the basin, take the tallest and most eastern scree cone towards a long gully system on the north face of Mt. Packenham. This gully system will provide rubblely access to the eastern summit and summit ridge. This gully is over 400 metres from the top of the cone to the summit ridge. Stay in the primary gully as you ascend, when slight diversions are encountered, stay to climber’s left.
Near the summit ridge (about 70 metre below the ridge), the left most gully does steepen considerably, traverse right in the next major gully (very obvious gully). Then follow this gully to the summit ridge. You exit onto the eastern summit tower.
Head west towards the highest, central tower. Difficult scrambling (Class 4) on loose and exposed rock takes you the low point between the eastern and central summits. From this minor col to the summit the climbing is mostly lower 5 class, mostly about 5.2. About 30 metres below the summit, a steep wall is encountered that can be climbed directly with 5.6 face, then unprotectable 5.4 slab, or traverse right (5.4) to a small pinnacle. To gain access behind the pinnacle requires several 5.6 moves, then 5.2 up slight ridge to flat summit. Return the same way.
ReferenceBoles, G.W., Kruszyna R. & Putnam W.L. (1979). The Rocky Mountains of Canada South. 7 th edition. New York: American Alpine Club, Alpine Club of Canada.
Out of print
Collier and Miskiw trip reports online at bivouac.com