This is a 7000’+/- total ascent day if you include Pika, unnamed and Ptarmigan Peaks in your summit bid (aka the “trifecta”). The scramble up Mount Richarson’s western ridge is pleasant enough (besides the mosquitoes at Hidden Lake) and I rate it on the easy side of moderate as labeled in Alan Kane’s guide book, “Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies”. Although normally the views would be hard to beat on this highest point in the Skoki area (Slate Range), my summit day included a tremendous amount of haze and smoke coming in from British Columbia.
You definitely want to take your bike for the 3.8km climb up Temple Fire Road from the Fish Creek Trailhead. Some people hitch a ride with Lake Louise Ski Resort employees who drive the road periodically, but for liability reasons they are not supposed to offer rides. The bike ride climbs 1100’ past horse stables, ski lifts etc. until you reach a bridge and small storage building. No bikes are allowed beyond this point and it is well signed regarding this fact. The Skoki trail starts just slightly up the road from the bridge and to the left.
Route DescriptionFollow the Skoki trail 3.5kms up to the Halfway day use hut. I saw two rams and a grouse on this trail during this particular trip. This is also bear country. Turn left and continue 1.2kms to Hidden Lake bypassing the Hidden Lake campground on your way. At Hidden Lake, turn left and start ascending large scree up to the western ridge of Mount Richardson. The mosquitoes are quite belligerent during early summer here and followed me up to 9000’ before the last one relented. There are marmots living among the boulders on this slope and as always, will give you an audience if you so desire. Angle left as you approach more difficult scrambling and put the poles away for some hands on work that allows you to break through the rock band without having to go too far west. You will encounter patches of steep snow and snow cornices as late as July.
Once you gain the ridge, follow it below and to the left for a more direct approach to the large col beneath the final summit scree slog up to the summit of Mount Richardson. Turn left at the top of the scree slog and head for the summit. The first large cairn (2007) is not the true summit. Continue to another point further north. There was no summit register in 2007.
To continue to Pika Peak, return back past the large cairn and descend several feet until you can turn left on easy snow that descends to the Mount Richardson/Pika Peak col. It is imperative that you stay skiers right here as the left side is actually still comprised of glacier ice that could result in an uncontrolled fall to the north. Glissade down to the col approximately 900’ where you can leave your pack for an 800’ jaunt of fun hands on scrambling up to Pika or descend back to Hidden Lake from the Pika-Mount Richardson col.
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