OverviewRocky Peak is a large and looming mountain located near the northern terminus of the Opal Range in Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park. This peak does not have an official name and, until recently, there was no record, neither written nor shared in pubs, about an ascent of this significant mountain. The sharp summit reaches an elevation of 2915 metres (9,564 feet) and is the sixteenth highest summit in the Opal Range (I have identified 35 significant highpoints in the range).
I applied the name of “Rocky Peak” to this northern end of the main Opal Range since it is the head waters of Rocky Creek, which is an official watercourse name. This high peak is just south of The Wedge/”MacKay Hills” highpoint, which is the extreme northern end of the Opal Range. Rocky Peak ends the range to the north, but is connected to the south to ‘Mount Denny’ (GR 338277). The summit of Rocky Peak is about 1 kilometre north of Mt. Denny (3000 m) and shared col between is approximately at 2800 metres; giving Rocky Peak a prominence of 115 metres from the col.
The only recorded ascent of this mountain is by me. My long time office friend (L. Kimber) and I (Kevin Barton) ascended the complex and broken West Face via a steep slab gully, then face climbing to the upper summit ridge, West Ridge, on July 2, 2014. We found no cairn or evidence of previous ascents. I built a cairn on the highpoint (northern tower) and left a makeshift summit register, which will probably be eaten by the numerous summit pikas.
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.
From the intersection of Highway 40 (Kananaskis Trail) and Highway 1 (Trans Canada Highway) travel south towards Kananaskis Lakes. Depending on approach, either park at the Fortress Junction gas station/store, 41.3 km south of the Trans Canada Highway or at the Grizzly Creek parking area, 44.5 km south of Trans Canada Highway.
When to ClimbTypical Canadian Rockies situation; best conditions for a high elevation alpine rock or scramble route is July to early September.
ApproachOpal Ridge Approach
This is the shortest and most direct approach to Rocky Peak, but does require about 850 metres of elevation up Opal Ridge, then a descend of 300 metres to Rocky Creek, and of course, the same on the return. This direct approach is about 3 kilometres from the parking area to the base of the west slopes of Rocky Peak. From the Fortress Junction gas station/store, park in the northern end of the parking lot, head up the creek, a big trail starts on the lower left (north) side of the creek, the trail is well packed and large, should be easy to find. Follow this trail a short distance up hill to a power line. Turn left, north, follow the power line road for about 400 metres, just after crossing a low stream, a cairn marks the start of the Opal Ridge trail. This trail is a highway, wide and well pack, but does have 2 or 3 rock bands that requires hands scrambling. Reach the ridge crest in about 1.5 hours, descend easy east slopes to west slopes of Rocky Peak.
South Approach | Grizzly Creek
From the Grizzly Creek parking lot you need to access upper Grizzly Creek, which can be difficult as there is no official trail and significant elevation gain through dense trees. Once in the upper drainage of Grizzly Creek, head north over a slight pass into upper Rocky Creek. This pass is the low col between the southern end of Opal Ridge and GR 339269 (’Mt. Potts’). From the parking lot, this pass is about 750 metres of gain and 3 kilometres. Descend into upper Rocky Creek, pass Mt. Potts and Mt. Denny to reach the west slopes of Rocky Peak in about 3 kilometres.
There are no sources for published route information for Rocky Peak. The only recorded ascent of Rocky Peak, and the first ascent of the West Face and West Ridge by Kevin Barton (OSWB) and L. Kimber July 2, 2014.
My original goal was to ascend the prominent West Rib on the west side of Rocky Peak, but my partner was concerned about the time required to pitch out this route, and still have time to make the summit. We had a great view of this cool rib as we climbed the easy Class 3 gully beside it. I would guess it mostly goes at 5.6, with the odd harder step, maybe up to 5.7 or 5.8. Looked like a fun route, maybe one day I can return to climb it.
- West Gully/Face, West Ridge, 5.6, Alpine II
|| Upper Rocky Creek is very open and it is easy travel to west side of Rocky Peak, great views.
View to basin between Rocky Peak and Mt. Denny (l) View down Rocky Creek to The Wedge on left and Mt. Mackay on right (r).
||Follow summit ridge to summit, mostly 5.2 or 5.3 on loose ridge, if pitching about 5 rope lengths to summit tower.
Typical terrain on summit ridge (l) Last steep step before easy hike to summit towers (r).
||First recorded ascent of Rocky Peak and no indication on summit of any previous party. Built a cairn and left a makeshift register.
New cairn for summit of Rocky Peak (l) Along with a new summit register (r).
Essentially Gear60 or 70 metre climbing rope and cord or webbing for stations. We brought a full set of wires, a few cams and a dozen or so pitons and a hammer, but didn't use much of it. Much of the rock was to compact from any passive protection, piton (knifeblades) provide the best option.
Helmet of course, poles are very helpful for the scree bash. Rain/snow storm shell, warm jacket, waterproof climbing boots and good food as required, based on weather or season.