This is a 7000’+/- total ascent day if you include Mount Richardson, unnamed and Ptarmigan Peak in your summit bid (aka the “trifecta”)
. The scramble from the Mount Richardson col up Pika Peak’s western ridge is the best part of the trip if you are bagging all the peaks. You are well above the mosquitoes at Hidden Lake and can drop your pack at the col (a little further up in case a bear traipses on through) and make an 800’+/- dash for the summit on quality rock by Skoki standards. From the approach, the un-named peak to the right looks to be taller than Pika Peak, but from the summit, it is obvious that Pika Peak has a slight height advantage.
I rate Pika as a moderate scramble, but Alan Kane’s guide book, “Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies” rates it as difficult. 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.
Follow 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 (further up from the col, as you will not be returning all the way to the col if you proceed to Ptarmigan and/or un-named) for an 800’ jaunt of fun hands on scrambling up to Pika’s summit. You can stay left to avoid exposure, but there is never really much to avoid.
Do not descend all the way back to the col.
Once you can circumvent the west ridge’s solid rock via a scree path below the southwestern headwall, do so. Continue along the scree, constantly losing elevation as you pass through several gullies. Stay on the same scree plateau as you traverse. Eventually you come to a snow filled (July) large gully that marks the separation between un-named peak and Ptarmigan Peak. Cross this gully and start a slow angled rise towards Ptarmigan Peak on easy ground. I ascended the un-named peak via a low 5th class rock gully and descended via 5.6 down climbing through a chimney further south. The rock here is very loose and I do not advise any party that exceeds one to attempt this peak due to rock fall.
Once you summit Ptarmigan, which is an easy scramble (better ski), descend back to that snow slope for a quick glissade down and continue south of Hidden Lake having to cross its outflow to regain the trail on return.
Helmet, Hiking Boots (tons of scree), Poles, Appropriate Clothing, Bear Spray, Alpine Ax for the descent to the Pika col