South-W. Ridge

Page Type
Alberta, Canada, North America
Route Type:
Time Required:
Most of a day
Difficult Scramble

Route Quality: 3 Votes

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South-W. Ridge
Created On: Aug 15, 2005
Last Edited On: Feb 24, 2006


This is a 5100’+/- ascent day and I recorded 5300’+ on my altimeter. Hike up the steep dirt bank at the parking area and take the Overlander trail right as it contours around Morro Peak to the southeast. You will pass a large stone trail marker on your left as you leave the smaller sport climbing trails behind. After half an hour of brisk hiking, pay attention for the first drainage you come to. There are two options used for ascent and/or descent. I ascended the right hand side of this drainage and descended the left hand side. Stay right of the drainage as you weave your way through burnt forest (downed trees) for about 800’ as you rise to a ridge above the drainage that has now turned into a dramatic deep canyon (photo on main page). You are at the western edge of Hawk Mountain’s west ridge. Turn right and stay below the steep rock on your left as a decent trail (well marked in 2005) leads you eventually into tree cover and the next drainage east. Continue to follow the trail as it ascends steeply to the base of the first technical section.

Route Description

This entire route was extremely well marked via cairns and flags in 2005. The trail ends at a shallow chimney requiring one - two moves or you can easily ascend some short slabs to your right. Either option puts you on loose dirt and scree that continue on steep terrain to the right of steep walls. You will weave through trees and varying features for quite a distance on steep ground gaining approximately 600’-800’. Eventually you shoot out onto a forested ridge that was marked with a large cairn in 2005 that adorned decaying Ram horns. Now you are on the very spine of the ridge leading east to the summit of Hawk Mountain. Turn right and proceed on a faint trail. You will soon detour left and descend to maneuver around an obstacle. Once in a while you will enjoy water worn limestone making the going fast and easy. Eventually you come to an abrupt end to this right handed ridge and now have Hawk Mountain’s summit block in clear view to the left.

Turn left and head back a bit as you descend into a treed ravine and up the other side on some smooth slabs to gain the next ridge left. Once on track again, you can stay center or right as you make your way up the ridge. I found good ground to the right a bit. You will weave in and out a few places as you ascend certain obstacles and eventually leave tree line completely. You ascend the first false summit to clearly see another standing between you and the eventual summit block. This second to last obstacle does not need to be conquered. Instead, traverse this peak on its right flank aiming for the col below Hawk Mountain’s summit.

Once at the col, you can see some steeper rock to the left. I climbed this rock with no worries, but the true scramble route bypasses this good rock utilizing several connecting gullies further center-right. This is one of those finishes that you ascend, ascend and ascend only to see you have a little further to go. In fact I met a lone scrambler on the way down who thought the summit was right above us when in fact he had over 1500’ left to go (no altimeter I guess).

The summit did have a log in 2005. Fires had started the morning of my ascent and my views were drastically reduced as a result. Of course I could see Mount Colin directly east, but could barely make out Mount Edith Cavell and definitely could not see Mount Robson. I imagine the views are fairly outstanding normally. The landing direction for Jasper’s small craft airport is just southwest of the summit and a small air plane cruised by at eye level.

On descent, return the route. There were a couple of jigs on the way up, so you have to pay attention. Once all the way back to the 4000’ level and above the canyon, you can take an optional descent that drops down into the drainage steeply (needs to be dry) to some interesting water worn dry falls. The first one I came too had a makeshift ladder. The second one did not, so I ascended the west bank and caught a reasonable path down to a parallel trail above the Overlander Trail. Stick to this trail and soon it will drop steeply onto the Overlander Trail.

The guide book gives Hawk Mountain a difficult rating for the chimney section (photo above) which I found considerably less challenging then the final summit rock. However, I found none of the crux spots overwhelming and in my opinion this scramble resides on the easier side of difficult.

Essential Gear

Alpine Ax if Snow Conditions Prevail, Helmet, Adequate Water (the route is mostly dry) and Bear Spray

South-W. Ridge

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