Willmore Wilderness Park: Berland Range


As a summer resident of Northern Alberta, I’ve recently been exploring some new and exciting other-than-rock-climbing hobbies…

One thing I wanted to do was climb a mountain. Well, when the opportunity arose to climb five, there was nothing I could say but “Yes, please!”

I am very lucky to work with a bunch of creative, talented, funny, and adventurous people at ABMI. One of these people, Liam Harrap, is an experienced man of the mountains, and he had a trip in mind in the Willmore Wilderness Park north of Jasper NP. His eye was on the Berland Range, a less traveled suite of peaks that would involve a bit of improvisation. With no trip reports or online blogs and very little information, the tone of the trip was set. A break from work between June 5 and 8 offered the perfect timing, so Jesse, Jazmine, Liam and I loaded in to the car and headed west for our 4-day, 3-night adventure. Meet our team:
Liam Harrap
Jesse Archer
Jazmine Lowther
Our happy group at the trailhead, about to set out! Photo credit: Jesse Archer

We started our trip at Rock Lake and headed up the main trail until we could follow Carson Creek to a pass before the mountains. We then spent two days in the mountains, eventually retreating via Seep Creek until we met back up with the Wild Hay River.

Our first day was an easy 10km hike to camp and our last day was a similar trek back to the car in the morning. We covered the most substantial ground on days 2 and 3, when we summited our five mountains…

Our route on days 2 and 3

 

First Peak: Mount De Wind 2453m
Liam coming up the end of the ridge towards Mount De Wind
Mount De Wind (on the left above the black streaks) viewed from the approach to Mount Hunter
Second Peak: Mount Harvey 2453m
Liam leading the way toward the summit of Mount Harvey
Mount Harvey summit toes!
We camped at the base of Mount Harvey on our second night
Third Peak: Mount Hunter 2607m
Mount Hunter as viewed from Mount Harvey
Final trek to the tippy top of Mount Hunter. Liam awaits us on the summit.
Happy summitters, bellies full of summit treats!
Mount Robson in the distance. We figured the people on Mount Robson must have surely been looking our way saying “Hey! Isn’t that Mount Hunter??” 😉 Photo credit: Jazmine Lowther
Fourth Peak: Zebra Mountain 2558m
Zebra Mountain, viewed from the descent off Mount Hunter
Mountaintop haircuts and register haikus
“jumping” photo!
Fifth Peak: Mount Bazelgette 2454m
Final traverses towards Mount Bazelgette
Crazy uplifted shaley limestone stuff
Ah! The final summit.

Overall, the alpine terrain was more rugged than I had expected, with plenty of route finding and tricky limestone choss traverses. It was easy to appreciate the ease and grace with which Liam maneuvered the ridges and led us up the mountain tops. His experience is evident and it was wonderful to be on the trip with such a knowledgeable friend. He is fast too! Spirit animal = mountain goat? Jesse and Jazmine both have substantially more hours clocked in the mountains than I do as well -all three of them were wonderfully patient and for this I am very grateful.

As most know, I am much more partial to the vertical world than the hiking-long-distances-using-my-feet-and-carrying-weight world, so I knew the trip would be a challenge. Turns out it both was easier and more difficult than I’d imagined. The days were long and the endurance demands were high but the walking itself was generally much easier than I expected. A few of the bests and worsts…

Best moment: Cresting the first ridge and feeling on top of the world
Made it to the top! Haha just kidding 😉 But it felt like it! Photo credit: Jazmine Lowther
Ridge shot!
From whence we came
mmmmm views
Worst moment:Skidding our way down the steep choss side of Mount De Wind on the way to our night 2 camp.

Most hurting: The last few hours of day 3. We’d summited three glorious peaks, but then coming down the valley towards camps at the end of a 13.5 hour day was painful.
Taking those boots off though was an AMAZING moment!

Scariest difficult moment: Fording the Hay River. I seriously thought I might be swept away by the force of the water!

Panic!! Photo credit: Jesse Archer
Worst Planning:Not packing enough food for dinners… thanks Jazzy for saving me here!
Best Planning:Bringing my hiking poles
I had zero knee troubles! Photo credit: Jazmine Lowther
Most favourite parts of mountain climbing: the very small sections of low 5th class scrambling and downclimbing the exposed slabs
Jesse testing the bum-first-crab-walk method on some slab, right before we belayed down our packs
Least favourite parts of mountain climbing: That good ol’ Canadian Rockies choss…. Especially when it’s the only option on a narrow ridge
Traversing a chossy ridge!
Choss…
Route finding was sometimes somewhat tricky!
Favourite camping spot: The alpine meadow in the valley between Mount Hunter and Mount Harvey on night 2
Meadow and sunset beams ❤
***

So many valleys, passes, ridges, mountains, forest, and creeks. AND we made it back to the car on the final morning with plenty of time for the seven hour drive back to Lac La Biche, complete with a Boston Pizza lunch stop on the way! A few more photos, as I just can’t resist…

 

Purple saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia)
Leaving the rugged mountains for some gentler slopes and valleys
Lichens!
Elk melt on the way up Mount Hunter
Possible Oxytropis sp. ?? or maybe Astragalus sp. ?? Anybody?
Forever mountains ❤
Lunch at Carson Creek pass before heading up to the first ridge.
This, of course, would be the cover of our first album if we had one.
Boys are tuckered out!

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