Elevation: 2360 m
Elevation Gain: 360 m
Along with A2, A3, Boundary Peak and Hilda Peak, Parker Ridge is a subsidiary peak on the Mount Athabasca massif. The popular trail to a viewpoint on the ridge crest is the most northerly trail in Banff National Park. Parker Ridge was named for American professor Herschel Parker who visited the Columbia Icefields with Walter Wilcox in 1896. Parker was an accomplished climber who would go on to be part of several notable first ascents, including those of Deltaform Mountain, Mount Goodsir South Tower and Mount Hungabee.
August 2 2015.
GPS Track: Parker Ridge
Good company trumps a big objective in the mountains. Big objectives tend to involve much misery including (but not limited to): long approaches, bushwhacking, steep loose terrain and bowel-cleansing drop-offs. As I contemplated these aspects of scrambling in the lead up to my 32nd birthday, I came to the realization that I’m too old for this shit. The theme for my birthday ascent this year would, therefore, be “short and sweet!” In this regard, Parker Ridge fit the bill perfectly! The 3 km trot up takes place almost entirely in the alpine with sweeping views of glaciers, mountains and meadows. Most importantly, the stature of the objective would allow me to share these views with those most important to me on my birthday.
When the view from the trailhead parking lot is this remarkable, you know you’re in for a great day! This photo was literally taken RIGHT behind the outhouse! Mount Athabasca is the glaciated giant in the center while aiguille-like Hilda Peak juts upwards on the right.
A closer look at Mount Athabasca’s sheer east face. Is there an angle that this peak doesn’t look sexy from?
Brianne, Crux, mom and I make quick work of the gentle switchbacks up Parker Ridge’s north flank.
Wildflowers add a splash of color to the alpine views of Nigel Pass.
The highway-like trail crests Parker Ridge some 250 vertical meters above the parking lot. From here, popular trails continue towards a viewpoint (straight ahead) and towards unofficially named Hilda Ridge (right). The actual summit of Parker Ridge lies some 50 meters higher to the left (east) although there is no path to it.
The viewpoint provides stunning vistas of Mount Bryce, Castleguard Mountain and the Saskatchewan glacier beyond a sea of fireweed!
While most hikers stop at the viewpoint, I had to insist that we continue up towards Parker’s summit. After all, I can’t have a proper birthday without bagging a peak, can I?
The old(er) man enjoys the mellow ascent.
Mom and Brianne enjoy a pleasant summer stroll to the summit while Crux looks on.
The Hobbs’ arrive on top! At some point in the brief ascent, the sky decided to cloud over but even overcast skies couldn’t mar this birthday backdrop.
The long tongue of the Saskatchewan Glacier laps down from the Columbia Icefields and gives birth to the nascent North Saskatchewan River. The Saskatchewan Glacier has been photographed from this vantage for many years and it’s shocking to see how far it’s retreated in one lifetime!
Impressive falls cascade down the steep north face of Big Bend Peak across the valley.
A closer look at Castleguard Mountain.
Happy hound on the summit! Mouse over to see the other happy hound – which looks more pleased with its latest summit success?
The panorama from the summit of Parker Ridge overlooks the steep valley carved by the Saskatchewan Glacier and provides likely the greatest scenic reward for the effort expended in the Rockies. From left right: Cirrus Mountain and its many scenic outliers, Mount Coleman (distant), Spine Peak, Mount Saskatchewan, Big Bend Peak, Mount Saskatchewan Junior, Terrace Mountain, Mount Castleguard, the Saskatchewan Glacier, Mount Athabasca and Hilda Peak. Click to see larger.
Looking beyond Parker’s alpine plateau towards Cirrus Mountain (right).
Highway 93 runs at the foot of the Weeping Wall and Mount Cirrus above.
Views towards Mount Saskatchewan (right) including Spine Peak (center left) and Big Bend Peak (far right).
A closer look at Mount Saskatchewan’s sheer north face.
Looking back towards the highway-like Parker Ridge trail and the Mount Athabasca massif.
I ♥ Mount Athabasca.
A closer look at the steep, rumored scramble route up Hilda Peak (described by Mike Mitchell as a “super exposed ninja obstacle course” during a recent attempt).
Looking north beyond Mount Wilcox and Wilcox Pass towards some of the giants of the Columbia Icefield. From left to right: Stutfield Peak, Mount Alberta, Mount Cromwell, Mount Wooley and Diadem Peak.
A happy birthday group photo from the scenic summit of Parker Ridge. The best company I could ask for!
What goes up, must (eventually) go down (after taking hundreds of photos)…
Alpine friends. Although the trail to the Parker Ridge viewpoint is crowded, these sheep were the only ones that we had to share the path-less summit with!
Back to the “upper” highway…
…and en route to the “lower” highway! Thanks to my family for making my 32nd birthday a very happy one! Special thanks to my pregnant wife who still managed to hike all the way up despite not feeling well and not sleeping the night prior. She must really love me! :-)
PS: I’m totally not too old for this shit (yet)!