Mist Mountain

July 17, 2020

Mist Mountain is a behemoth that dominates the southern skyline on Highway 40. It pokes up well above all it’s neighbours, making it seem like the highest mountain that ever existed. Once you get around the corner, you see that Mist is the first of many 10,000 footers in the Highwood Pass area, but that doesn’t take away from it’s impressiveness.

Mist Mountain 05

Cycling Highway 40 from gate to Highwood Pass before the road opens to cars. Mist Mountain dominates the skyline.

Mist Mountain is a popular destination for another reason. It has a small ‘hot’ springs on its lower flank that draws hundreds of people annually. Unfortunately, not everyone who goes up here is respectful. This is the home of marmots, picas, Columbia ground squirrels, and chipmunks. There are also bears and cougars that travel through the wide meadows. I have seen many dogs off leash here, with disastrous consequences. The day before we summited Mist, an off-leash dog killed a marmot. There are two main rules when visiting the mountains – leave no trace, and keep your dog leashed (or at home).

This was my second attempt on Mist. My husband Mike and I went up last October. Despite ice axes and crampons, the snow was deep and the temperature above the col plummeted. Mist creates a kind of wind tunnel that swoops down from the summit, turning even a hot and muggy day freezing. My left foot soon froze, but we managed to thaw it out. We continued up to around the 8,000′ mark, but the snow was deep and we were post-holing up to our waists. Time to try again another day.

For this attempt, even though it was mid-July, there is still plenty of snow on Mist. This time we used the snow to our advantage on the way back down. Read on to find out how. The photos below are a mix between the October 2019 and the July 2020 trips.

Gear

In good conditions, all your regular hiking gear plus gators for the scree / snow ride down. If there is snow, then full mountaineering gear is required, including crampons and ice axes. Mist is a major mountain and should not be underestimated in bad weather or conditions.

Overview

At the trail head, go straight up until you hit the col. On the left is the route to summit Mist Mountain. Straight across is the line through the scree that leads to the hot springs.

Go left, and make your way around the lower flank of Mist until you come to the large bowl below the summit. From here, take the line on the right. This leads directly to the lowest col. At the col, turn left and follow the ridge line to the summit. Return the way you came, or descend on the closer gully.

Trail Head

Park at the double-wide pull out just south of the trail head. It always interests me that people going for a long hike will ignore a perfectly good parking lot and instead park on the side of the highway, just to save a few extra meters of walking.

Mist Mountain 1

These cars are parked right at the trail head. The big pull-out is just back a few metres. If you are hiking 7 – 12 km, then what’s a few more metres to park safely in the spots provided?

There are a few entrances to the trail. They all join up, but it’s easiest if you go to the creek, and take the wide trail immediately to the west. After a few meters is a large metal spike with flagging attached.

Mist Mountain 2

The entrance to the trail head is very obvious as the largest break in the thick brush. It is just west of the creek. The trail stays on the west side of the creek all the way up to the col.

Mist Mountain 3

Just a few metres onto the trail, this metal peg marked with flagging is visible. In October, the vegetation was much depleted compared to the thick bushes we found in July.

Main Trail

Stay on the trail, ignoring all side trails that join in. Head up through the thick forest on a trail that is surprising steep in places with very little switchbacks.

After about 1.5 to 2 km, we broke out of the trees and got a gorgeous view of Eagle Ridge on our right, and the lower ridge of Mist Mountain on our left.

Mist Mountain 4

Looking back towards Highway 40. We have just left the lush forest and are now on the open slopes between Eagle Ridge (left or east) and Mist Ridge (right or west).

Mist Mountain 5

Mist ridge is above us on the west with gorgeous white rock faces.

As the terrain mellowed and opened up, we headed straight ahead for the col between Mist and Eagle Ridge.

Mist Mountain 6

Heading towards the col between Mist (left) and Eagle (right) ridges.

We then turned left, and made our way up the small slope to the col proper. From this view, we looked up at our route as it curved around to the right, between the ridge on the left and the lower flank of Mist Mountain on the right. Straight across from the col is the hot springs. It is accessed by following the trail through the scree that winds it’s way across the base of the mountain.

Mist Mountain 7

Our route from the col. Go down to the left, cross the scree slope, and make your way behind the lower flank of Mist Mountain. The hot springs are directly across from the col, at the base of Mist Mountain. You can see the pool and the water draining from it on the lower right side of this photo, just above tree line. A trail through the scree leads straight to the pool.

From the col, we made our way along the left side of the ridge on the well-trod scree trail. There are a few options, but we chose the higher routes whenever possible. Snow levels may change your mind so be open to what’s best.

Mist Mountain 8

From the col, we worked our way around the base of the ridge on the left, and then prepared to cross the scree slope.

Mist Mountain 9

Looking back as we cross the scree slope. Even in July, there was still quite a bit of snow. We choose a lower line heading up because the snow was pretty hard and crusty after a cool evening and fresh rain. When we attempted Mist last October, both of us had our crampons slip out from beneath us on the boiler-plate hard snow. A quick ice axe arrest prevented us from sliding all the way down.

Once we crossed the open scree slope, we kept to the band of hard rock that was above the gully to our left. Little did we know this was the last solid ground until we hit the summit ridge.

Mist Mountain 10

The last bit of hard rock until the summit. Our route bends right around to the right. The scrambling route is above on the right.

Mist Mountain 11

Once off the rock band, there is a fairly good trail through the scree. This section was quite enjoyable as we worked our way through some KMs on a gentle ascent. It was also freezing here! Despite the hot day, there was a cold wind blowing down from the summit. We were wearing gloves and jackets shortly after this point.

We continued to curve around the mountain until we came to the wide open bowl below the summit ridge that surrounded us on three sides.

Mist Mountain 12

It’s quite a desolate landscape back here. Directly ahead is the Lipsett-Mist Col connector to the summit. This is a major scrambling route. Next to it on the right is the black scree (just right of the last snow field) that we used as our descent. The summit is above the back scree, and to the left (unseen).

This is where you need to make a decision. The hiking route is the wide gully on the far right. This takes you to the lowest col and is the easiest way up. When we were there, some people were ascending the left black scree gully, which is the descent route. On the far left is a rocky ridge which is the connector for the Lipsett-Mist col. This is a major scrambling route and a man died there last year doing this route.

Mist Mountain 13

The hiking route is on the right, just to the right of the black scree. There is a fairly obvious section of lighter rock where many people have churned up and slid down. This is the lowest point to gain the summit ridge, and the easiest ascent. This photo makes the ascent look fairly mellow. It’s not. Be prepared for calf and achilles tendon strain.

We ascended the hiking route up the right gully. This wide gully is a frustrating ankle-burner. The lower section had a somewhat defined trail, but we were soon on our own. After churning up the soft scree for a while, we elected to move over into the bigger rocks. These held surprisingly well. Near the top, we came to a vertical rock band that gave us some blessed churning relief, but not from the vertical strain on the calves and achilles tendons.

Just before the col, the angle eases off a bit. The col itself is a beautiful spot. The false summit is on your right (east) while the summit trail heads west.

Mist Mountain 14

The col! The angle eases off a bit near the top.

Mist Mountain 15

From the col, looking back down onto the open area at the base of the final ascent push. This view shows the height gain and angle better.

Mist Mountain 16

As we made our way on the summit ridge, this is looking back to the other side of the col at the the false summit, or Mist outlier.

The summit ridge is very enjoyable, and we quickly forgot about the preceding scree slog. We undulated up and around several outcrops, with spectacular views of the backside of Mist, and the surrounding mountains.

 

Mist Mountain 17

We had fun views like this all the way to the summit. For me, climbing mountains is all about finding the little gems and views. Even in the middle of the scree slog we could find interesting rocks or calcium deposits. There is joy to be found everywhere, not just at the summit.

Mist Mountain 18

The ridge walk undulates, but there is a nice trail the whole way.

The final push to the summit is a flat ridge. There was still a lot of snow on the lee side of the mountain that we were careful to avoid. No doubt this is an unsupported cornice. Always stay on solid rock.

Mist Mountain 19

The mountain is just as steep under the snow as the exposed side. There was no way I was going to trust that snow. Someone brought up a stick and left it in the snow to mark the summit.

Time to summit was 4 hours and 20 minutes. Elevation gain was 1,281 m over 6.2 km. Elevation at the top is 3,140 m.

Mist Mountain 21

My daughter Mackenzie and I enjoying a summit celebration. Blessedly, the wind was not blowing up here, and we could enjoy a quick bite before heading down.

The summit plaque commemorates a man who died after being struck by lightening on Mist. It’s a good reminder of what happens when you are the highest thing on the highest mountain in the area. Mist Mountain has intense weather. There is no shame in turning around and trying again another day, because the mountains are not going anywhere.

Mist Mountain 20

I’ve been caught out in bad weather. It can happen to even the most experienced mountain people. However, do your best to stay home on rainy days that can quickly build into electrical storms and dump snow at higher elevations.

From the summit, we looked down directly west to Mount Lipsett, and got a great view of the Lipsett-Mist col. To the north is Highwood Ridge on the left and Storm Mountain on the right.

Mist Mountain 22

Looking west, the green ridge below is Mount Lipsett. The connector between Lipsett summit and Mist is the Lipsett-Mist col. This is a scrambling route. The descent back down is left of the furthest left ridge. Don’t be tempted to head straight down.

Mist Mountain 23

This is looking north down highway 40 towards the Highwood Pass. On the left is Highwood Ridge. On the right is Storm Mountain. This is Kane’s scrambling route for Mist Mountain.

Mist Mountain Return

One option is to return the way you came, and descend the main gully.

Another option is to pick up a trail through the black scree below and to the south of the summit. This leads to a narrower gully that you can scree-slide down. This is where we got extremely lucky with the snow. This entire gully was still packed with snow, and we slid down it. This was a real knee-saver, as we lost close to 1,500′ of elevation in about 20 minutes.

Mist Mountain 24

Looking back up at the band of black scree. We slid down this in no time. I imagine the softer, finer black rock would be fun to scree down as well.

From the base of the gully, we headed back to the open area below. Normally, we would pick up the scree trail that we came in on. However, there was still a lot of snow in the gully, so we elected to stay on the soft snow and scooted our way down.

Mist Mountain 25

Our up track is way to the left, above this gully full of snow. Thankfully the snow was still pretty hard and made for fast travel. It also saved our feet from pounding even more over the scree. Note the abundance of red algae on the snow’s surface.

We picked up the rock band, and saw what happens to all that algae.

Mist Mountain 26

No, this is not blood. When the snow melts, the algae is left concentrated in small pools. When the water evaporates, it does indeed look like a kill site.

From the rock band, we made our way across the scree slope and back to the col. From here, it’s a quick trip back down the hiking trail to the parking lot.

Mist Mountain 27

Mackenzie takes a short break while she waits for for us to catch up. We will strip off our helmets and gators at the col.

If you found this post useful, please do me a huge favour and click the Star button to “Like” it. You can also follow my blog, follow me on Instagram, or join my FaceBook page Al’s Adventurers.

Alisen

Totals – Tracked on Strava

Date:  July 17, 2020
Group:  Four (Alisen, Mike, Mackenzie and Kayla)
Distance:  12 km
Elevation:  1,281 m (4,227′)
Time:  6 hours 55 minutes (includes breaks and lunch)

Map

Just shy of half the distance is gained from the trail head to col. It’s a long day at 12 km return. The elevation gain does not relent the entire day.

Profile

Mist Mountain has an extra 300 m (1,000′) of elevation gain to the summit because the trail head is lower down than other mountains closer to the Highwood Pass. You can see that the descent route from the summit is slightly different from the ascent. This is due to the snow slope we took down.

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Posted in Adventures, Scrambling
13 comments on “Mist Mountain
  1. Amit Kumar says:

    Welcome back ma’am with adventures and I’m happy to see your post again. Thank you.

  2. I’m loving following your posts. Very informative. We do lots of liking and cycling too. Yesterday we cycled from Vermillion lakes to Johnson Canyon then hiked to upper falls. Last weekend we hiked Three sisters Pass plus Bougeau lake and Harvey Pass. Mist mountain and grizzly mountain are on our list for the season. Thanks for posting these 🙂

    • alisendopf says:

      Way to go! Those all are excellent destinations. I’m loving the Bow Valley being closed right now. What a blessing.

      Thank you for the kind words of support. I really do appreciate hearing feedback. I’m glad it’s making a difference for you, and encouraging you to get out.

  3. francisashis says:

    Wow!Lovely photographs.Thanks for sharing🙏

  4. Geri Lawhon says:

    So many gorgeous pictures, and I really liked your sliding down. Thank you for sharing your adventure.

    • alisendopf says:

      Welcome to Al’s Adventurers Geri!
      Thank you for the kind words. The sliding down really saved my knees, and the grade wasn’t too steep so we could do a controlled descent.
      Please let me know if you get a chance to go up Mist, and how you made out.
      Alisen

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