Morin Peak is the local name for a minor summit situated at the south end of the Livingstone Range near the community of Frank, in the Crowsnest Pass. I first noticed it back in 2012 from the South Peak of the Livingstone because the two are connected by a short ridge, though at the time I did not think of it as a separate summit. That all changed however, after my friend Brad reintroduced me to it during our ascent of Bluff Mountain – where seeing it from the west underscored its trip appeal. Brad told me that Morin Peak was one of his favourite quick hit CNP destinations because it offered a technical ridge walk, and depending on which way you ascend or descend, some good opportunities for scrambling.
In fact, Brad did such a good sales job that ever since our Bluff Mountain trip, I’d been waiting for the right conditions to try it. I say this because he cautioned me that it needed to be dry and free of snow before attempting the narrow ridge walk. So when my oldest son, Joel, suggested that we go on a short scramble together, I quickly checked the forecast and sure enough, opportunity was at hand. Unfortunately, we had to spend the entire morning repairing the radiator on his car and did not arrive in the CNP until 3pm. That didn’t matter, as Morin Peak is easy to get to and with the longer days of sunlight now upon us, we had no issues with such a late start. Joining us was Joel’s friend Keagan, who had previously accompanied us on our trip up Racehorse Mountain.
Brad discovered this mountain’s name after viewing a panorama display during a visit to the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre several years ago. I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I’m assuming that its name is connected to Morin Creek which is located adjacent to the mountain’s northern ridge. It’s also interesting to note that the smaller mountain immediately to the south of Morin Peak also has a local name – “The Dog”. (Photo by Brad Wolcott)
To get to Morin Peak we headed west from Lethbridge on Highway 3 until we arrived in the community of Frank. We then turned onto the road (153 St) for the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre. We followed the paved road for ~1.1km until we came to a cattle guard. Here is where the paved road curves to the right and leads to the Interpretive Centre parking lot, while the remainder of the road continues straight, turning to gravel at the cattle guard. We followed the gravel road for another ~1.6km until we came to a turnoff on our lefthand side. We followed this new road north for another ~2.3km until we came to fork. Here is where the gravel road ends and both branches turn into 4X4 tracks. I was able to drive another ~.5km down the left fork with my 4Runner before parking in a clearing underneath some power lines. This is also the way to get to Lille, which is a very fun hike/bike to the ruins of an old mining town that was abandoned in 1914.
After turning my vehicle around and parking, we hiked north along the road for ~ 1km to avoid trespassing on private land. This is the temptation to avoid when climbing Morin Peak. Directly across from my parking spot were two small driveways that had “Private Property” signs posted. Following these roads would be a quick way to access the mountain, but without having permission, we had to hike further to the north. To avoid trespassing on our descent, we followed Green Creek until we were given the first opportunity to cut northwards along the base of the mountain to rejoin our ascent route. We never saw any “Private Property” signs on our descent and on the maps that I checked, there was not any indication of private land on the north side of Green Creek.
To ascend, we followed the SW ridge up to the summit ridge and then enjoyed a fun – but incredibly windy – jaunt to the summit. The ridge is very narrow and requires some route finding skills to navigate, however it looks worse than it actually is. The one major obstacle that we encountered just before the summit, was a precariously narrow step that we avoided by losing and then regaining elevation up a chimney on the east side (climber’s right). I will pass along Brad’s caution to me and note that I would be hesitant to do this ridge walk if it were raining or if snow was present because it could become quite slippery.
The original plan was to descend the north ridge and head over to Lille, which neither Joel nor Keagan, had seen before. Unfortunately, 100+ km winds on the summit forced us to make a hasty retreat down the east side and out the very scenic Green Creek valley. I’d consider returning in the future to try an approach up the north ridge.
Our total distance travelled was 9km with total elevation gains of 892m. Our time clocked in at a leisurely 5 hours and 14 minutes, but I think that we could have realistically shaved off another 45 minutes to an hour if we had gone into beast mode.
My GPS tagged the summit at 2260m though this topo map shows it to be less than 2200m. Judging by how the summit of Morin looked in comparison to the neighbouring summits of Bluff Mountain, Turtle Mountain, and the South Peak, I’d say that my GPS was fairly accurate.
Morin Peak can be seen from our parking spot beneath the power lines on the trail to Lille. The little driveway in the background had a “Private Property” sign posted in the trees. A second driveway located just to the north, also had a similar sign. To avoid trespassing, we would follow the trail towards Lille for ~1 km before heading east towards the mountain.
Joel and Keagan walk the easy trail towards Lille. In the background is Grassy Mountain which is the site of a renewed coal mining operation.
It wasn’t long before we arrived at Gold Creek.
The last time that I hiked to Lille was in 2003 and back then, there wasn’t such a nice bridge to use.
Joel and Keagan examine a demolished vehicle on the side of the trail. This is how unpaid traffic fines are handled in the CNP!
After crossing Gold Creek we came to a fork in the trail where we kept to the right.
A closer look at the sign placed by the Crowsnest Heritage Initiative.
Just past the sign we came to another bridge on our left. However, we didn’t cross it…
…and instead followed a trail that led into the trees on our right.
Looking back at the bridge from the trail.
Mining apparatus from the Lille No. 1 Mine.
Ruins from the Lille No. 1 Mine.
The initial trail that we followed didn’t last too long. However, there were numerous animal trails that kept us heading in a northerly direction.
This is the point – approximately 400m after leaving the main trail – where we stopped paralleling the valley and began to head east towards Morin Peak.
Within 30 minutes of leaving our vehicle, we were treated to a nice view of our ascent slope from a small knoll. It is also possible to ascend the west ridge which can be seen to the climber’s left of the gully. The summit is not visible.
We had to lose about 40m of elevation before reaching the base of the SW ridge.
We encountered a small cliff band halfway up the slope. It was more fun to go over this than around it 😉
Above the cliff band the hiking began to get more interesting.
“The Dog” provides the backdrop as Joel and Keagan make their way through a section of light forest. I’d love to know the background story on how this mountain received its name.
Just prior to tackling the section beneath the summit ridge, we stopped to enjoy the views, eat a quick snack, and take a break from the wind.
A late day shot of Turtle Mountain.
Looking from our rest spot towards the section beneath the summit ridge. Here is where the real fun would begin.
Looking down the SW ridge at our approach route.
The terrain steepened as we got closer to the ridge.
The section beneath the ridge presented many options for scrambling. Since the wind was so bad, we initially bypassed this little ridge by going to climber’s right. However, we soon realized that we were missing the fun of scrambling along the ridge and subsequently regained it.
Keagan and Joel enjoy a brief reprieve from the wind. We would soon climb back onto the ridge.
The summit ridge comes into view though the actual summit is not yet visible.
Someone had built a decent sized cairn at the intersection of the south and southwest ridges. I’m guessing that this is the turnaround point for those who do not wish to tackle the ridge.
Looking northeast at the South Peak of the Livingstone (right). The summit of Morin Peak is still not visible.
Dark clouds provide the atmospherics for an interesting profile shot of Bluff Mountain. It may not look like much, but Bluff Mountain was one of my favourite scrambles in 2015.
The beginning of the ridge walk. It looks worse than it is and the slabs can be tackled (when dry) without too much difficulty. We were able to stay on the ridge crest for almost the entire trip.
The angle of the slabs were such that Keagan, who is a novice scrambler, could handle the ridge with just a little bit of coaching.
The summit ridge offers excellent views of the CNP and the Castle Crown. Tallon Peak, Robertson Peak, and “The Dog” can be seen in the background on the left. Byron Hill can be seen in the distance to the right of centre.
The summit of Morin Peak can be seen jutting up in the centre. The summit of the South Peak is on the right.
A closer look at the summit block. The actual summit is the small bump on the right.
The lower section of the summit block.
The upper section offered even more options for scrambling.
Joel and Keagan make their way towards the summit block.
The crux was this step immediately before the summit.
To bypass it, we had to drop to climber’s right and lose ~20m of elevation before ascending a chimney located to the right of centre.
A closeup of the crux.
Apparently, this little rock was holding up the entire mountain 😉
Joel and Keagan begin downclimbing to avoid the crux.
The chimney that leads to the summit.
Looking at our bypass route from the top of the chimney.
A small cairn (which was probably made by Brad) sits on the summit of Morin Peak (2260m).
The summit offered excellent views. This pano is looking north along the Livingstone Range towards Caudron Peak and Centre Peak.
The view west includes (from left to right): Sentry Mountain, Island Ridge, Crowsnest Ridge, Mount Tecumseh, Wedge Mountain, Saskatoon Mountain, “Pa Butte”, Crowsnest Mountain, the Seven Sisters, McGillivray Ridge, Ma Butte, Grassy Mountain, and “Vicary Creek Ridge”. The clearing in the foreground is where the remnants of of Lille are found.
Keagan fights against the wind as he takes his final steps to the summit.
Joel and Keagan on the summit. Well done Keagan!
Joel and I brace ourselves against the wind on the summit of Morin Peak. As always, the summits that I share with my kids are the ones most special to me. It’s hard to believe that Joel has graduated from college and will be starting his first career-related job next month.
A closer look at the snow covered Flathead Range.
The connecting ridge to the South Peak reveals a tricky obstacle.
A close up of Crowsnest Mountain and the Seven Sisters. Racehorse Mountain can be seen in the distance on the right. The distinctive shape of Wedge Mountain is noticeable in the foreground on the left.
A closer look at Centre Peak and Caudron Peak.
Joel and I pause for a quick selfie as we retreat from the wind.
Our original plan was to descend the north ridge and head over to Lille because neither Joel nor Keagan had seen it before. However, insane wind gusts forced us to change our plans in favour of a more sheltered descent into the Green Creek valley.
Joel downclimbs a chimney.
A closer look at the cliff band on the connecting ridge between Morin Peak and the South Peak.
The area around the connecting ridge was full of interesting terrain.
Looking south at our descent route.
This lingering patch of snow caught our attention.
We hiked past some amazing pinnacles.
The mountain seemed quite excited to see us 😉 (Photo by Joel McMurray)
Descending into the valley.
Joel boot skis down a deceptively steep patch of snow. On the steep sections of scree, he would also take a large flat rock and use it as a ‘scree board’.
Keagan tries boot skiing for the first time in his life…
…with mixed results 😉
Heading into the trees at the headwaters of Green Creek.
Many years ago, someone had taken the time to cut a trail alongside the creek.
A cave on the side of “The Dog”.
We realized that following Green Creek would take us directly back to our vehicle. However, it would have also taken us onto private property. So as soon as we could, we left Green Creek and headed north towards our ascent route. We then bushwhacked our way back to the Lille trail and followed this back to our car. We didn’t encounter any private property signs or boundary markers and all of the maps that I checked, indicated that there wasn’t any private land on the north side of Green Creek.
A late day shot of Morin Peak from our starting point. Once again, Brad steered me in the direction of an unassuming, yet incredibly fun scramble in the CNP. The ridge walk was definitely the highlight and if it weren’t for the 120+ km wind gusts, descending the north ridge to Morin Creek and then hiking over to see the remnants of Lille would have been the icing on the cake. I’m actually tempted to try this mountain again by heading first through Lille and then up the north ridge. All in all, Morin Peak was a fantastic way to spend an afternoon!