“Shooting Star Peak”, 8 July 2017

“Shooting Star Peak” (foreground centre, ~2359m topo, 2388 my GPS) from the slopes of “Alexander Creek Mountain”.  “Shooting Star” is a prominent outlier on the Tecumseh/Phillipps massif that provides excellent views of the surrounding area.  I chose the name because Tecumseh is thought to mean ‘shooting star’ in Shawnee.

⚠️ Hiking and scrambling are inherently dangerous activities. Please read my Disclaimer⚠️

It was just over a month ago that I enjoyed a solo hike to the summit of “Alexander Creek Mountain”.  Along the way, I found myself captivated by unnamed peak located immediately to the southeast on the Mount Tecumseh / Phillipps Peak massif.  Since I’m a sucker for obscure summits, I naturally began making plans to drop by for a visit.

Fast forward a month to when I received some great news from my nephew, Jeff.  The knee he had injured 9 months ago had healed to the point where he was ready to test it out on a mountain.  Now outside of my own immediate family, Jeff is not only one of my favourite hiking partners, but he is one of my favourite people.  If you don’t know my family, then I will simply explain that I was a “Whoops!  I missed my vasectomy appointment!” child.  This means that a significant age gap exists between my siblings and myself.  Jeff, being my eldest sister’s son, is only 7 years younger and is closer to me in age than any of my siblings.  I may still be a kooky uncle, but at least I’m not an ‘old’, kooky uncle – that honour would belong to my brothers. 😉

Anyway, back to the matter at hand.  Jeff thought his knee could handle a moderate hike and so I told him that I had the perfect destination in mind.  Not only would it have great views from the summit, but we would ascend by following a ridge with a favourable grade.  The only drawback was that the ridge was covered in trees almost to the top (boo!), however, since we were under a heat warning, the ridge would also give us shade from the sun (yay!).

So, we set out relatively early on Saturday, July 8th and ended up having a super day.  Not only was it great to be back on a mountain with Jeff, but his knee passed the test with flying colours!  Like “Alexander Creek Mountain”, “Shooting Star Peak” ended up being a destination that was well worth our time.

I’m always reticent to give nicknames to unnamed summits simply because locals or the First Nation on whose traditional territory it sits, may already have one.  I’m even more hesitant in this case because I’m using what is thought to be the meaning of Tecumseh’s name.  As noted by the Canadian Encyclopedia, “His name is generally understood to mean Shooting Star and is associated with a celestial panther, the spiritual patron of the family’s Kispoko clan.”  As the peak is part of the same massif as Mount Tecumseh, I wanted to maintain the theme – no offence to Michael Phillipps – and pay further respect to a great figure in Canadian history.  Hence, “Shooting Star Peak”.  Still, why we don’t have peaks officially named after or by local Indigenous peoples is a huge gap in our ongoing history with mountains.  Also, this little peak may already have a local or Indigenous name, and as I said with “Alexander Creek Mountain,” if you know what it is, let me know.

To get to “Shooting Star Peak,” I drove west from Lethbridge on Highway 3 until I crossed into BC.  Approximately 1km west of the Crowsnest Park Provincial Park Rest Area, I turned into a weigh scale station on the righthand side of the highway.  The access road for the Alexander Creek Conservation Lands begins inside the boundaries of the station.  Motorized vehicle traffic is prohibited between April 1st and June 15th but was now permissible.  Still, we originally planned on biking the 2.7 km to the base of the mountain.  However, knowing there was a heat warning in effect, I elected to drive the distance.  I still would have preferred to have biked it.

I ended up parking about 250 m from the base because we debated going up another ridge located to the north that also looked promising.  However, we didn’t want to bushwhack along a creek to reach it, so we stuck with the original plan.  Our route began at a clearing found alongside the first hairpin curve on the road.  We ascended this to gain the ridge crest.  The first ~375 m is quite steep, but afterwards, the grade becomes much more manageable – even pleasant – for the next ~300 m before it increases again as it heads toward the summit ridge.  In total, the distance from the road to the summit ridge was ~1.9km – all done through surprisingly light forest cover with the odd meadow interspersed along the way.  Though we weren’t treated to many views of the surrounding area, there was little to no bushwhacking and travel was quick as long as we stuck to the ridge crest.  Indeed, we were able to follow several clearly demarcated animal trails as we made our way up. As far as forested ascent routes go, we both agreed that this one was quite pleasant.

The summit ridge made up for the lack of views on the way up and travel along the ~650 m or so to the summit was made easy by a well-trodden goat path.  There were a couple of spots where we had to do some very minor down-climbing, but nothing serious.  The final ~380 m to the summit from the final col was an easy hike.  After enjoying the awesome views and building a cairn, we returned the same way.

Our total distance travelled was 7 km with total elevation gains of 965 m.  Ou total roundtrip time came in at a 6 hours and 9 minutes.

A rough sketch of our route set onto a topo map.

In 2013, Teck purchased 3098 hectares of land north of Highway 3 to create the privately managed, Alexander Creek Conservation Lands.  Extending north from Phillipps Pass along the BC/AB border, this area has been deemed critical for wildlife connectivity, particularly “wide-ranging species such as grizzly bear and lynx” which use this corridor as a link to and from Waterton National Park. (source)  Though the land is private, Teck does allow public access with the following proviso:

Please keep conservation in mind when you are enjoying recreation activities on these lands and respect the existing Access Management Areas on the Grave Prairie and Alexander Creek lands.  (source & map)

Pictured above are the two signs found at the entrance to the Alexander Creek Conservation Lands.  For my previous trip up “Alexander Creek Mountain,” I had contacted Teck to make sure that off-trail hiking was allowed and spoke directly to Kevin, their Environment and Landscape Conservation Manager.  He confirmed to me that hiking is definitely allowed, but that random camping and off-road vehicle use were strictly prohibited.  Kevin was incredibly helpful and his passion for the land was readily apparent.  I really have to thank Teck for investing in, and setting these lands aside for conservation.  If you happen to use this route, please make sure to respect all signage and as always, leave nothing but footprints.  Remember that motorized vehicle use is prohibited between April 1 and June 15.

Approximately ~ 2.5 km from the entrance gate, I parked on a non-vegetated patch next to the road. Our ascent route went up the slope in the foreground centre, but at this point we were also debating using an alternate slope on the far left.  Either would work, but we decided against bushwhacking along a creek to reach the alternate one.  From where I parked to where we began to ascend it was ~200 m walk along the road.  The summit can’t be seen from the road.

The start of our route in the clearing next to the road.

The first ~ 375m or so was quite steep and proved to be a good test for Jeff’s knee.

Morning sunlight hyper-tints Loop Ridge.

The opportunities for enjoying good views were limited on the way up.  From left to right:  Mount Ptolemy, The Northwest Ridge of Ptolemy, Island Ridge, Tent Mountain, Mount Taylor, and Loop Ridge.  Summit Lake is in the foreground centre.

Almost on the crest.

After the initial grind to reach the crest, the grade became quite pleasant for the next ~300m.  Travel through the trees was relatively easy and very little bushwhacking was required.  After this brief reprieve however, the terrain would steepen once again.

Interspersed throughout the forest were a number of small meadows and clearings.  (Photo by Jeff Lang)

Arctic Lupine and morning sunlight.

We utilized some great animals trails as we hiked along the crest.  As always, I love to thank the animals in spirit but not in person.

Jeff enjoys the rare chance to take in a view.

Our first glimpse of the summit ridge.

We had no trouble navigating our way along the crest.  Despite the lack of views, we still really enjoyed the hike.

The forest thinned as we drew closer to the summit ridge.

A pano looking to southwest from the upper slopes.  Loop Ridge and the Natal Fire Lookout are in the centre and the southern end of Mount Erickson is on the right.

Looking to the northwest at “Alexander Creek Mountain” (foreground) and Mount Erickson on the far left.

Jeff makes his way up the final few metres to the summit ridge.

Booyah!  The awesome view from the summit ridge!  The summit of “Shooting Star Peak” is on the left, while the summits of Mount Tecumseh and Phillipps Peak are on the right.  In the distant centre is Crowsnest Mountain and the Seven Sisters.

A closer look at the summit of “Shooting Star Peak”.

A closer look at the summits of Tecumseh (left) and Phillipps (centre).  A small cairn sits on top of another outlier on the far right.  I was tempted to scamper to the top and scout out if an alternate route to Phillipps was possible, but alas, I didn’t.

A nice breeze on top of the summit ridge tempered what was otherwise, a scorchingly hot day.

Looking back from along the ridge as Jeff walks across the first col.  We chose to follow the ascent ridge to the top of the high point on the far right.  From there, we simply followed a well-trodden goat trail to the col and then up the next high point.

The goat trail bifurcated on the other side of the col and provided two options for tackling the next high point.  We chose the one that stuck to the crest, though it did get narrow in spots.

Jeff stands on top of the second high point.

Following the goat trail to the col beneath the summit.

Some minor down-climbing was needed to reach the final col.  The first col is on the far left.

Shark fin rocks.

The summit ridge straddles the BC/AB border and we found a survey marker in the col.  This one sits directly to the east of an identical one on the summit ridge of “Alexander Creek Mountain.”

A closeup of the survey tag.  The number of the tag found on “Alexander Creek Mountain” is 9378.

We also found a metal survey stake a few metres away.  We resisted the temptation to claim more land for Alberta!  😉

It’s an easy ~70 m elevation gain over ~365 m to reach the summit from the col.

The summit of “Shooting Star Peak.”  My GPS tagged it at 2388 m but the topo says it can’t be higher than 2359 m.

Jeff takes the final few steps before reaching the summit.

A pano looking to the north. The summit offers some excellent views of the surrounding area!

A pano looking to the south.

A pano looking to the northwest.

Jeff stands on his first summit since injuring his knee 9 months ago.

Awkward summit selfie – at least of the kooky uncle…  😉

A telephoto looking slightly southwest at Mount Taylor (far left) and Loop Ridge (centre).

A telephoto looking southwest at the Natal Fire Lookout (foreground), The Three Sisters, Mount Hosmer, and Mount Bisaro.

A telephoto to the west includes Mount Erickson (foreground) and Mount Washburn (centre).

A telephoto looking northwest at “Alexander Creek Mountain” (foreground), Mount Erickson, Gaff Peak, and Sheep Mountain.

A telephoto to the north of Allison Peak (left) and “Deadman Peak” (centre).

A telephoto to the northeast of Crowsnest Mountain and the Seven Sisters.

Looking beyond the Seven Sisters at “Vicary Creek Ridge” (distant centre).

A telephoto to the east of Centre Peak (left), Caudron Peak, and Grassy Mountain.

The summits of “Alexander Creek Mountain” and “Shooting Star Peak” can clearly be seen as you drive west through the Pass along Highway 3.  This is a telephoto looking east.  In the distance from left to right: the South Peak of the Livingstone, Morin Peak, “The Dog”, Bluff Mountain, Tallon Peak, and Turtle Mountain.  In the foreground on the left are Saskatoon Mountain, Wedge Mountain, and Chinook Lake.

A telephoto of the summit of Mount Tecumseh.

A telephoto of Phillipps Peak.

The north ridge of “Shooting Star Peak” is accessible via a trail from Deadman Pass.  The terminus of the trail can be seen at the base of the scree slope on the bottom left.  To me, it looked like the north ridge could possibly be scrambled but I can’t say for sure.  I guess I’ll just have to come back and try it… 🙂

A perfect spot to enjoy lunch!  We could see two people on the summit of Phillipps Peak, but they didn’t seem interested in my sandwich.  In the background is Mount Ptolemy and the three peaks (‘Mummy’, ‘Pharaoh’s’, and ‘Anubis’) on the Northwest Ridge of Ptolemy.

Jeff pauses for a pic while building a cairn.

After a long and leisurely summit stay, it was time to head home.

Our mighty cairn.  I named it Kenny.

Following the ridge crest.  (Photo by Jeff Lang)

One last look at the summit.

We were thankful that our descent was predominantly in the shade.

Going down was a slower process as Jeff had to carefully guard his knee.  Here he takes advantage of one of many animal trails that we came across.

Arriving back at the more gradual section of the ridge.  As long as you stick to the crest, travel is straightforward.

We discovered someone’s secret stash of pine cones!  I wonder if they eat the red ones last?  😉

Looking down at my 4Runner (centre) as we get ready to tackle the steeper section above the road.

Trying to avoid a ‘knee jerk reaction’.  😉

Passing by a natural archway before reaching the road.

Looking back at the beginning (and ending) of our route from the road.

Arriving back at my 4Runner after an excellent time on the mountain.  It was so good to be hiking with Jeff again!

Our route as viewed from my 4Runner at the end of the day.  The summit can’t be seen but once on the ridge crest, the ascent through the trees is fairly straightforward and surprisingly enjoyable.  I doubt many people visit the summit which is a shame because it’s definitely a worthwhile objective.  Moreover, as with “Alexander Creek Mountain”, the summit can probably be reached by a scramble route from the north via Deadman Pass.

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