⚠️ Hiking and scrambling are inherently dangerous activities. Please read my Disclaimer. ⚠️
After failing to reach the summit in 2015, it was great to finally put my experience with Andy Good Peak to rights. Last time, Graham and I tried to use Andrew’s north ridge route from More Scrambles, but after discovering it more intense than desired, soon found ourselves ascending a gully on the west face before calling it quits. This time, Brad and I ascended the southwest ridge from the col above Andy Good Basin, which Raff and Andrew had used in 2019. Naively expecting an unremarkable ascent – which for the first 3/4 of the ridge it was – we unexpectedly found ourselves on a short ~50 or 60 m section of slab that was punctuated by a small, but highly exposed step.
I’m generally good with exposure and trust my scrambling skills, but this section made me want to pee my pants. When we discovered that a previous party had placed a couple of pitons, I felt a bit more justified in my apprehension. Thankfully, Brad had brought a 25 m rope (he never goes anywhere on the Flatheads without one) and he expertly set us up to take advantage of the still usable implements. To be honest, I’m not sure I would’ve continued had we not had the security of the rope for the short, but no-room-for-error climb over the step. I think even Brad, who is a highly experienced technical climber and scrambler, was also glad that we tackled the step with a rope. Once past this small but mighty crux, the route reverted back to a straightforward scramble to the summit. I’m not sure how Raff and Andrew (along with others) did this without a diaper or a rope, but they are definitely braver than I am!
Now, who was Andy Good you ask? According to local historian, John Kinnear, “Andy Good was one of the more colorful early pioneers [in the Island Creek area] and set up a hotel on the border which he called the Summit.” (‘Tracing the Flow of the Crow’) As the Summit straddled the BC / AB border, Andy – and his wife, Kate – would move the bar from one end of the building to the other, depending on which provincial liquor regulations were the most liberal at the time. (Canadian Mountain Place Names: The Rockies and Columbia Mountains, 28) Kinnear also notes, “Andy had a zoo, tamed birds and animals including a bear and the hotel was renowned for its collection of mounted game heads in the bar and the lobby.” (Tracing the Flow of the Crow’) Interestingly, the hotel was also known “across the continent” for its fine food and dining. (50 Roadside Panoramas in the Canadian Rockies, 140) In 1921, the hotel burned down but was reconstructed as the Inn on the Border. (‘Tracing the Flow of the Crow’) Apparently, a rumour persisted for some time that Good diverted Island Creek into Summit Lake, “so that he could say the hotel was all in BC.” (Tracing the Flow of the Crow’)
Thus, given the fascinating lives of this unique couple, it is perhaps fitting that the peak itself is not so easily tamed. Personally, I am interested to learn more about Kate Good and how her presence fits within the larger context of gender on the frontier Canadian west.
To get to Andy Good Peak, we followed Highway 3 past Coleman towards the B.C. border. After driving 1.3 km beyond the rest area at the far west end of Crowsnest Lake, we turned left onto Coal Road. From here we drove ~3.2 km to our parking spot at the Ptolemy Creek / Seven Bridges trailhead. After wading across the stream at the trailhead (the first of 7 or 8 unbridged crossings), we then biked ~5 km (~200 m elevation gain) until we reached a very large clearing/camping area.
Here is where the trail bifurcates, presenting the option to continue going straight – which will take you to the Promised Land – or to turn left, which will take you to Chinook Peak and Andy Good Peak. We biked down the left trail for ~190 m until we came to a viewpoint where we stashed our bikes. From here, the trail drops into a dry creek bed before climbing steeply and continuing for another ~3 km to the Andy Good Basin and the base of the mountain.
From the basin, we followed a scree/rubble slope for ~550 m (~187 m elevation gain) to the col with the southwest ridge. Once on the col it is only another ~500 m (~75 m elevation gain) to the summit; however, approximately 3/4 of the way up the ridge, there is a ~50 to 60 m section where the ridge narrows with exposure and things get more serious. Once beyond this, the summit is not hard to reach. We returned the same way.
Our total roundtrip distance was 24.5 km with total elevation gains of 1359 m. Our total time came in at 9 hours and 43 minutes. Roping up for the crux added about an hour onto our trip.
Wow! I’m not used to seeing so many vehicles at a trailhead in this neck of the woods. 😳 There were 11 vehicles not including our own at the Ptolemy Creek / Seven Bridges trailhead.
The trailhead features the first of many creek crossings to come.
It was a gorgeous, but chilly morning. In the background is “Mummy Mountain” on the Northwest Ridge of Ptolemy.
Brad crosses Ptolemy Creek for the fourth or fifth time. I think the second and third ones were the deepest.
We enjoyed some pleasant biking between crossings.
The final crossing was the easiest.
Early morning sunlight illuminates all three peaks on the Northwest Ridge of Ptolemy.
The second and longest, ‘push your bike’ section of trail.
A wide angle from the top of the second ‘push your bike’ section, highlights our route in through the valley.
Approximately 5 km from the trailhead, we arrived at the junction with the Andy Good Basin trail (left). The trail in the centre continues on to the Promised Land.
Arriving at the viewpoint that is located ~190 m from the junction. This is where we would stash our bikes. It was also a good chance to see Andy Good Peak (centre) before the morning sun would obfuscate any further views.
Brad checks out the route up Chinook Peak.
A small path from the viewpoint led us to this weird – and extremely creepy – forest habitation.
Someone had put a lot of work into constructing this- even hauling in a wood burning stove (left). I made a hasty retreat when a clown holding balloons emerged from the tipi to offer me free candy. 😉
After leaving our bikes in the care of Pennywise the Clown, we set off on foot. From the viewpoint, the trail descends to a dry creek bed before climbing steeply for the next ~1 km to the base of Chinook Peak.
Gazing up at the ascent route for Chinook Peak.
Looking back at the Northwest Ridge of Ptolemy. “Pharaoh’s Peak” (left) is equivalent in height to Chinook Peak.
Forest shade allows us to catch a glimpse of Andy Good Peak (centre).
Brad ascends another steep section of trail.
The trail continues across a large scree slope.
“The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.” 😂
Brad checks out the route leading up to the Bridge of the Mastodons.
We encountered a large group of friendly backpackers at the entrance to the Andy Good Basin. They had spent 2 nights camped in the basin and were now heading off to explore the Promised Land.
We decided to take a side route up to the basin.
There is quite the elaborate fire pit located beneath the tarn. Personally, I thought the Coke machine and massage chair were nice touches. 😉
Brad heads up the small trail that leads to the basin and tarn.
A lone tree provides enough shade for us to get a good look at the day’s objective.
Heading across the basin towards the col (right) with the southwest ridge. (Photo by Brad Wolcott)
My view across to Brad.
Whew! Finally into some shade!
Gazing back and across the basin as we ascend towards the col.
Scrambling onto the col was not difficult. I used the small gully to the right of centre while Brad climbed up next to it.
At the base of the gully that leads onto the col.
Another view back to the tarn and basin.
Brad takes advantage of a lingering patch of snow.
Arriving at the col.
The view from the col into the Andy Good Creek valley was superb.
Glancing along the southwest ridge from the col. There was nothing difficult about ascending here.
Gazing back to Brad and the Andy Good Plateau (left) as I head up the ridge. Brad made a good suggestion for a future loop: ascend to the col and then cut over to the Andy Good Plateau. From here, you could hike up one or two of the outliers, and then return using the trail for the Promised Land.
Our first view of the summit (centre) from easy-to-navigate terrain.
It was hard to get enough of the views on this perfect weather day!
Our first good look at Mount Ptolemy’s impressive summit (right) from the halfway point of the ridge.
A wide angle across the Andy Good Basin and our route in.
Approximately 3/4 of the way up, the ridge began to narrow.
The moment I began to pee my pants. 😂 It’s hard to tell from the photos, but the narrowing ridge combined with ball bearing scree on either side, eliminated any room for error. Though the entire section was only ~50 to 60 m in length, it definitely gave off a sketchy vibe. Indeed, the crux of the entire trip would be the short step that you can see in front of me. Discovering that a prior party had placed pitons, only served to justify my feelings of apprehension. (Photo by Brad Wolcott)
Thankfully, Brad always brings a 25 m rope and gear with him onto the Flatheads. This is based on years of experience and it definitely saved the day for us.
Brad passes the point where I turned around. The previously placed piton on the lower section (where I’m anchored in this picture) was still secure and usable.
Ascending the section beneath the step. (Photo by Brad Wolcott)
Brad stands on top of the exposed step where he will place another piton and set an anchor.
Looking back from safer terrain as Brad unclips from the anchor above the step. There was no need for the rope after this point, but we left everything attached just in case. I really must admit that Andrew and Raff are braver than I am!
A super awesome human.
It was a quick trip to the summit from here. We bypassed the narrow ridge in front of us by descending to climber’s right and then crossing the slabs to reach an easy scree slope.
Approaching the summit.
The summit of Andy Good Peak (2662m).
The views from Andy Good are fantastic! This a wide angle to the south.
The view to the west.
Gazing west northwest.
Looking to the northwest…
And then to the north.
The view to the northeast.
And finally to the east and southeast.
From the 1870s to 1914, Mount Ptolemy was referred to as Mummy Mountain because it and its Northwest Ridge resembled a recumbent Pharaoh when viewed from the west – e.g. Mount Taylor – with Ptolemy being the head. In 1914, the Boundary Commission changed the name to Mount Ptolemy (after the ancient Greek astronomer) because there were Pharaoh peaks elsewhere in the Rockies. When Brad and I traversed the Northwest Ridge in 2016, we decided to pay tribute to the history of the mountain by nicknaming Peak 1, “Mummy Mountain”, Peak 2 “Anubis Peak”, and Peak 3, “Pharaoh’s Peak”.
A closer look at Ptolemy’s summit. (Photo by Brad Wolcott)
A telephoto of the Northwest Ridge of Ptolemy. This is still one of my favourite ridge walks in the Crowsnest Pass.
A telephoto to the west that includes Mount Washburn (right).
Mount Parrish looks incredibly hostile.
The iconic Crowsnest Mountain and the Seven Sisters.
And the most awesome discovery of the day… that Mount Coulthard looks like a hippopotamus! 😂😂
Staring into the eyes of the hippo. Who will blink first?
A telephoto of Barnes Peak and in front of it, the Coal Mountain mine in Corbin.
One more look at our approach route into the Andy Good Basin.
The hippo begins to submerge… 😂
I know Brad won’t rest until we eventually tag Mount Ptolemy. 😉
I’ve amassed quite the collection of awkward summit photos over the years. 😂
It was such a gorgeous day, that we made sure to take time to enjoy the views. However, after about 30 minutes or so on the summit, it was time to leave.
This piton that we found well above the step, looked much older than the first one. However, Brad noted that they were almost exactly 50 m apart, so they were likely placed at the same time.
Looking back at Brad as I start down-climbing towards the step.
The exposure of the step is noticeable in this great photo by Brad… though it makes me wonder how he took it when he was supposed to be belaying…? 😂 (Photo by Brad Wolcott)
My view back as I prepare to belay Brad.
Brad carefully scrambles the lower section sans rope.
Glad to be off that short, but sketchy section of ridge!
Descending the remainder of the ridge to the col.
The hippo carefully eyes Brad…
Pausing to enjoy the views before heading down to the basin.
Descending from the col was not difficult, but the rubble ensured it was not quick.
One final glance back to the col.
Now that the sun was at a better angle, we could finally get a good look at Andy Good from the basin. My 2015 attempt turned around halfway up those slabs on the left.
I’d forgotten what a gorgeous place this is!
Instead of descending by the tarn, we followed the actual trail out of the basin.
Enjoying the hike back to our bikes.
Brad relaxes for a few minutes at the viewpoint where we left our bikes – while I keep an eye out for creepy clowns. 😂
Enjoying the ride back.
Navigating the myriad of stream crossings.
Arriving back at the trailhead after 24.5 km and 9 hours and 43 minutes. It was awesome to finally get to the top of Andy Good Peak thanks in no small part to Brad’s preparedness. 👏 Outside of the small crux, the southwest route is enjoyable and scenic. I’m not sure what variables in my brain aligned to inform my perception of risk for the crux, but I think the ball bearing scree and untrustworthy Flathead rock were huge factors. I know if it had been on Lewis Thrust rock, I probably would’ve been good with it. Regardless, it was a fantastic trip with an awesome friend!