With severe wind warnings in effect, Andrew and I put aside our planned ascent of Mount Lineham and turned our attention to the front range of the Castle – our ‘Go To’ when the wind would otherwise make things a miserable endeavour. Indeed, one of the great features of the front range, are the unique high points located at the northeast end of many mountains. These high points are often separated from the larger peaks by distance and elevation, making them into great destinations when the weather is uncooperative or time is limited. Even better, there are multiple ways to the top, including some great scrambling or snowshoeing options, allowing repeat trips to become a completely new experience.
Of these destinations, two favourites are, “The Muffin” and “The Croissant”, which are located at the northeast end of Loaf Mountain. I’d previously been up “The Muffin” once before and “The Croissant” twice before – all part of longer trips to “Bakery Peak” which is one of two significant peaks on Loaf outside of the true summit, the other being “Pastry Peak”. Andrew had previously ventured up “The Muffin” and “The Croissant” on six prior occasions, all using different routes, and so between the two of us, we’re slowing closing in on a dozen visits to these tasty summits. 😂
With the wind ripping hard, Andrew and I set off to explore a new route up “The Muffin” – a large snow-filled gully on the northeast face located directly beneath the summit. After initially missing it and venturing onto the north side of the mountain where we were immediately blasted by the wind, we retraced our steps and began an enjoyable and sheltered ascent to the summit.
Surprised that the wind did not immediately knock us into oblivion, we continued on to “The Croissant” which sits just to the southwest. Knowing that a repeat scramble to “Bakery Peak” was out of the question due to wind and accumulated snow, we did the next best thing and took the time to explore the east face of the impressive cliff band that you come to on the way to “Bakery”. The rock on this part of the mountain is incredible and both Andrew and I had a great time exploring this under complete shelter from the wind.
We then descended to a small shoulder where the wind finally got its revenge by knocking us to ground on more than one occasion. In fact, the wind was yanking so hard on the hood of my jacket, I had to loosen my zipper because it was choking me. Being strangled is yet a new experience to add to my long list of insane wind stories – and now somewhere, someone is thinking about farts… 😳
For relief, we continued into a large drainage that we had used for egress on a previous occasion. Here, we discovered the scattered remains of a sheep along with the tracks of a cougar that had obviously been feeding on it. Once back on the road, we had an easy walk until we had to leave it and regain the elevation that would take us back onto the northeast end of the mountain where our vehicles were parked.
Despite having to alter our initial plans for the day, I will never begrudge a trip to the front range of the Castle. There is so much to see and explore and I always come away amazed. We are definitely privileged to live in this part of the world!
Be sure to read Andrew’s trip report! [link coming]
To get to the northeast end of Loaf, drive ~19.5 km south from Pincher Creek on Highway 6 until you reach the Shell Waterton Plant Road (Township Rd. 43A). Turn onto it and drive west for ~9.1 km until you come to a junction with a gravel road near to the entrance of the plant. Turn left and onto the gravel road and continue for ~3.9 km until you reach Butcher Lake. Turn left and onto another gravel road immediately prior to the Lake and follow this road for ~1.4 km until you come to the junction with another road on your left. Turn here and follow it for ~5 km until you arrive at a T-intersection. Turn left again and proceed for 700m until you see a hairpin curve on your right. Follow the curve and drive for ~ 2.4 km until you see the road to a small gas well on your right. This is the trailhead.
From behind the gas well, we proceeded for ~800 m until we arrived at the base of the northeast face. The gully is located another ~820 m to the north and it can be followed almost directly to the summit, though if there isn’t snow inside, other options for scrambling may be more desirable.
After tagging “The Muffin” it was an easy 660 m hike over to “The Croissant” followed by an 83 m elevation loss to the col between “The Croissant” and “Bakery Peak”. We then began the steep hike up to the section of cliffs beneath the ridge before descending onto a small shoulder and then the drainage. From here, we followed the road for ~1.6 km before leaving it to follow the base of the mountain back to our vehicles.
Our total distance travelled was 12.7 km with total elevation gains of 1075 m. Our roundtrip time was 6 hours and 36 minutes.
An end-of-day look at “The Muffin” (left) and “Bakery Peak” (right). The gully that we used for ascent is incredibly obvious, which begs the question as to how we initially missed it? 🤔
Our starting point at the well site with “The Muffin” in the background.
We picked up on a small trail immediately behind the well site, but soon left it for the trees in the centre.
Andrew takes advantage of firm snow.
Arriving at the base of “The Muffin”. We will begin to circle climber’s right from here. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
Andrew comes to the drainage, but thinking it was still further away, we kept circling the mountain.
Even though we had passed the drainage, our mistake allowed us to explore more of the northeast face. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
Andrew inspects a unique formation.
We had also thought about attempting Drywood Mountain, but snow on the upper reaches coupled with the intense wind, made it wholly unappealing.
Colourful layers on “The Muffin”.
We discovered a number of potential scramble routes on the northeast face – all the more reason to come back someday! (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
I head towards another potential route… (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
And get partway up before deciding to wait for summer. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
Finally entering the gully after retracing our steps.
The upper section of the gully. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
Looking back after discovering a nice line of snow.
It was a short, but fun trip up the final section. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
My view back to Andrew.
A wider perspective of the previous photo.
The Slender Man takes a picture. 😂
Almost at the top of the gully. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
Andrew scrambles up the final few metres to the summit.
Arriving at the massive cairn on the summit.
Looking west at the Southwest Summit of Drywood.
Another look at Drywood Mountain.
A more comprehensive view of Spread Eagle Mountain.
Looking southwest along the ridge towards “The Croissant” and “Bakery Peak”.
Due the extreme wind, we thought we’d only be able to tag the summit before retreating. However, it was surprisingly tolerable (meaning: we were able to stand up).
Andrew enjoys another successful trip to “The Muffin” (2000 m).
With the wind permitting, we began to make our way towards “The Croissant”. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
It may have been windy, but at least the sky was clear.
Gazing back to “The Muffin” as we make our way up.
Snow and blue sky accentuates a section of red argillite. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
I scramble a chunk of argillite solely because it was there. 😁 (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
The final section before the top.
Andrew arrives on the summit of “The Croissant” (2037 m).
Looking back at “The Muffin”.
Spread Eagle Mountain: the two peaks on either side are the wings and the eagle’s head is in the centre – at least that’s how I see it.
The scramble to “Bakery Peak” is SO much fun! One of my faves in the area. 😁
The Southwest Summit of Drywood is also worth the effort!
Andrew enjoys another croissant!
Knowing that wind and accumulated snow on the upper reaches of “Bakery Peak” would prevent a repeat, we nevertheless decided to explore its east face.
Making our way up from the col. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
Andrew leads the way.
Glancing back to “The Croissant”,
While we’d previously traversed the east face immediately below “Bakery Peak”, we’d never explored these impressive cliffs on this initial section of the ridge. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
Approaching the cliffs…
And beginning our traverse. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
Exploring with no set agenda is such a gift. 😁
Rounding a small corner… (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
Brings us to base of the cliffs. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
Andrew leads us up and closer to the cliffs.
Standing in awe of their size. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
Andrew heads in for a closer look.
I thought the pinnacle on the left was fascinating.
Layer upon layer of colour.
A quick glance over to “The Croissant”.
Continuing our traverse. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
Andrew follows close behind.
Andrew (lower right) is absolutely dwarfed against the face.
A closer look at the pinnacle.
An excellent variety of colour!
A pano of the face.
Heading to see what’s around the next corner.
Another view of the pinnacle.
Andrew pauses for one last look before we begin our descent.
This smaller cliff band was also colourful.
We found a Borg cube imbedded into the mountain. 😂
It’s now been three mountains in a row where I’ve seen a human face in the rocks! Look at the formation at the very top… (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
Making a short traverse before heading to the shoulder on the left. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
Mmmmm, “Bakery Peak”!
Hey Brad, here’s a snow couloir for you! 😁
Heading towards the shoulder. More than once, we were knocked down by the wind.
Even the vegetation reflects the prevalence of the wind.
Looking back from the shoulder while trying to prevent the camera from being ripped out of my hands. 😳
I “stand” next to a small cairn. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
A closer look at “Bakery Peak”. Getting to it ranks as one of my favourite scrambles in the Castle, though to reach the top of the summit pinnacle, you would need technical gear. Nevertheless, the scrambler’s summit is well worth it.
I pause for a final look as we descend towards the drainage. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
The snow was soft, but still useable – though when you broke through, you went immediately up to your hips and often into running water.
In my happy place.
We soon came across some scattered body parts. Obviously, this was not someone else’s happy place…
As we came across a new part every few metres.
There were also some cougar tracks nearby.
Finally, we came to the poor sheep who had succumbed inside the drainage. I suspect the cougar came here for a snack every now and then.
Spare ribs anyone? 😂
Continuing along the drainage.
It won’t be long before this trickle becomes a torrent.
Following the leader. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
Almost at the bottom.
A final look at “Bakery” from the road.
Beginning the long walk back.
Instead of following the road too far, we saved significant distance by ascending near the base of “The Muffin” and skirting the treeline.
Descending to the well site and our vehicles. This was the worst section for post-holing.
Arriving back at our cars after 12.7 km over 6 hours and 36. minutes. Though forced into the day’s objective by the extreme wind, it was still an amazing day in the mountains. I will never begrudge the chance to revisit “The Muffin” or “The Croissant”, nor will I complain about simply getting the chance to explore some interesting terrain. We live in such an amazing part of the world and are privileged to have this in our backyard. I know I will be back again and I know Andrew will be too, because who can resist that scrumptious Castle baking? 😁