Trip date: September 19, 2021
Elevation gain: 1400m
When I got a text from Vern Dewit asking if I was interested in a traverse from Mt Odlum to Mt Loomis, I had to do a quick google search first. When I was living in Canmore, I rarely went south of Highwood Pass so I’m not very familiar with the peaks in the area! It sounded like a neat trip and the conditions in the area looked good, so I was in. When we met at the Lantern Creek parking lot, neither of us were enthusiastic about the fresh layer of snow on the peaks around us! The overnight snow put our plans into question, but we were already here, so… We left my car at the Lantern Creek parking lot and drove the 8.5km up the highway to the start of the hike. After crossing Storm Creek, we picked up a well-flagged and blazed trail that led us up the valley. This trail brought us to a frozen marshy area at the head of the valley below Mt Odlum. We stuck to the right side of the swamp, then started gaining elevation at the edge of the scree slope as we aimed up and right, towards the ascent gully.
The snow-covered scree was slippery and loose, and it was tough to find good footing. Once we got into the ascent gully, the snow was deeper and there was a layer of ice beneath it in some spots. I was doing a lot of treadmilling since I didn’t have poles with me. Have I learned my lesson? Possibly. After groveling up the gully, we reached the ridge and were treated to a fantastic view over a cloud-blanketed Elk Valley.
Next, we turned our attention to Running Rain Peak to the north. We didn’t have any beta for this peak but figured it would be worth a look, since we were there. The first section of the ridge was reasonable, but soon we ran out of luck. An increasingly steep, exposed, and icy ledge below a knife-edge ridge turned us around.
I’m interested in giving this one another shot in dry conditions. On the plus side, we could see the traverse over to Mt Odlum and it looked a lot more like a scramble than what we were on!
We returned to the small col above the ascent gully and then continued along the ridge towards Mt Odlum. The snow added some complexity, but the terrain in this section still felt reasonably moderate despite the conditions. We reached the summit in a chilly wind, and after a minute were enveloped in a cloud blowing in from the west.
After signing the summit register, we continued along the ridge in low visibility. There are two high points and three small cols between Mt Odlum and Mt Loomis’ summit ridge. Our descent to the first col was in cloud, but at the first col it cleared up and we could see the way ahead of us again.
We traversed below the first high point on a goat trail, then dropped down to the next col, regained elevation to the second high point, and dropped again to the last col. All of this was pretty straightforward low-moderate terrain. The downhill, south-facing parts of the ridge were noticeably less snowy than the north-facing sides! Of course, the final climb up to Mt Loomis was north-facing. This section felt more involved than the first part of the traverse. There was one section where we had to go climber’s left of the ridge, which was more exposed and snowy than the right side we had been on for the rest of the day. The ridge was longer than either of us were expecting, and it took us another 20 minutes to reach the summit from the top of the first steep section. Once at the summit, the chilly wind had us eager to head back down sooner rather than later!
Our footprints in the snow made routefinding simple on the way down, and soon we were back at the final col. From there, we dropped down on rubble and some vegetation towards the valley below. We stopped for a snack break once we were off the scree, then made a slight mistake and continued straight down towards Odlum Pond. This route took us down an increasingly steep avalanche slope. Eventually we cliffed ourselves out and had to grumpily retreat uphill.
Following the Gaia route along the left edge of the avalanche path worked a lot better and soon we were down at Odlum Pond. We picked up a faint trail along the east edge of the pond and it became more defined (and muddy) as we headed down the valley.
Eventually our trail (the remains of a logging road) joined a somewhat overgrown cutline that would lead us pretty much straight back to my car at the Lantern Creek parking lot. Vern’s grumbling about the condition of the trail (punctuated by comparisons to worse trails) kept me entertained and soon we were crossing the Highwood River. We rejoined the trail on the far side of the river but instead of following the curving Gaia track and walking a short distance on the highway, we took a right fork and followed an unmapped trail through the trees, eventually crossing Lantern Creek just below the parking lot. This day turned out way better than I had hoped after I first saw the fresh snow and it was an excellent way to spend an autumn Sunday!