I have made up a "Topo/Image Map", with the GPS track route traced onto a topo map.
Click - 'Black star' to veiw photo taken from that approx. location.
Where is Canoe Peak you ask yourself? It's situated at the North/East end of the well known pinnacles of Mackenzie Range. It's also connected by a steep knife edge ridge to Cat's Ears South Face, which makes it possible to summit Cat's Ear from the South. Out of all the rugged peaks in that area it is probably the furthest away from any one road system, making an easy approach unheard of, but there is one way you can reach her summit as a long day trip.
This was the plan one early December morning 2002. Barry Lewis and I had hiked up to the area due to a rumor of a large cave entrance somewhere up at the headwaters of Canoe creek. There was no known limestone marked on any Geological maps I possessed, but it was worth a look anyways. Plus I had always wanted to try and climb the peak. Unfortunately we failed in both counts. First, there was no limestone to be found, and second, not reaching the summit due to a pre-determined turn around time. We had a lack of daylight in the early winter. Whilst on the descent I was hiking over some low angle rock bluffs and somehow a small stone rolled from under the ball of my right foot which ended up pivoting me instantly forward. With no bushes to quickly grasp onto I was now airborne going headfirst straight for the ground 8ft below me. "Ooff!" Luckily I have a rubber head and bounced up without saying a word to Barry. The only thing that gave it away was the nice sized goose egg over the right eyebrow getting bigger and bigger. What really hurt the most was my good digital camera, "Ouch". Now, not only did Canoe refuse to let me mount or enter her she literally booted me right off the mountain. That whole day's adventure ended up being close to 16hrs return, with only 9hrs of daylight need I say more. By the time we drove home I swore I'd be back. This time I'll wait till the daylight is more forgiving. I hate hiking out in the dark. "It Sucks".
Late August 2003 the weather had been excellent for the last month and no change in the forecast was predicted. There was still 16hrs of daylight this time of the year and hopefully it would be more than enough for another attempt to summit Canoe. For extra security the dogs and I hit the trail by 5:00am, hiking the lower section of the trail was done mostly under darkness. This way we took full advantage of the cool morning plus reaching the first high point 1294m before the sun even rose over the ridge. From here we gingerly hiked down an unstable rock slide heading towards a small saddle at the base of the North/West ridge of "Redwall". 100m prior to the Saddle I climbed a steep bushy gully that headed up onto the Redwall's NW ridge to try and save some elevation loss. Once on the ridge we down-climbed to the Saddle and then picked an obvious route down to the small blue Tarn 1079m which sat at the base of Redwall's impressive rock face. It was also a good place for Hawk to have a quick swim and cool down for a bit. Leaving the Tarn hike east towards to the Col that separates Canoe Peak and The Centaur. To easily get down to the lower bench without having to do any rock moves we first had to drop down another 200m to reach a lower bench. On the 2002 trip I stayed on the higher bench and tried crossing over but got turn back due to the loose rock and exposure which made me nervous. I turned around and ended up down-climbing a 70m rock face.
I headed East across the upper bench looking for the very first place I could start dropping down and when I found a decent way down I proceeded to flag a route off the upper bench with minimal bush hangs. Hiking the lower bench was quite pleasant compared to what I just crossed. At the base of 70m rock face a large snow cave forms from a waterfall pouring into snow that slides off the cliff. It then melts a prefect tunnel with scalloped walls from the wind blowing through. I presume it forms better on certain years because on the 2002 trip the cave was massive and that was in late autumn, this time, late Summer, it had all but disappeared from the heat. While on my return I was coming down the scree slope just above the cave when all of a sudden I heard a loud bang and in slow motion a chunk of ice the size of a small bus broke off the rock face and came crashing down destroying half of what was left of the cave. Pretty freaky cause I was just thinking of going inside and taking some pictures.
The water coming from the stream instantly vanishes into the talus and appears again 100m away just before it disappears over the edge. The water here is excellent as the talus is a natural filter. I would have stayed there a little longer but the bugs had now found us and just sitting there we were all targets. Hiking up a small scree slope left of the snow cave we stayed fairly close to the base of the rock face crossing over another smaller rock slide and then heading towards a 25m rock bluff with two obvious bushy ramps leading up to the top. I took the higher of the two ramps and had a little bush whack at the top which quickly opened up to a rock gully. Climbing rock boulders down to where it flattens out I turn slightly right and headed onto a steep pine needle slope inside the timber looking for the first way to finally gain access onto the Col. I was greeted with nice semi-open alpine, but I knew just ahead was the crux of the whole climb and I was even unsure if the kids would be able to get up, so this could be my turn around right here. I swear they must be part Billy Goat, cause not only did they make it up the 40m headwall, they found a new route up by hopping up the narrow ledges while I was having problems pulling myself up by tree limbs. Once on top I praised them with a good pat on the head and a Scooby snack. Now I had good feelings that I was actually going to bag this peak, my spirits were lifted and the pain in the toes went away. We hiked the rest of the Col through more alpine before a short bush whack that took us onto the South/West face. The Saddle is an easy scramble up loose rock and low angled rock bluffs. By turning east once on top I got my first good views of Cat's Ear and Triple Peak. "Wow"! That's one rough looking playground.
There's a first time for everything and today was it, this was going to be the first time Hawk was not going to be able to join me on the summit. I looked at the route I was faced with and knew there was no way I would let him even try. As luck has been on my side lately there happened to be a nice snow patch with Hawk's name written all over it. All I did was sink a ski pole into the snow and slipped the leash over it and clipped him in. I knew he could pull it over, but I also knew he was very tired and the snow was his favorite. Kiku wouldn't go far away from him, so she was easy. The last 100m to the summit I stayed right on the ridge climbing near vertical rock with lots of hand holds. The main summit is small and nothing but a pile of loose rocks. At the time there must have been a hatch of some sor, because there were literally thousands of flying ants that covered all the rocks and the air was filled with them. YUK! They tasted gross. No time was spent on the top as the kids were left back and the bugs were ridiculous. I built a quick three stone Rock Cairn and snapped off a few pictures for the record book.
CComing off the summit I found an easier way down to where I found my guides still enjoying the coolness of the snow. The time was 11:15am meaning it took around 6hrs from Highway #4 to Canoe's Peak. Not bad, I guess. I believe it can be done faster in late spring while the ground is still covered with snow, as most of my time wasted was due to having to walk slowly across slopes of unstable rock while trying not to twist an ankle and trying not to start or be part of a rock slide. The weather now was "HOT!!" and the nearest water was just above the snow cave, plus we still had to down climb the steep headwall. Well everything worked out. The hike down took as long as the ascent due to the heat bothering my head guide Hawk, we just took it real easy going down.
The first part of the hike up the Climbers Trail is great! It's once you leave the trail and start heading down the route becomes a bit grueling, "summer only" due to loose ground but the scenery makes up for it and once you round the corner getting you're first glimpses of the north face Pinnacles with Canoe Peak at the far right end you'll have forgotten about the snotty descent into the area.