20160416: Sofa Mountain (Waterton)

Seven of us got off the couches and onto the Sofa.

It’s D’s birthday and he chose to celebrate it on a Sofa Mountain, so-named by Kootenai Brown in 1865 after its cirque that appears to form the seat of a sofa: “Coming down from the mountain, where we got our first glimpse of the buffalo, we soon reached the prairie shore of a large lake at the far side of which a mountain rose to a sofa-like peak among the clouds.”

The mountain lies in Waterton Lakes National Park; it rises to the west of the Chief Mountain Highway (Hwy 6) and the Chief Mountain Port of Entry into the United States.

I hadn’t seen D and M since our Lake O’Hara scrambling trip last fall, and C since Mount Shark in Nov, and was glad to reconnect. We had a bluebird day, the baby sheep were out, and the prairie wildflowers are starting to bloom with crocuses and indian paintbrush everywhere. Because of the fresh snow it was a day of constantly alternating spikes with snowshoes.

We finished the day with fantastic Mexican food at the Twin Butte Country General Store, enjoyed al fresco since the restaurant was full, and with the strains of the live band coming through the screen door. For dessert the server passed D a large bowl full of berry crumble and ice cream (complete with a b-day candle) and we dug in while the sun set in forewarning of a chilly night. “This seems surreal,” M said as we shivered on the patio, “like we’re in some Fargo movie.”

Ah, a perfect day.


We started off in the prairie at the pulloff off Hwy 6 and ascended via the NE ridge
Sheep birthing season.. Spring!
Some interesting snowshoeing



Starting the scrambles up the rock bands


Gorgeous views of the lakes and down the cirque as we navigate the rock bands


Celebrating reaching the first bump, with the vast prairie views behind us


Now the traverse across the top of the cirque to the summit, deeper powdery snow and avoiding the heavy cornices


Snow-capped mountains everywhere makes a pleasant push to the summit!


Descent the same way we came up. It is possible to do a loop but routefinding down off the rock bands is fraught with hazard and it’s not recommended.


Some downclimbing back to treeline, retracing our steps


Lovely evening light on Sofa Mountain. Most of the lower snow has melted by the time we get back to the vehicles.


Parks Canada has an interesting page dedicated to telling the story of fire on the mountain. The “ghost forest” of Sofa’s slopes is easily identified.


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