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Rockies ::  Kananaskis :: The Orphan

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 Summit view from the Orphan:  Rimwall in foreground, Lougheed behind with stormy Smith-Dorrien in the background

Abstract

Overall Difficulty D4 Tedious travel up washed out drainage. Steep and loose scree/slabs, followed by low angle talus above the pass. Challenging micro-terrain but no exposure. Entire trip is off-trail & route finding skills are helpful.
Snow Factor S3 Lower part of ascent slope is steep, but partially treed and not major avi risk
Scenery Flowery meadows on Boulder Pass.  Great views of the Rimwall, Wind ridge and Skogan Pass.  Length of scramble route up Middle Sister can be studied from the summit
Trail/Marking None Occasional cairn in creek-bed only
Suggested Time 5 hr Possibly can be done faster, but loose slopes on descent require caution
Elevation Start: 1740m     Max: 2590m     Total: ~850m Round Trip: 8km
Gear Hiking Poles are essential for stability.  Gaiters are helpful. Full hiking boots are preferred to day hikers for ankle support and protection from sharp rock
Water Seasonal water in creek-bed, none afterwards.  Carry 1-2L
Dog Friendly Yes Lose talus slopes should not present the problem, but be weary of sharp rock that might hurt paws

 

 

Gallery

Views down access drainage near Boulder Pass

Rimwall, Wind Ridge and Skogan Pass from ascent ridge Three Sisters and upper Stewart creek from the summit Storm passing over Rimwall on descent

 

Summary

The Orphan is one of several destinations accessed via drainages that extend behind "The Wall of Canmore" down to Smith-Dorrien (Hwy 742).  Its most photogenic side is seen from Stewart Creek on usual approach to Middle Sister via Kane route, however there is no easy way up from here. Backside offers much tamer journey that is just steep off-trail hike and for fit person can readily be completed as after work hike from Canmore.  Floods of 2013 have washed out access drainage and no trail can be found anymore.  Although there is no need for use of hands (except for stability), this ascent probably classifies as scramble as lower slopes above the forks are very steep and loose.  Higher up scree is replaced by meadows leading to Boulder Pass below Rimwall.  Final bit above the pass is just an easy plod on low angle talus that is surprisingly stable.  Summit views are awesome and offer front-row seat of 3 Sisters, including great views of upper part of scramble route up Middle Sister.

Parking is at Driftwood boat launch some 20 minutes past Whiteman Gap along Smith-Dorrien.  Walk back (north) on the road for few minutes to obvious huge drainage and make your way up the creek bed.  There is variety of options, but it pays off to watch for cairns past the narrows as they generally indicate where you should cross from one side of drainage to the other.  Critical part is where drainage forks, about an hour from parking. Take the left branch and stay right. Bits of trail on the edge of forest lead to awkward steep section of shifting talus.  This bit is very uncomfortable on descent. Easiest is to cut right across slabs aiming toward patches of green.  The further you climb, the easier it gets and about halfway up meadows kick in allowing for easy hike up to the pass. This is good spot for the break; it might be possible to descend to Stewart creek this way.  From the pass it is just an easy low angle plod on stable scree to the saddle between the Orphan and Rimwall W2. Grand view of Three Sisters awaits here.  Turn right and reach summit cairn in 5-10 minutes following bits of trails beaten in scree.  True summit is just 1-2 minutes away across the dip in the ridge, and this bit is slightly exposed but offers no significant challenge.  Return is the same way and it won't be much faster due to loose nature of terrain in lower part.

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