The Horseshoe (Mt Cautley to Wonder Peak) - 50° 54' 29" N 115° 34' 19" W

The most amazing ridge walk.  We were encouraged to do this hike by a family from Minnesota with two 14 y-o boys. What they did fail to mention however, is that they headed down off Mt. Cautley and did not attempt the chimney on Wonder Peak. After a fabulous tromp across the meadows studded with the flaming purple fireweed, we found the trail leading up Mt. Cautley - heading first to the ominously named 'O'Brien's Leap'. Stunning views over Assiniboine Pass.  We then trekked up the ridge, across the scree to a peak with gorgeous views across Bryant Valley and back over the meadows to the Lodge, Lake Magog and the towering Mt Assiniboine.  We followed the ridge to the summit proper of Mt. Cautley (2,880m).  The ridge walk was very impressive with snow still snuggled on the north face. After traversing a steep scree slope made up of many different rocks, we hit the first chimney.  Seemingly insurmountable without the use of ropes, we had faith in the trail directions and skirted around to the right.
Tiny red spot in front of the chimney is Sean!
A scramble up crumbling rock then a shimmy up a narrow gap with a foot on each side, under a ledge and another scramble up the crumble and we are safe!  With each holding each others' packs and paying close attention to every hand hold and step, we managed not to fall to our deaths! But there was NO WAY we would get back down there so the only option was to continue on.  We followed the trail over the saddle and lost it going around the next chimney.  We ended up 'spider-man-like' along the top of a scree slope listening to the dislodged rocks chink, chink, chink, chink, chink and chink down the slope. Finally picking up the trail again, we clamboured over the last couple of saddles and peaks, bursting out on the ridge overlooking Wonder Pass. Despite the adrenaline rush, the views across Marvel Lake to Marvel Peak, Mt. Gloria and beyond were the stuff of postcards.  The feeling of being on top of the world with mountains, valleys, glaciers and lakes stretching form horizon to horizon almost made up for the death-defying scramble to get there.

Despite the elevations, there was a surprising amount of life up on the scree. Blue, blue forget-me-nots, clumps of small, white flowers, mosses and birds ... all tenaciously clinging to what looked like bare rock.  Little birds nesting in the rocks.  And insects.  On the lower slopes, we saw a hoary marmot.

The descent was a chance for the adrenaline to work its way out of our system.  On a rough path, walking along the edge of a 100 metre drop just didn't hold the thrill it might have earlier that day.  We wound our way down into Wonder Pass started a short two kilometre jaunt towards the camp.  The huts were a welcome sight to our hot and sweaty souls.  A plunge into the icy waters Lake Magog was wonderfully refreshing.  Oh to be clean!


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