Tent Ridge Two-step

On the west arm of Tent Ridge looking back

Lisa and Mike on the west arm of Tent Ridge looking back at our hike and scramble

Kananaskis Country – what the folks who live in south-west Alberta refer to as K-Country – is the place where the locals go to play. Full of glorious Rocky Mountains,  K-Country has all the vistas, views, and trails of the Mountain Parks, but almost none of the National Park tourists.

Last year, while working with the Mountain Legacy Project (mountainlegacy.ca) I fell in love with K-Country, so, when Lisa and John arrived for a bit of Rocky Mountain hiking, I was keen to get out and try our hand at something in Kananaskis. That something turned out to be Tent Ridge (see map below). But, it did take us two attempts to actually get up on the ridge. The first attempt saw Mike, me, John, and Lisa spend an hour in the car at the trail head waiting for the weather to clear. We didn’t exactly waste our time – we played Famous People 20 Questions (pick a famous person – write the name on a piece of paper – give to friend – friend sticks paper on head without looking at it – repeat for everyone playing – everyone asks questions – guess name of famous person stuck to your head). The weather never cleared, so we left for another hike elsewhere.

Mary below the Fist (or Mt. Smuts)

Mary below Mt. Smuts on the high point

The next day was better situated for weather so we headed out again. This time to great success. Tent Ridge is rated as a challenging hike. It is approximately 11 km long, with about 780 metres of elevation gain. It does have a few airy steps where hands on the rock are required.There is some route-finding necessary, however, accomplished hikers and scramblers should have little difficulty. Indeed, all our difficulties seemed to fade away as each step along the ridge offered better and better views. As an added bonus, the approach to the ridge is via a gentle valley trail — not your typical calf-clamping steep gasper of a trail that MOST hikes in the Rockies present.

Storm in the north over Spray Lakes

Storm in the north over Spray Lakes

If our first attempt at Tent Ridge saw us rained out, our second saw us sheltered from nasty weather. As we rounded the western arm of the ridge huge thunderclouds gathered to the north — and sped right past us without so much as a drop. Talk about lucky!

Plant photogs

John and Mary taking pictures of plants – Lisa on the ridge line

The ridge presented us with some lovely wildflower shows – new plants, like Bladder Campion, and Autumn Gentian, that I had never seen before. Everyone took turns trying to get good macro photos. John capped off the day by presenting us with a wee dram of good single malt scotch – Springbank from the bonnie Mull of Kintyre on the west coast of Scotland. In fact, the entire west arm of Tent Ridge, with its wide back, sloping down towards a blue-on-blue lake, reminded me a lot of Scotland and some of the grand hill walking we all enjoyed in that fair country.

A toast to the hike

If you’re lucky enough to be in the mountains, you’re lucky enough!

Our route down off the ridge took us steeply down through lush meadows full of Paintbrush, Arnica, and Saxifrage. We had to exercise a bit of route finding expertise to find our way, but all was accomplished in good time. We arrived back at the trail head just as the first raindrops began to fall. Another day seized traipsing around in the mountains — I could get VERY used to this!

Map of Tent Ridge

More pictures from the hike: Tent Ridge pictures

PS I know I continue to post stories about Alberta here in a BC outdoors blog – but, what’s a border or two between friends. Besides, I promise some BC stories will be coming up!

Cirque Peak Promenade

On the summit of Cirque Peak

Cirques Peak vista – looking west

July 29, 2013 : Another day in Rocky Mountain paradise! This time we decided to venture a bit further afield up the Icefields Parkway (see the map below for location). The destination was Cirque Peak above Helen Lake in Banff National Park. And what a worthy destination it was! The day, which was forecast to include thundershowers and rain, was sunny and easy-walking-warm. The bugs, after the correct application of bug-juice, were completely tolerable. The views were superlative. And, the 515 million year old fossils were purely the icing on the cake.

Huge stromatolite reef below Cirque Peak

Huge stromatolite reef below Cirque Peak

Mike and I joined up with Pat, Doug, and Arianne for this excursion. It was Arianne, a geologist, who put us wise to the fossils in the area. It seems that to the south of Cirque Peak, on the plateau above the Helen Lake pass, is a reef of fossilized stromatolites. Stromatolites  are layered structures formed in shallow water by the trapping, binding and firming of sediment by blue-green algae. Stromatolites are probably the earliest lifeforms on earth, dating back to 3.5 billion years ago. The stromatolites at the base of Cirque Peak are not that old – they probably date back to about 515 million years ago in the Cambrian period. More info on the Cirque Peak stromatolites can be found in this interpretive guide to the area.

The hike was a long one – 17 km round trip and a total elevation gain of 1100 metres. The peak itself is just shy of 3000 metres (2993 m). But, it is one of the easiest accessed high peaks in the Rockies. If you can put one foot in front of the other (and repeat for 17 km) this mountain is in the bag. There is a spot of scrambling at the very top, but honestly, the views from the tippy top were no grander than those from a few metres lower down.

Mike and Mary on Cirque Peak

Mike and Mary on Cirque Peak – Bow Glacier and Bow Lake in the background

The views from this peak let us look down on the start of the mighty Bow River. In the last few weeks the Bow has been our guide looking down from the heights at landscapes that are new to us. It is always there to give a point of reference.We’ve ridden bikes beside it, photographed it, and drunk from it; after the floods of early July, it is a source of endless fascination and discussion for everyone who lives along its banks.

It was such a treat to see the two glaciers that are its source: the Crowfoot and the Bow. On the top image of this post the Crowfoot is on the left, and the Bow on the right. We’ll be seeing more of the Bow over the next few weeks – now I know exactly where it comes from.

More pictures from this hike at Flickr