There’s nothing like a good ridge walk. A ridge is hard to scale up, there’s no doubt about it. One look at a GemTrek map will show you that there’s lots of contour lines that need to be crossed to gain a ridge. But once you’re up and on a ridge, it’s thrilling because that feeling of being on top of the world, goes on and on and on as you walk along its length. Old Baldy, rearing its polished head up amongst the spectacular peaks of the area, did not disappoint.
Wanting to do a good shoulder season hike, we headed off into Kananaskis Country (K-Country as it’s known, locally) to get ourselves up high when there wasn’t a lot of snow yet, and see some fantastic mountain views.
The Old Baldy Ridge Trail was an interesting hike with a lot of variety:
This was a hike that packed a lot in over its 16-18km, round trip.
The hike begins with a walk, just shy of 2km along a fire road from the Evan Thomas Day Use Area parking lot. No inspiring views. No steep ups. Just a good long, leg-warming stroll. Nothing much to see but forest, until you hit McDougall Creek.
For the next couple of kilometers, we hiked along and on the creek itself, but it was tricky going. Navigating the trail involved a lot more route finding than we ever expected… looking for cairns and occasional tape on the trees marking the way through the incredible debris scattered about the landscape from the massive flood in 2013, three years ago. There were mounds of rock and lots of deadfall; it was as if the trees had been scattered about like matchsticks and the rock and boulders spilled about like grains of sand.
At times the old trail was visible, and at times it was entirely washed away. It never ceases to amaze me how powerful nature can be…. The rock debris brought down from the surrounding mountains and strewn throughout the area unearthed and then carried many, many kilometres from its original resting place, all because a freak storm got locked in place for a number of days, overwhelming the landscape.
Soon we were into the snowline, following a higher, dry branch of the McDougal Creek that flowed only in spring with melt water runoff.
We stopped for a little tea & snacking fuel while our dog, Seamus, looked on, ever hopeful. (Wolf-like, he had gobbled down his treat in a heartbeat!)
The rock debris was deep and steep and had been coming down from the mountain tops around us for many years. The rock fall to the left in this photo had tumbled down the slope of Old Baldy… its ridgetop shoulder was our destination for the day.
Our trail took us around a marshy area that led to a tarn, surrounded by an incredibly impressive rock wall. Known as a cirque, when you stand inside it, you feel like you are standing in the centre of a giant amphitheatre, with the rockfall of the mountain face bending around you.
And then, we were there!
Soon it was time to put on our spikes and head back down the steep slope to the meadow far below, racing against the setting sun, navigating the snow and the rock debris, following the narrow trail along the creek and scrambling along the boulder strewn & forested creek bed until we were back on the gentle fire service road, easing the tight muscles of our knees and ankles and shins, and finally back at the trailhead. It felt SO great to be back on a mountain trail again.