Hiking Wind Ridge

“It might be something in the alpine air, but for me there is an intangible element at play. This place beckons us to evolve. Like a rushing river, it washes you downstream and you can either enjoy the ride or hold onto the banks for dear life. For those who go with the current and keep their hearts open, the mountains become a place of inspiration, challenge and possibility.”

Meghan J. Ward, Editor-in-Chief, Canadian Rockies Annual, vol 1, 2016

Yesterday was truly a great day, full of inspiration, challenge & possibility.

Due to circumstances outside of our control, we could not hike in the morning, taking advantage of the bluebird sky and the perfect weather conditions that the morning held. But we decided to throw caution to the wind, embrace the Copelands’ advice (authors of tons of “Don’t Waste Your Time” Rocky Mountain hiking guidebooks), and took to the trails late in the day with sights set on a dinner picnic on top of a mountain.IMG_4706.jpg

This was an inspired idea… it may be the long weekend here, celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday, and the crowds may be descending like flies on the carcass that is our Banff National Park and the towns of Banff & Canmore, but hike on the fringes of the mountain range in Kananaskis Country,  on one of the longest days of the year, and hike late in the afternoon, and you can avoid the hoardes. It’s true!

IMG_4630We set out on the trailhead at 2:30pm and had the entire trail, the entire ridge, the entire mountain… to ourselves.

Come along for the hike and you’ll see a spectacular landscape greening up for summer, like a scene from the Emerald Isle (that’s a nod to the Irish electrician who was at our place in the morning), and alpine meadows bursting with a carpet of brightly coloured wildflowers, all fringed by magnificent mountains, just losing the ice and snow on their jagged peaks. The contrast of colours, the difficulty with which we trudged and scrambled up steep terrain, and the fact that we had the entire place to ourselves for five hours made for a truly spectacular end to our day.

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The trail begins on a rather dull, double track trail along an old mining or forestry road.
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For the first three kilometres, the trail has no mountain views, plenty of shade, uninteresting terrain… but a wonderful display of paintbrush flowers along its trailside.
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There were occasional little treasures…. like this robin’s egg shell that went perfectly with the “cheer-i-lup, cheer-a-lee” of the robins’ calls throughout the forest.
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And occasionally we caught a glimpse of the spectacular setting we would soon be experiencing up top.
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We came across this fallen tree, absolutely bursting with wild roses taking advantage of the new found light filtering through its space in the forest canopy.
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Finally our trail became more interesting, narrowing down to a single track, and beginning a steeper ascent into the views.
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Many times we passed clumps of wolf willow sage brush plants.

With their little, easy-to-miss flowers, these wolf willow sage brush bushes have an incredibly overpowering, cloying scent, packing an stunning wallop on your olfactory senses!

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And then there are spectacular flowers like this tiger lily, big as your fist, with no scent whatsoever!
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Soon our trail veered off from the main trail… there was no mistaking which route we were to follow at that junction.
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As we climbed into the fringes of the treeline, the views (and the flowers) came out to play.
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It got more and more spectacular, and from this point on it grew steep!
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So up we went into the alpine meadow.
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The way the light played on those slopes, filtering through the clouds moving overhead, was mesmerizing!
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There’s something neat about the interplay of sun & cloud when it comes to a mountain meadow, late in the day.
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The slopes were so incredibly green… and dotted all over with mini specks of colour from the flowers blooming everywhere.
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I sat down in one place and took photos of the flowers that surrounded me…

Here are a few from that series… I didn’t even have to move to get all of these…

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We’d been climbing up the ridge along the edge of this meadow. Look carefully and you can see our trail, emerging like a snake from the forest into the long grass.
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Stopping to catch our breath, we’d be greeted by scenes like this!
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Up and up we went, watching the sunlight breaking through the quilted landscape below us in the most beautiful patterns.
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At times it was so steep! (Though this photo hardly shows it!)
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But the flowers were everywhere.
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Yup, the trail goes up that rock.
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But with every up came better views… like this one of Exshaw, Pigeon Mountain and the Trans-Canada highway…
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…and this one of the Town of Canmore.
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It’s amazing to me the way flowers can grow in the shelter of a rock like this in the tiniest spec of soil!
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I swear, ridge walks make us feel so alive! We had been working our way up that background.
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And the views kept getting better and better!
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One last little push through a flowering meadow…
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… and a stand of trees…
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… and we were at the top!
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We had a wonderful dinner with this as our view! Mount Lougheed to the left; Wind Tower (one of Lougheed’s peaks) to the left of the snow band, West Wind Pass at that low point in the rock, Rimwall to the right with its meltwater streaks from its ice up top, and Wind Valley far below.
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And to our right lay the backsides of those iconic Three Sisters mountains.
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Across the Wind Valley lay the West Wind Pass that is part way up Windtower (part of Mount Lougheed), a place we’d been before.

One of the things we love about hiking and scrambling up to the peaks around us is getting to know, intimately, these spectacular mountains from different view points. It’s like getting to know an old friend, better and better with every picnic shared, with every path explored, with every ascent and with every summit bagged.

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On the way up, I’d been cursing all the weight in my pack, and the fact that I’d brought a wool hat, mitts and a puffy coat on this spectacularly warm day… but once you stop moving, and sit in the wind in the shade of a cloud, things can get a bit chilly on top of a ridge, surrounded by landscape features that all have “wind” in their name!
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Soon it was time to head back, with the rays of the setting sun illuminating our path.
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Back down that spectacular ridge, bathed in that evening light.
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Our path, descending from the crux… and Bill coming off the crux scramble part of the hike below….
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And back through the forest, crossing the stream where the bridge had washed out in the flood of 2013.
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Of course, Mr. Dainty Paws had no trouble with that crossing, keeping his paws perfectly dry! (He’s part cat, really!)

All in all, it was a great day. We were back down to the trailhead by 8:30pm and back onto our deck with drinks by 9pm. Gotta love the way Canmore is such a tremendous Base Camp for adventure. Gotta love the way we have these wide open tracts of accessible wilderness in our amazing country. Gotta love Canada.

From Bill & me to all of you… Happy Canada Day! Here’s to many more adventures for us all in the future.


Click here for more terrific hikes in Kananaskis Country (Canmore Area). And check out more hikes from Canada and our adventures around the world here.

18 Comments on “Hiking Wind Ridge

  1. I was thinking “did Sheri carry that giant pack with her up the mountain?” I guess you were going to have a picnic dinner. I have to give to you for even bringing the cushions. What a beautiful place.

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  2. Gorgeous!! We went out hiking this weekend too! Something about being outside and enjoying the scenery just makes for the perfect day!!

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  3. Your hike reminded me so much of sections of the White Mountains in NH. Thanks for the virtual hike. Can’t wait to get back out on the trail again.

    And tell Mr. Dainty Paws to suck it up… in several of those photos looked like wet paws would be a welcome reprieve 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have to admit, that’s one of the more spectacular places I’ve seen for a picnic. I’m not sure what’s more amazing: the views, or the fact you had it to yourselves!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A few adventurous bits there, Sheri, but the scenery is spectacular, isn’t it? 🙂 🙂
    Can I use this on my Monday walks, please? I’m in the Algarve next Monday so there won’t be a walk post but the following one I’m home.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Jo’s Monday walk : Illuminating Lagoa | restlessjo

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