Wasootch Ridge - Winter
Date Walked: 3rd February 2012
Distance: 4.8 miles (7.8km)
Actual Ascent: 1305ft (398m)
Time Taken: 3.5 hours
This is a short steep hike up to a wonderful ridge with spectacular scenery in all directions, deep snow in the trees and ice under snow on the initial stages made it a slow/tiring ascent, but it was worth every step.
I began the hike in the Wasootch Creek car park, just off off highway 40 about 10km South of the Trans Canada Highway.
it was great to find I had the place to myself again and I took my time getting ready before wandering around the car park with a sandwich and cuppa reading the notice boards and getting my bearings.
the Wasootch Creek trail head is well marked and looks interesting, I may try a little snow shoeing up there if the snow ever returns.
The trail head to Wasootch Ridge was not so apparent, even though I had map/compass and GPS with me, fresh snowfall had covered all traces and a lack of hikers before me left me with little clue. I walked into the trees a short way and found the connecting route to Baldy Pass, then to the right a faint snow covered trail heading directly up the end of the ridge. The shot below gives a very good indication of the steepness of the trail, with ice under the fresh snow it was very difficult going initially, even with spikes on.
the great benefit of such a steep start to a hike is the speed at which the views open up around you, through the trees the square pointed peak is Wasootch Tower
I soon escape the ice covered trail (for a short time at least) as I reach a fairly flat spot on the ridge, the snow is a little deeper here but easy going all the same. Looking back across the distance climbed at the impressive Mt Lorette dominating the scene at the far side of highway 40
Turning back to the hike ahead and the trail is back in shade, the ice beneath the light snow covering is visible as is the sharp scree that makes up this end of the ridge, it moves and breaks as you walk so even if you get a grip on the ice it can still give way under you, it makes for slow careful going again.
after another steep slip and slide I reach a second flat top where I can see over the ridge to the North, Barrier Lake just visible through a well placed gap in the forset.
it's nice to take a short break here and wander around taking in the views, there isn't a breath of wind and the sun is beating down raising temperatures into positive numbers even up here.
Once moving again I rise a little further through some wicked deep snow in the trees to an open stony ridge reaching out to my right across the horizon.
There's some nice light scrambling available along the ridge now and I take advantage of it to gain more height quickly and see those beautiful views stretch out further.
To the north I can see Barrier Lake and highway 40 cutting through the forest below and another stunning range of foothills reaching toward the Eastern tundra
as I curve around to the right moving further along the ridge and enjoying the warm snow free top, I can see down into Wasootch Creek and the entire valley along which it runs
after another 1/2 km or so my joy at the snow free conditions disappears as I see the rising profile snow covered in its entirety and another cluster of trees which I'm sure will hold more of the waist deep white stuff.
I wasn't wrong about the depth of the snow in the trees and it was another real slog along the ridge and up to the top of the hump, only to see the same conditions stretching out into the distance, but the view is spectacular as the sun continues to shine and the wind stays away.
To the North I can see across Porcupine Creek and ridge to the impressive range beyond, this is an incredible location for such a short (if steep) ascent, I can see why it is so popular in the summertime.
I find myself a nice South facing corner of the hilltop and sit down for a long lunch break, the jacket is off and it's still warm, what kind of winter in the mountains at 6500 feet is this, whatever it is I'll be happy to see more of it
I decide I'm going to call it a day from this spot, I can't be bothered to wade through another snow covered forest and I already know I'll be back here in the springtime. So I enjoy my beef sandwiches and tea before building a small cairn to mark the turnback spot, I'll kick it over when I return.
what a great location to spend a wind free sunny day in the mountains, it's difficult to actually turn and leave
looking at the remainder of the ridge through to the peak at the end I think I may explore a way down the Northern flank in summertime dropping into Porcupine creek and walking out on the flat.
Even on the return journey I can't put the camera away, the views are spectacular, the light has changed as the sun moves lower in the sky and the view facing me of Mt Lorette is beautiful.
the initial descent is comfortable on dry (but brittle) rock with the sun still beating down, looking back as I drop another level I have to take out the camera again.
I soon reach the narrow section that is the last of the good dry going before heading back into the slip slide conditions of the steep ice covered pathways in the forest. From here the curve of the ridge to come can be seen right round to the left of frame where the path turns hard right along a steep edge.
looking back up the rise as the moon joins the scene, the top of tree lined hill on the right was as far as I got this time, but I'll be back to make the entire ridge walk later in the year.
Getting closer to the final descent now, Barrier Lake and highway 40 are once again quite close and I can see the sheer flat side of Yamnuska through the gap in the mountains, Yamnuska is a stunner of a mountain that I've had my eye on for some time but better conditions are needed before attempting that one as there is some hard scrambling to reach the summit.
looking to the North -East I see a long flat ridge line heading progressively upward that I assume to be Porcupine Ridge and have to say that looks inviting.......
back to the business in hand and one last easy scramble down from the stony ridge toward the forest cover.
the sun dips below Wasootch Tower as I pick up the ice covered trail into the trees and the steep descent that sees me fall once and gain a nice deep gash from the sharp scree, other than that it was an uneventful if strenuous descent.
back in the car park I dug out the first aid kit and sorted out the cut to my hand, it didn't matter at all, it had been a spectacularly wonderful day.