Horton Hill - Spring
Date Walked: 28th March 2012
Distance: 6 miles (9.8km)
Actual Ascent: 1584 ft (483m)
Time Taken: 3.5 hours
With a heavy fog floating around this morning I decided to wait a while before starting out for the hills, the local drivers in Calgary are appalling and I didn't fancy taking them on on the Trans-Canada in the fog. The route I had planned was flexible in distance so it didn't really matter when I arrived.
I only had a dart up the Trans-Canada and a short run South on highway 40 once I did set off, so it was a nice leisurely start to the day (even if enforced by the fog) and I enjoyed my 'Coyote counting' as I headed West to the mountains (only 4 today, best we've seen on the run to the hills is 7)
I had selected another foothills scamper because of the depth of snow on the mountains, I hoped that by picking a South facing slope I could find some straight hiking. As I arrived at Lusk Creek car park it looked like I may have succeeded, though the Northern slopes of the mountains behind me still held a mass of the white stuff the steep side of Horton Hill looked almost snow free.
I was soon packed and ready choosing to leave the snowshoes in the truck again as I headed off along the short snow free path that encircles the picnic area, from here I followed the advice of my guide book and turned right heading up the steep slope at a point of my choosing as there is no path up from here.
after a short time I was stopping for a breath...er, I mean to take a photo of the North face of Mount Baldy, one I intend to ascend as soon as the snow has gone
though the ascent is steep and hard going with no path and a lot of fallen trees to negotiate, every now and again the trees open up to provide a peek at the mountains beyond
from a particularly barren area of fine scree I get a beautiful view out to Barrier Lake and the ridge line of Prairie View that I hiked very soon after arriving in Calgary, interestingly the 'bowl' of Barrier Lake is almost snow free too.
looking to the South-East the peaks all have a good coating of snow and the valleys leading toward them even more, but the day is warm again and the melt is really under way
there is a lovely flat section next that crosses an area of birch trees and provides a nice breathing space as I look back toward Mt Baldy
there is another section of dense pine forest with fallen trees scattered around on steep slopes before I find a great spot for a 180 degree shot of the horizon
I then come to a section of flat ridge that still holds a healthy covering of snow which is now the heavy wet stuff rather than the usual dry powder, my pace is slowed by the knee deep white stuff and I begin to question my decision to leave the snowshoes in the truck
fortunately the snow eases as I reach the final ascent which offers thinner trees, blue skies and views to the North (with the naked eye at least) the photo doesn't quite catch it
once on the top there is a length of ridge to wander along before reaching a little cairn at an open section, note the ammunition box on the cairn
inside the ammo box is a summit book with hundreds of names from towns and cities across Canada but strangely I didn't see any from outside Canada.....until now, I happily use the pen provided to add my details and comment on the view to the South
the stone that served as a tripod on arrival now serves as my seat for 10 minutes as I take in the spectacular views across the entire Fisher Range
it really is quite a view
against the advice of my guide book I decide to go a little further along the ridge knowing that the Sibbald Creek Trail (highway 68) runs along side and I can always drop down there and wander back along the soft dirt road when I've had enough
the ridge narrows more and more as I traverse and is littered with fallen trees
I get a glimpse to the North East where I see the Prairies away in the distance bathed in sunshine, then I have to descend as the ridge runs out
I spend the next 2km looking at this (as my guide book warned) and decide enough is enough and turn East to find the road
I finally pop out of the trees onto a ledge where I reverse direction along a sheer drop for some time until I see the familier sight of the Fisher Range ahead
now on the final stretch I drop down to the soft dirt road and take an easy couple of km back toward the car park, no more fallen trees for me today
I make good time along the road and I'm soon looking down into the small parking area where my truck stands waiting. It has been a lovely day in the hills, blue skies and really warm temps, I spent the entire day in a t-shirt for the first time since arriving in Canada. I feel teased by the distant mountains and I'm itching to get up some of the big stuff but the foothills still provide some great conditioning so that when the worst of the snow is gone I should be ready ;)
On the way home I stopped to grab a shot of the distant Yamnuska, a beautiful sheer sided mountain that will be one of the first on my list, its flat front guards significant scrambling behind on one of the most dramatic ridges in Kananaskis country.