This weekend, Sheena and I embarked on a fun adventure...this time with company, couple of friends of ours, Dean and Laura. All of us headed out to the very bottom of Kananaskis Country, in an effort to avoid crowds and snow and to do a little biking and hiking. The area we headed to is south of Highwood, within the Cataract Creek area...even more south than we had been last year. The area is usually clear of snow earlier than the rest of the mountain areas and as we had discovered last year as well, is quite warm. This time, well, we found what we were looking for -- no people -- but the conditions were still a bit on the snowy side.
The way there is not without its adventure. Because the roads to south Kananaskis are closed due to weather and animal protection between Dec 15 and May 15th and/or June 15th, other routes are necessary to get to areas which we find are really off the beaten path. Our little map shows how we travelled -- which during the summer would have been simply south on Hwy 40. Anyway, this was not the best part of it. Basically, from Hwy 22, we headed into the mountains via a forestry trunk road, the type of which we wrote about in other adventures. Think of a road like the Cabot trail, but minus paving and guardrails. Oh, and also add rockslides, debris, texas gates and animals. It certainly was a chance for us to test out the Matrix 4wd (although I really yearned for a disposable rally car) and it was a lot of fun. We also realized that the road was being widened, perhaps due to an expansion of the more travelled areas of K-Country. So, after about a half hour drive from the main road (which was 1 1/2 hrs from Calgary) and some scenic views on the dirt road, we arrived at the trail-head. Funny how hiking books sometimes neglect important information.
We suited up for our bike trip and realized the trail was going to be a fair bit muddy. The trip continued north along a utility road which was made eerie by the low fog and cloud cover. We were grateful for our bling (bells) and the occasional shout to 'Boady' (Dean and Laura's dog) to stay on the trail...and warding off the possible bear of course. For about 2 hours, we climbed steadily along road and trail leading toward the meadows before Sentinel Pass. It was here where we dumped our bikes for hiking shoes and headed up the gentle slope to Sentinel Peak's sister mountain. Before going, we had hoped to ascend Sentinel Peak, but after arriving in the area, realized that snow accumulation might make going a bit longer than we hoped. The ridge line leading to Sentinel Peak had fairly large snow cornices high above the trail, making any travel slightly dangerous as well. (I even noticed a few snow slides as we were ascending the opposite hill.)
We hiked the rock and grassy hills to reach the top, taking quite a few photos. [Side note: Recently, through a friend, I came across an excellent program for making panorama photos out of normal (but numerous) photos. Having tried a few samplers at home, I was eager to capture this view entirely. The program worked nicely and really shows what type of scenery we were facing. Check out the photo here.] Sentinel Peak is the high point in the far right of the panorama photo. It was quite a sight after a muddy trail ride to the area.
The ride home was awesome. We rode through mud, accumulating it on our bikes like crazy and well, on most of our clothes. It took us just 35 mins to cover a 2 hour uphill ride, with a few pit stops of course. The ride home was a bit less clothed than usual (mental note: to protect car interiors, bring a few extra pairs of either blankets or pants). We began the drive home and discovered a great store in Longview. A dedicated beef jerky shop! We bought some samples -- and I'm surprised to say, it was quite a bit better than Chris Brothers beef jerky. Run by an easterner, I guess they ship across the country.