Guinn's Pass at the south end of Mount Kidd looks down to Ribbon Lake in Kananaskis Country.
Guinn's Pass is a side hike of the Galatea Lakes trail in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada. The weather forecast is encouraging and the drive west from Calgary is early along the TransCanada Highway towards sunrise-orange mountains shrouded with valley cloud.
The drive south on Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40) is 33 kilometers (20⅝ miles) to the Galatea Lakes trail-head parking area at elevation of 1,550 m (5,085 ft).
This hike occurs prior to June 2013 floods which heavily damaged this trail which required substantial reconstruction, so following images should be considered archival.
Crisp morning air in the shade suggests 3-layers with toque and gloves and the ground is covered with frost. Snow continues to linger at higher altitudes and water will run as the typical mountain day warms. The initial descent from the Galatea parking area is on damp, slippery path and following a brief elevation loss the trail crosses the swing bridge over the Kananaskis River near the confluence of Galatea Creek.
The hike is on excellent trail over rolling ground adjacent to the notorious and rambunctious Galatea Creek, which is really a series of white water rapids interrupted by waterfalls over its 7.6 kilometer (4¾ miles) journey. The hike continues through spectacular, dense and mossy forest on aggressive ascent.
There are several occasions where relatively flat trail at creek-side changes abruptly to gain elevation aggressively. This repetitive process indicates there are likely significant waterfalls hidden in adjacent forest.
Five and a half kilometers (3½ miles) and seven well-constructed bridges over troubled water later, the well-marked trail junction to Guinn's Pass turns right, crosses Galatea Creek on two large half-sawn logs, and proceeds onto more rustic and narrow rocky trail. The previous nights killing frost has leveled spring and summer flowers creating a pungent odor accompanying the hardier fall flowers which are plentiful in alpine meadows along the trail.
Initially the grade is civilized in this 3.3 KM (2 mile) diversion from the Galatea Lakes trail. In the final 2.5 kilometers (1⅝ miles) of ascent on very steep, no switchback, scree trail, a heart-thumping 457 M (1,500 ft) is gained. Within half a kilometer of Guinn's Pass the rugged scree is exchanged for an off-trail route straight up a dry, rocky creek-bed that may reduce the time to the top.
The view from 2,420 meter (7,940 ft) Guinn's Pass is spectacular as Ribbon Lake and several mountains establish their presence around the bowl. The pass is covered with 7 cm (3 inches) of snow which will be gone by late afternoon.
Ribbon Lake is directly below in the distance with the quaint Park Ranger cabin nearby. Mountain vistas stretch for miles. The view in crisp, cool air is breathtaking. Recently gained elevation has established an equally magnificent vista to the south.
Ribbon Lake below Guinn's Pass
Gaining further elevation to the east on an outcropping of massive Mount Kidd will reveal views of the Upper and Lower Galatea Lakes in the south valley. The attempt to gain sufficient altitude is thwarted by rapidly deepening snow. The valley containing the two alpine lakes is visible but it will take a fair effort and another 300 m (1,000 ft) of elevation in deepening snow to gain this viewpoint. On retreat, consideration is given to the alternative of hiking to them up close and personal.
By late morning, after making excellent time, an alternate plan for the day is developed. On a brief retreat an alcove along a scree slope on Mount Kidd provides protection from the light breeze to enjoy an excellent salmon sandwich lunch. The temperature in cloud-filtered sun is very comfortable at 4 C (40 F).
The silence is interrupted occasionally by a mild mountain breeze. Beautiful, emerald Lillian Lake rests directly below and The Fortress looms skyward in the distance. Views of The Fortress always conjure up indelible memories of the hike/ scramble to the summit of the 3,000 m (9,843 ft) distinctive mountain in August, 2002.
In the alcove the silence is deafening. The only sound is my own blood circulation. A lone eagle soars above in fickle wind currents of crisp mountain air.
Highlights of the spectacular Guinn's Pass view also include 3,185 m (10,450 ft) Mount Galatea, The Towers 3,117 m (10,227 ft), Mount Bogart 3,114 m (10,315 ft) and a cornucopia of magnificent peaks in the distance. The opportunity exists to visit the Lower and Upper Galatea Lakes again with sufficient time left in the day to hike past Lillian Lake and up to the alpine lakes.