The trail-head begins at Sibbald Lake in the foothills west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
This hike to Eagle Hill begins on a gorgeous, cool, sunny and early spring day.
The one-way 5.0 KM (3⅛ mile) trek to 5,650 ft (1,722 m) Eagle Hill begins from the Sibbald Lake Day Use Area with a net elevation gain near 1,100 ft (335 m) and is due west through forest on a wide variation of trail condition. There has been no human traffic recently and evidence of wildlife is abundant, but initially, the only visual is deer.
For about 3 KM (1⅞ miles), the hike is following the fresh tracks of wily coyote on nondescript trail through dense forest. Many intermittent sections of trail, with fresh snow over ice, require careful footsteps or off-trail. Crampons are a good idea. Elevation is rolling up and down hills.
Just prior to achieving the 'summit', there is discouraging descent into a deep valley and across a short section of ice at Sibbald Creek. This section is a bit discouraging because the elevation lost will need to be regained on the opposite side of Sibbald Creek.
The view from the top of Eagle Hill is beautiful and expansive. A brisk westerly wind is creating a significant chill so it will be a short visit before retreating into the forest.
On the return trip there is an opportunity to hike Deer Ridge. This ancillary hike will add 2 KM (1⅜ miles) to the overall trip and a steep climb of net 700 ft (213 m). At the alternative trail junction it is early afternoon.
Following a brief attack of insanity, the decision is made to include the Deer Ridge option in the day's itinerary. It is immediately obvious no-one has been on this route recently. This is not a good sign. There is minor post-holing through deep snow on the steep climb up a snow-covered cut-line.
Deer Ridge is a two-humper. There is no alternative but to climb up, over and down the higher west summit. There are many large, living trees which have been snapped off or uprooted by ferocious winds. Combined with trail ice and mud there is a significant amount of off-trail bushwhacking required on this day. A short spur off the main trail leads to the east summit but treacherous trail conditions and a roaring wind provide good reason to abandon the effort and retreat to continue the downside hike off the ridge and back to the car. Today, it is necessary to settle for a single hump.
Near the finish, the off-trail crossing of the cow-crap-infested bog, leads to a cluster of unique shelters. These are the remnants of a Sundance Ceremony held by the Stoney Nation. Known as a ti-jurabi-chubi, this is the location for the Spiritual Ceremony held in 1984. Locations change from year to year.
The practice is traditional to allow the buildings used for the ceremony to be reclaimed by nature. This hike is passing through 26 years later. It is important to acknowledge the hike is proceeding through sacred ground and it is incumbent to observe due respect and reverence. The site is left untouched and nothing is taken besides photographs. The only thing left behind are footprints. At the end of the hike there is a fabulous view of Moose Mountain from the parking area.
This hiking day has been more challenging than anticipated but, nonetheless, a grand experience. Overall, the hike is 12 KM (7½ miles) with an estimated gross gain near 762 m (2,500 ft) on often challenging trail due to the early, off-season endeavor.