Mist Ridge - Highwood - Kananaskis - Hiking Alberta

 

Tough decisions at Rickert's Pass on Mist Ridge in Highwood, Kananaskis Country, Alberta.

 

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This is Part 2.    Click here for Part 1. 


 

The switchback descent over Rickert's Pass is a steep drop of about 550 m (1,800 ft).  The hike from Rickert's Pass to Burns Mine is 3.0 KM (1⅞ miles) and to Denning's Cabin another 3.5 KM (2¼ miles) for a total, round trip, back to Rickert's Pass of 13.0 KM (8⅛ miles).  Today's Mist Creek hike began at 9:30 AM.

 

Mist Ridge - Kananakis Country, Alberta, Canada At 2,341 m (7,680 ft) Rickert's Pass at the north end of Mist Ridge in Highwood, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

There is insufficient daylight time, at my pace, to add an additional 13.0 KM (8⅛ miles) and 550 m (1,800 ft) for an estimated total of 36.9 KM (22⅜ miles) and gross elevation near 1,670 m (5,480 ft). 

In discussion over lunch at Rickert's Pass, the decision is made to abandon the hike to Burns Mine and Denning's Cabin for another day and return on the 12.7 KM (7⅞ mile) hike over the crest of Mist Ridge.  This will reduce the total hike to about 22.9 KM (14¹⁄₃ miles) with net elevation gain of 1,020 m (3,346 ft) and gross elevation estimated at 1,122 m (3,680 ft).   Tactical planning continues throughout any hike to avoid unfortunate circumstances.  Prior to leaving Rickert's Pass, a Summit Stone is placed for a subsequent adventurer to appreciate the message of the mountains.

 

Mist Ridge - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, CanadaA left turn onto the Mist Ridge Trail a few meters south of Rickert's Pass, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Good ridge hikes, at sustained elevation, are always an excellent experience in favorable weather.  Today, the hike will proceed under sun in light refreshing breeze.  The trail begins a few meters south of Rickert's Pass, then branches east and south from the Mist Creek trail to track beneath the ridge, twisting consistently upward around obstacles.

 

Mist Ridge - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

Mist Ridge - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The view back, near the beginning, along Mist Ridge to the notch which is Rickert's Pass, with Storm Ridge beyond.

 

Mist Ridge - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

Looking down to the north valley below us. Burns Mine, the Sheep River and Denning's Cabin are down there.

 

Mist Ridge - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

Mist Ridge - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada A long lens view from the top of Mist Ridge to coal-laden slopes near the valley bottom beneath Rickert's Pass.

 

Mist Ridge - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Looking back from Mist Ridge to Rickert's Pass and Storm Ridge. There is ample evidence of abundant coal in Mist Ridge.

 

Mist Ridge - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Mist Ridge - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Within a kilometer, a recent, water saturated, mud slide interrupts the trail.  Substantial mud and rock debris has slid into the drainage below.  The area remains very wet and spongy.  The alternative to crossing is to climb above and around the hazard.  This conundrum motivates discussion of strategy for an attempt to traverse the slide area.  On careful examination, the collective decision is to traverse the questionably stable distance of about 10 meters (33 ft). 

Cross independently with exceptional care will spread the risk.  In the event of another slide, the person on safe ground will have an opportunity to capture a potentially lucrative video for submission to YouTubeBit of mountain humor.  It is always mandatory to keep one person safe to facilitate rescue.  Safety must always be paramount.

 

Mist Ridge - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Mist Ridge - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

Mist Ridge - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The trail has been interrupted by a recent mud slide on the steep slope beyond

 

The following photographs provide some of the best truncated views from the top of Mist Ridge.  The trail generally tracks below the top of the ridge.  As soon as practical, the ridge summit is acquired to hike off trail along the top for enjoyment of breathtaking and continuous 360 degree views.

 

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Hiking predominantly over the top of the ridge, past the distance along Mist Mountain to the west, on the other side of the valley to our right, three mountain sheep are encountered on the approach to the trail for the south summit of Mist Ridge.

 

Mist Ridge - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Mist Ridge - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

Mist Ridge - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The South Summit of Mist Ridge at 2,515 m (8,251 ft) looms ahead.

 

Final views of the east face of Mist Mountain are taken prior to the decision to skirt the less scenic west side of the south summit on less used trail which will reduce the gross elevation as legs begin to feel the accumulation of distance and altitude gain.  The diversion seems longer than expected but eventually the trail pops out of forest onto open ridge.

 

Mist Ridge - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Mist Ridge - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Mist Ridge - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Along this minor trail there is substantial evidence of bear diggings but no bears are observed over the entire duration of this hike.

 

Mist Ridge - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

Mist Ridge - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The entire length of Mist Mountain is to the right on the other side of Mist Creek Valley in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.

 

Mist Ridge - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The Mist Ridge trail continues to the left, but a labyrinth of trail and fire road makes the route uncertain from a distance.  The sense of adventure kicks in and a decision is made to proceed off trail directly ahead on the crest of hills with the expectation of finding an alternate route onto the main trail. 

Advantage of snippets of game trail and clear grassy and/or rocky areas are employed to navigate towards the general direction of the day end objective.  All is going well until arrival at the edge of a very steep drop-off with no gracious alternative.  To recover by backtracking is not an option.  The distance would be too great.  The best alternative is to drop off the side of the steep, deep valley and hope for trail options at the valley bottom.  This could get ugly.

 

Mist Ridge - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Pondering off trail route alternatives into a deep valley to achieve trail on the opposite side.

 

Mist Ridge - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Switchbacks and the use of short sections of game trail are utilized until their direction becomes counterproductive, then is followed by bushwhack descent to what appears may be another game trail opportunity.  This process is repeated over and over again as the fight continues toward the bottom of the valley. 

At one point, fresh kill is encountered near a spring-fed pond, so this area is vacated immediately since it is likely our progress is being watched.  Occasionally, in open ground, Nameless Ridge is visible on the opposite side of the valley

 

Mist Ridge - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada An example of the off trail terrain being navigated on the off trail route down to the creek. Brutal!

 

There is no trail at the bottom of the valley that will reliably return to the Mist Creek trail.  A short off trail ascent through dense forest up the other side of the valley is a challenging bushwhack out of valley on very steep, forested slope.  Decent trail is a welcome sight that renews energy and increases pace. 

The remaining 5.0 KM (3⅛ miles) of the hike is clear sailing, predominantly downhill, then level to the Mist Creek Recreation Area.  The Mist Creek and Mist Ridge loop has been an excellent and adventuresome day of hiking. 

The drive home to Calgary is spectacular in the contrast of setting sun with arrival home as daylight dwindles.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

No argument from me. I am a huge fan of ridge hikes. Sustained spectacular scenery at higher altitudes. Mike Potter has a guide book of Rocky Mountain Ridge Hikes in this area. Definitely worth checking out. Thanks for your comment, Leigh

This looks like the type of hiking I'd love. Give me a ridge, a view and clear weather and I think you have a perfect day!!

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