This is Part 2.
Go to 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 (1.9 miles) and to Denning’s Cabin another 3.5 KM (2.2 miles) for a total, round trip, back to Rickert’s Pass, of 13.0 KM (8.1 miles). Todays Mist Creek hike began at 9:30 AM. Dave can do this, but I have concern whether I can achieve that much additional elevation and get back to our trailhead at the Mist Creek Recreation Area in daylight. My descents are quick but my ascents are slow.
There is insufficient daylight time, at my pace, to add an additional 13.0 KM (8.1 miles) and 550 m (1,800 ft) for an estimated total of 36.9 KM (22.4 miles) and gross elevation near 1,670 m (5,480 ft). In discussion over lunch at Rickert’s Pass, Dave and I decide to abandon the hike to Burns Mine and Denning’s Cabin for another day and return on the 12.7 KM (7.9 mile) hike over the crest of Mist Ridge. This will reduce the total hike to about 22.9 KM (14.3 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, I place a Summit Stone where an adventurer may discover the message of the mountains.
A good ridge hike, at sustained elevation, is always an excellent experience in favorable weather. Today, we hike under sun in a refreshing breeze. The trail begins a few metres south of Rickert’s Pass, then branches east from the Mist Creek trail and tracks beneath the ridge, twisting consistently upward around obstacles.
Within a kilometre, we encounter a recent, water saturated, mud slide which interrupts the trail. Substantial mud and rock debris has slid into the draw below. The area remains very wet and spongy. Our alternative is to climb above and around the hazard, or attempt to traverse over the slide area. On careful examination, we decide to traverse the questionably stable distance of about 10 metres (33 ft). We shall cross independently with exceptional care. In the event of another slide, the person on safe ground will have an opportunity to capture a potentially lucrative video for submission to YouTube. Bit of mountain humor. Safety is always paramount.
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, Dave and I acquire the summit of the ridge and hike offtrail along the top to enjoy the breathtaking and continuous 360 degree views.
As Dave and I hike predominantly on the top of the ridge, past the distance along Mist Mountain to the west, on the other side of the valley to our right, we encounter three mountain sheep as we approach the trail to the south summit of Mist Ridge.
Dave and I absorb our final views of the east face of Mist Mountain prior to deciding we will skirt the less scenic west side of the south summit on less used trail. It will reduce the gross elevation as my legs begin to feel the accumulation of distance and altitude gain. The diversion seems longer than expected but eventually we pop out of forest onto open ridge.
Along this minor trail there is substantial evidence of bear diggings but we do not see any bears over the entire duration of the hike.
The Mist Ridge trail continues to our left, but a labyrinth of trail and fire road makes the route uncertain from a distance. Our sense of adventure kicks in and we decide to proceed offtrail directly ahead on the crest of hills with the expectation we will find an alternate route onto the main trail. We take advantage of snippets of game trail and clear grassy and/or rocky areas to navigate towards the general direction of our day end objective. All is going well until we arrive 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.
We create our own switchbacks and use short sections of game trail until their direction becomes counterproductive, then bushwhack down to what appears may be another game trail opportunity. This process is repeated over and over again as we fight our way towards the bottom of the valley. At one point, Dave and I encounter fresh kill near a spring-fed pond, so we vacate the area immediately. It is likely we are being watched. Occasionally, in open ground, we can see Nameless Ridge on the opposite side of the valley.
There is no trail, at the bottom of the valley, that will reliably deliver us back to the Mist Creek trail. Dave and I will need to climb through dense forest up the other side of the valley. There is a moment, in the valley bottom, I can use the cascading creek to gather fresh drinking water in my Katadyne purifier bottle. I do not have a whole lot of vertical elevation left in me and the bushwhack climb out of valley is challenging on very steep, forested slope. Dave arrives, at the trail above, before I do and waits. Decent trail is a very welcome sight. It renews our energy and increases our pace. On the final leg of our journey I share my recipe for a metabolism enhancing drink with Dave. He reciprocates by advising me of the benefits of tonic water and suggests it may be an acquired taste. The remaining 5.0 KM (3.1 miles) of the hike is clear sailing, predominantly downhill, then level to the Mist Creek Recreation Area. It has been an excellent and adventurous day of hiking. The drive home to Calgary is spectacular in the contrast of setting sun. I arrive in Calgary as daylight dwindles.
Since the Mist Creek / Mist Ridge hike, I have been enjoying a glass of tonic water each evening and it seems to aid in getting a good nights sleep. The taste is quite pleasant to me.