The early day drive west from Calgary holds promise for a variably sunny day and the 50 KM (31 mile) drive south on Kananaskis Trail is on good road under lightly overcast sky. As always, the views never cease to amaze me and I collect a few photos of The Fortress for my son, Bill, to enjoy. They bring back good memories for us from August of 2002. Some of the best views are from Wedge Pond beneath The Wedge in Kananaskis Country, Alberta.
There are sweeping views over mist trapped in the Kananaskis Valley. The Fisher Range of mountains is on my left and the Opal Range is on the right. It is a practiced art to drive safely, keep an eye out for wildlife and enjoy this spectacular scenery, all at the same time. At the winter closure gate (December 15 to June 14), near the junction of King Creek and Kananaskis Lakes Road, there are plowed spaces for parking at the gate.
I don the gear to continue my journey along Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40) on snowshoes. The sun is beginning to peek around the mountains on my left, causing the camera to rebel against the broad range of light and stark contrast.
The trail is well packed on snow which is not very deep. The tips of my hiking poles are frequently striking the pavement underneath, where wind has swept away surface layers of snow. The view of mist in Kananaskis Valley is a recurring image and is very beautiful and mesmerizing as the heat of the sun gains strength and the mist gently begins to rise. The broad road provides intermittent sweeping vistas worthy of the time to stop and enjoy.
At the turnoff to Elpoca Mountain viewpoint and Opal Creek Waterfall, I decide to turn around. The trail continues south but I must be close to where avalanche risk terminates safe travel without the appropriate gear and training. I am snowshoeing solo this day. The following photos are captured on the return snowshoe over the same trail. The best views are near the beginning of the Wintour Trail.
There are several artistic photographic image opportunities on the return snowshoe as the sun swings around to the west. There is great beauty here. Elevation gains and losses are subtle and sweeping bends open revised views.
As I near the end of my Wintour Trail Snowshoe, traffic signs, relevant in the spring, summer and fall, announce my arrival as I enjoy magnificent views north through Kananaskis Valley. From a substantial distance, I can see my car is still there. That is always reassuring.
This is an ideal first snowshoe for someone learning new skills. To be perfectly honest, it is too much effort for too little reward. I turned around on expended time, over monotonous terrain and becoming bored with the process. Expansive views are spectacular but intermittent and redundant. The wide road is highly exposed to wind and, when chilling wind is an issue, should probably be exchanged for another nearby trail alternative where forest provides shelter. It was not an issue for me on this day. On the south leg there was no chilling breeze and on the return north a gentle, developing breeze provided an encouraging push against my back.
The Wintour Trail is 5 KM (3.1 mile) relatively linear trail on a wide road with 75 m (246 ft) of elevation. A map of the Wintour Trail Snowshoe route can be found on page 2 of the Alberta Parks Maps link.