Wild weather on Wasootch Ridge in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.
The drive west from sunny skies over Calgary proceeds into rainbows suspended from cloud cover over the front range Rocky Mountains. Multiple rainbows in The Ghost are complemented by higher altitude fire rainbows in dynamic sky to the south. The left turn into the Wasootch Day Use Area is 17 KM (10⅝ miles) south on Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40). Wasootch is a popular haunt where rock climbers practice and improve their skills. Today's popular hike will proceed over the top of Wasootch Ridge which divides the south arm of Porcupine Creek on the north side and Wasootch Creek on the south side. Mount Lorette commands the west horizon.
Wasootch Creek is bordered by Wasootch Ridge on the northeast side and outliers of Mount McDougall to the southwest. The trail-head for Wasootch Ridge is straight ahead about 10 m (33 ft) behind the green trail map sign to the left of the main sign. Enjoy that 10 m because the trail is steep on rugged rock terrain for a quick warm up. Quality hiking boots are a good idea.
The main sign at Wasootch Ridge in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada
The rapid ascent up Wasootch Ridge opens mountain and valley views quickly. Ski runs at Nakiska are clearly visible to the southwest. A gravel road turning south with lakes on it which captures the attention. This gravel road is an old section of the original, gravel Kananaskis Road. The ascent trail is rugged with interesting features. There are brief sections of loose rock over limestone slab.
There are some short, edgy sections on the trail with minimum exposure. Careful steps are sensible with occasional stops to absorb the ever expanding scenery.
The initial ascent leads to another climb through forest on clear trail with occasional scenic opportunities. At a small clearing, the trail branches left onto a jog up and north, then east along a more defined and open ridge with outstanding views of surrounding mountain features.
Views expand exponentially as altitude and distance are gained along the top of Wasootch Ridge.
The view over Wasootch Creek to Mount McDougall is spectacular. However, there is a problem, Houston. Heavy weather, deserving attention, is moving in fairly rapidly from the west.
Sooner than expected, the rapidly approaching storm makes a case for heading back. Also, there is an additional objective to hike along Wasootch Creek to survey flood damage and to see if the outhouse survived the flood. From the top of Wasootch Ridge, the entrance trail is visible but the outhouse does not make an appearance. The old, rustic shelter may be gone or it may be hidden by flood debris and forest. Also, the lakes on that road near the beginning of this ridge hike beg for investigation. Reluctantly, but with sensible justification, the retreat begins.
There is still a bit of snow in protected places at the top of the ridge. The storm front is moving east quickly now and the retreat is a balance for speed and safely.
Interestingly, on the return hike, at one point the temperature drops instantly by about 10 degrees C (18 deg F) but the air remains relatively still. This is normal when confronting a storm but without accompanying wind indicates the front is moving more slowly than originally anticipated. As the rain approaches there may still be a chance the ridge descent can be completed before the rain starts.
A slight breeze begins directly towards me and precipitation begins just prior to beginning the final, steep descent. Rain gear employed (umbrella), the hike proceeds very carefully now on slippery wet rock and tree roots.
There is a 'Y' branch, noticed on the way up, that is arbitrarily chosen as an alternative to the dangerous steep, rocky section. Where the branch goes is unknown but if it does not drop to the bottom, an off-trail alternative will be found. This newer, more gentle trail through forest leads to the bottom about 10 meters (33 ft) to the left (north-ish) of the original trail, and the kiosk. This alternative trail is a more sensible alternative recommended for both ascent and descent.
Even though this hike on Wasootch Ridge was truncated by inclement weather, there is a subsequent opportunity for a same-day hike up Wasootch Creek.
There is a saying here. "If you don't like the weather, wait for half an hour, or drive 5 KM in any direction to change it". Particularly in spring and in the mountains, this fickle weather is very common. It is wise to be prepared for a wide range of weather alternatives at all times. Lunch will be enjoyed in the car while waiting for the weather to change.
Photographs for Wasootch Ridge were taken on the morning of June 2, 2014.