Jumpingpound Ridge from Powderface Trail in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.
The first indication of trouble is snow on Moose Mountain during the drive south along Sibbald Creek Trail (Hwy 68) into the less frequented area of Jumpingpound in northeast Kananaskis Country west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Constant rain over the past few days translates to snow at higher elevations, so it is no surprise there is snow at the top of the 2,437 m (7,995 ft) mountain but snow has penetrated down Moose Mountain.
The objective for this day is the 2,225 m (7,300 ft) summit of nearby Jumpingpound Mountain via the north ridge off Powderface Trail. The issue may be how deep the snow will become.
The Powderface Trail gate opens on May 15. There will be the customary early season maintenance issues but this rustic gravel road can be driven safely when given the profound respect it deserves.
The parking area for the trail-head sign is beyond Dawson Equestrian Campground and just a short distance past the trail-head for Lusk Pass. At the trail-head about 5 cm (2 inches) of snow cover the bridge over fast-running Jumpingpound Creek.
The trailhead across from parking south of Dawson on Powderface Trail in Jumpingpound, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada. The trailhead to Lusk Pass is a short distance north on the west side of Powderface Trail.
Gaining elevation on well-graded, long switchbacks, the surface of the trail changes from shallow, intermittent snow coverage to progressively deeper snow and complete coverage.
At 1,524 m (5,000 ft), the hike is trudging through a foot (30 cm) of snow and route finding is becoming an issue as trail narrows and snow has drifted to greater depths.
The route is initially intuitive, if not specific, and the criteria is simply to climb, circumvent major obstacles and avoid falling off either side of the access ridge.
The viewpoint to Cox Hill is always a great spot for a photograph. Past here the ascent becomes a struggle of breaking trail in ever-deepening snow but, before long, trail breaks out of forest at north Jumpingpound Ridge.
The sun is warming and the air is fresh. Clothes are drying over the trail sign which marks the junction to Cox Hill going north and North Jumpingpound Ridge to the south.
So far, about 3.5 KM (2¼ miles) and 400 m (1,312 ft.) of elevation have been gained but it seems like more and there is still 3 KM (1⅞ miles) and more elevation to achieve the summit.
Hiking in the snow is tough work and quickly realizing the effort will far exceed the potential reward, the only hope is that shallower snow at the top of the ridge might make navigation easier.
A sharp left turn ascends to the top of the ridge but wind at the top is robust and the depth of the snow remains the same. Snow shoes are required and they are not part of the kit.
It is a worthwhile few minutes to absorb the surrounding views of Moose Mountain, Prairie Mountain, the east side of the Fisher Range, the view north to the Ghost and east to the Calgary city skyline. Breathtakingly beautiful! WOW!
In spite of failure to achieve the intended objective, the experience is excellent and the exercise has been robust. The uplifting experience includes absorbing the brilliant sun against snow and a ten-year supply of incredibly fresh air. The descent is quick and straightforward.
Jumpingpound Mountain will be topped another day.