Windy Point Ridge is a hike and scramble near Windy Point above Abraham Lake in Bighorn Backcountry, Alberta, Canada.
Following the excellent morning horseback ride at McKenzie' Trails West, the remainder of the day will provide opportunity to hike Windy Point Ridge and Hoodoo Creek.
Parking for Windy Point and Windy Point Ridge is a surprise right turn after driving between sheer canyon walls about 8.6 KM (5⅜ miles) north of David Thompson Resort along David Thompson Highway (Hwy 11) in Bighorn Backcountry, Alberta, Canada.
For first time visitors to Windy Point, it is worth the time to wander out to lakeside and discover the bronze plaque and the amazing views across the lake to the commanding presence of prominent Mount Michener looming above the far shoreline. The plaque explains the landmark mountain was named in 1979 for the Lacombe, Alberta born man, raised in Red Deer, Alberta, who served as the Right Honorable Daniel Roland Michener, Governor General of Canada from 1967 (Canada's Centennial Year) to 1974.
Prior to 1979, the mountain was named Eye Opener Mountain for the imaginative, reclining profile resembling the head and bosom of Phoebe, an infamous, and possibly amorous, resident of Rocky Mountain House in the 1930's. (Reference: The David Thompson Highway: A Hiking Guide authored by Jane Ross and Daniel Kyba). Phoebe's alluring profile is best viewed from a kilometer (⅝ miles) north of Windy Point, so I'm told!
The hike on Windy Point Ridge begins with a walk from the Windy Point parking area back to the highway for a cautious, look-both-ways, high speed crossing of the highway. An alternate trail veers right into gradual descent toward a roadside pond. This will need to be investigated later. The correct, faint trail up onto Windy Point Ridge veers left and becomes more pronounced on the initial ascent to the plateau above the highway.
A small, but dramatic, isolated storm is dumping water into Abraham Lake. Moody skies surround the sunny area currently being occupied and enjoyed. In Bighorn Backcountry, it is wise to expect and be prepared for anything, anytime.
On this initial plateau, an old, rusting, caterpillar track lies testament to prior construction activity. From the initial plateau, the first of three ascent components begin as views expand across Lake Abraham. The intermittent trail heads west up the ridge and alternates between sections of stunted forest with dead fall, to glacial scrubbed stretches of sharp and gritty weathered rock. Footsteps are secure but the rock can damage bare hands, knees and fabric.
A noticeable and consistent breeze provides an abundant supply of fresh air. On the first short and gentle ascent, there is a memorial bench and a cairn to provide a place of solace for rest prior to tackling the most-aggressive, second section of ascent.
There is some intuitive route finding on the second leg of ascent on Windy Point Ridge. Scrambling is easy but more aggressive. An old pair of leather gloves become handy for the second section of ascent. Snippets of trail periodically provide reassurance. After all, it is a ridge so the only obvious exposure is falling off either side. The next plateau is welcome relief from the short but wind-sucking climb to gain elevation.
The overall hike/scramble is 3.6 KM (2¼ miles) round trip with aggressive elevation gain near 656 m (2,150 ft) to a maximum elevation of 2,060 m (6,760 ft) at The Lookout.
Views over the surrounding area expand substantially over surrounding mountain terrain. Wind gains consistent momentum as elevation increases. The third section of ascent is shorter and less aggressive than the second. The Lookout is marked by a cairn and offers phenomenal views of surrounding terrain as well as The Buckle directly ahead. The Buckle is the highest point on Windy Point Ridge.
The summit of The Buckle at 2,170 m (7,120 ft) can be achieved by more advanced hikers with moderate scrambling experience. I will pass on the further initiative, this day, due to physical compromise and the much anticipated hike along Hoodoo Creek.
The down scramble is always more challenging than the ascent. It is important to be careful and take the necessary time to stay safe. There are incredible vistas which justify pausing to take the time to enjoy the incredible views.
Back at the memorial bench, a previously unnoticed survey marker is found located near the memorial cairn and bench for Henry Landry. Time is taken here to enjoy the relaxing views over Abraham Lake before completing the final short descent to road level at the bottom of Windy Point Ridge.
There is no reference to the small pond at the bottom of the north side of the ridge. Clearly, there is a well-traveled hiking trail along the base of the ridge towards the pond. The trail must be hiked before crossing the highway. This unexpected opportunity shall be arbitrarily named Windy Ridge Pond. Perhaps the pond is a temporary feature.
Windy Ridge Pond will be published in a separate post as this one is getting a bit long in the tooth.
Photographs for this short, steep hike/scramble from Windy Point to The Lookout on Windy Point Ridge were taken on Sunday, July 26, 2015.