Distance: 19 km
Elevation gain: 1300 m View map Download GPS track
With a high avalanche risk in the main ranges and cloudy skies with flurries forecast we decided to stick to the front country today where the weather would likely be much better and the snowfall minimal. Our choice was an eastern outlier of Association Peak, called Association Hill by Gillean Daffern
and Bob Spirko
. Located to the north of Mount Yamnuska we figured it would have a good chance of seeing some sun and being mostly free of snow.
Rising to just over 1900 m Association Hill is certainly not a lofty objective, but to get there involves a 375 m ascent of Yamnuska shoulder, a 200 m descent, a 100 m ascent of a small hill, a 200 m descent, and a final 475 m ascent of the actual hill! Including the return trip and a few smaller ups and downs, this added up to over 1300 m of elevation gain for the day, so it was certainly not an easy walk. There are a multitude of trails in the area and we pieced together our own route from the map and our own evaluation of trail conditions as we went. Our route ended up being different than both Bob Spirko's and that in Gillean Daffern's Kananaskis Trail Guide, although for long sections we did follow one recommendation or the other.
The trip was reasonably scenic too, granting nice views from Yamnuska shoulder, a small swampy clearing midway along, and from the summit of Association Hill. Most of the hike was in trees however, but the forest was remarkably varied and mostly open for the bulk of the hike so it never got too monotonous.Thankfully the weather turned out quite nice today too and the only snow we encountered was on the north side of Yamnuska shoulder and a few other low areas, but it was only ankle deep at worst. The temperature hovered just above freezing the whole day and while the wind was very strong on the summit, it was nothing more than a nice breeze in the forest and kept us nicely cool.
I probably wouldn't do this hike in the summer when more scenic targets are possible, but as a winter hike on a day when the main range weather was questionable and the avalanche risk high this is a fantastic hike. Watch the time, however, as with only 9 hours of daylight or so this time of year you'll need to start early (it took us 7 h 30 min).