Distance: 9 km
Elevation gain: 515 m View map Download GPS track
We woke up on Thursday to another wind warning, as expected. Having had nothing but high winds for the entire trip my list of suitable objectives for such weather was dwindling, but I still had one more place to explore – Baseline Mountain, located to the southeast of Nordegg and most easily accessed via Rocky Mountain House. Like many of our previous hikes it too sports a fire lookout and hence would have an easily hiked road to the top.
After a long drive east along Highway 11 and south on the 752 we reached Baseline Mountain. The road heading to the summit was ungated at the bottom and I started to drive up as I’d done at Grave Flats Lookout
yesterday, but after just a few meters I decided that I’d much rather walk it for the exercise than to play with the four-wheel drive of the truck again.
The snow in the area was perhaps 8-10 inches deep, but that on the road had been well-packed by snowmobiles, ATV’s, and at least a few trucks and this made the ascent very easy with our microspikes. There was a gate a short distance up, but it was open and even had it been locked a detour route big enough for ATV’s was available to one side of it. The only thing worth noting about the ascent were some traps placed alongside the road. They were little boxes nailed to trees that I initially thought were part of a research experiment, but when we came across one with a dead pine marten suspended below it my original hypothesis was rather quickly discarded. I’m not opposed to humane trapping, although I’m not entirely sure what one does with dead pine martens.
Views from the summit of Baseline Mountain weren’t particularly good as it was quite heavily treed, but the forest had been cut down to grant a view towards the distant mountains to the west. This wouldn’t be a problem for the fire lookout as this one was atop a high tower, unlike all other lookouts we’ve visited but not unusual for non-mountainous terrain. Remarkably the wind wasn’t unbearably strong nor cold and we were able to wander about for nearly 10 minutes without freezing.
Normally Baseline Mountain is hiked as a loop by continuing to a lower eastern summit, so we picked up the trail behind the lookout cabin and started to do just that. After a short hike that gave us a nice view of the loop route we decided the prospect of hiking along the open eastern ridge in the wind, followed by a long trudge back along the dusty main road with its logging truck traffic, just wasn’t that appealing. Instead we turned around and hiked back to the lookout, had a quick lunch in a sunny sheltered spot, then hiked back down the lookout road.