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Distance: 7 km
Elevation gain: 620 m
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Blacksmith Ridge is the unofficial name for the ridge that lies between and slightly east of Mt. Black Prince and Mt. Smith-Dorrien. The ridge - at least the part that is accessible by snowshoe - is treeless and runs roughly east-west; it is not the prominent and oddly symmetrical treed ridge closer to the Spray Lakes road that runs north-south.

Blacksmith Ridge can be accessed from either the north or the south; we chose to access it from the south. Using this approach, the trailhead is just north of the Black Prince parking area in the small clearing with a pond. From here, head initially west across the clearing, then southeast along the frozen streambed. After a short distance on the stream (at the point where it bends left), veer southward into the forest and begin curving slowly westward. Head towards the drainage running roughly NW-SE. You want to connect up with this drainage about halfway along the "marked blue line of the stream on the topo map", for lack of a better description.

We were fortunate to have a trail to follow that was about a week old, but if this is not present navigation will become somewhat tricky. Be cautious about following trails in this area as well as a much better tracked trail heads for the lower easterly ridge. For Blacksmith Ridge, your goal is to essentially follow the east bank of the NW-SE drainage northwards to the ridge, but the route is complicated by the fact that the drainage forks, you can't yet see your destination, and the banks of the drainage are in spots very steep, making course corrections difficult. Staying too far east will either place you on top of the ridge further east - and a full 200 m lower than your intended destination - or in the gully between the two ridges; attaining Blacksmith Ridge from here would likely be difficult owing to the steep banks between the two ridges.

Once at the top, however, the views are quite spectacular and likely would compensate for any navigational problems en route. To the east is Kent Ridge with its many winter-accessible outliers, to the northwest is Mt. Smith-Dorrien, and to the south is the cirque below Mt. Warspite (also known as Black Prince cirque). Mt. Black Prince itself is hidden by a smaller outlier, but up close this is quite spectacular itself. A large cirque to the west of the ridge offers apparently great skiing in low avalanche risk conditions. The trees just below the ridge initially appeared to us to have been bent and damaged by avalanches that mysteriously ran in the wrong direction, but upon closer inspection we noticed that they had actually been sandblasted by northerly winds. These same winds have kept the top and north side of the ridge completely snow free this winter and we were able to eat lunch while sitting on gravel instead of snow.

Categories & Keywords
Category:Lifestyle and Recreation
Subcategory Detail:Hiking
Keywords:Blacksmith Ridge, Kananaskis, snowshoeing