Distance: 8.5 km
Elevation gain: 570 m View map Download GPS track
The forecast today was calling for 100+ km/h winds at elevation, but with little interest in spending the day in the city we decided to head to the mountains anyway, hoping that for once the forecast would be better than predicted. Admittedly we were being a bit too optimistic as we planned to scramble up Thunder Mountain via a route that would expose us to the westerly winds nearly the entire way, but we did have a backup plan: An ascent of Thrift Peak to the north of Thunder Mountain. The route to its summit largely avoids its ridge and thus the worst of the winds, but to get there we'd need to cross what we assumed would be a frozen Oldman River and then follow an old road, which we assumed would be packed by snowmobiles.
With so many assumptions and ignorances this plan was of course doomed from the start. The drive along Highway 22 to our turnoff at the Oldman River bridge was an exercise in controlling the truck in the wind, the gale was so loud at the Thunder Mountain trailhead we didn't even bother getting out of the truck, and there was a ton of snow surrounding a mostly open Oldman River. I'm fairly certain we could have found a place to cross on an ice bridge with a fair bit of exploring, but we didn't feel like postholing away the entire day.
No worries! Years of hiking in the Rockies has taught me to always have a third option, which in this case was to attempt an ascent of Thrift Peak from the east as Bob Spirko had done
. This required heading back out to Highway 22 and then turning west on a dirt road immediately to its north. This went well enough, but we missed a very minor turnoff to the actual point along Camp Creek he'd started at, instead ending up at the end of a road in some random parking lot. An unexpected trailhead sign indicated an official ATV trail started here, and with little hope of finding anything better at this point we decided to head up the grassy slope and see what was on the other side.
From the parking lot an easy walk up grassy slopes brought us to a localized highpoint. A long grassy ridge stretched out to the north and a treed ridge rose to the southwest. Both seemed like reasonable objectives, but I decided on the treed ridge as it was clearly higher and I hoped it would grant views to the west of the peaks we'd hoped to climb.
By this point we'd abandoned the ATV trail and were forging our own route up the hill. The meadows and mostly open forest made this easy and it wasn't long before we reached the crest of this ridge. It's unnamed, of course, but given that it rises above Camp Creek I've decided to call it Camp Creek Ridge. It was mostly treed, but several open areas along its top provided views in all directions, including towards Thrift Peak and Thunder Mountain. Near the southern end of the ridge we detoured a bit further west to gain an outlying highpoint, then looped back towards where we'd parked. We intersected an old road on the return, but shortly got bored with its monotony and set out on our own again. Our wandering route eventually brought us back to the truck.
In the end this was certainly not the summit day we'd been hoping for, but there's a lot to be said for just wandering randomly about in the foothills.