Distance: 10 km
Elevation gain: 450 m View map Download GPS track
Naming note: There are two named buttes in this general area. This one was historically known as Death’s Head, but in 1994 it was officially named Mesa Butte. This causes significant confusion as another butte just to the east was known as Mesa Butte for nearly 100 years, but in 1994 it was officially named Square Butte. Both buttes now go by both names, depending on who you ask.
After a long outing yesterday I didn’t have the energy or motivation for a big hike today, but I still wanted to get out with Sandra. Death’s Head, a small butte we’d driven by a couple of times before and which we’d made a half-hearted attempt to ascend last weekend, was our destination. It’s normally a very short hike from a small parking area off the Ware Creek Road, but as the road is closed this time of year we’d need to hike 4 km along it before starting the actual ascent.
We left the house quite early and parked in a pullout near where the Ware Creek Road branches off Highway 549. It wasn’t even 8 am yet and with cloudy skies it was very dark, but it was dead easy to hike along the road in the dark.
While gated, the Ware Creek Road was plowed for the first few hundred meters, then packed by snowmobiles after that. This made travel relatively easy and we were able to keep a quick pace, at least for winter hiking. Instead of losing significant elevation to follow the usual trail to the summit, we left the road at a point just below the southern sub-summit and hiked up the surprisingly steep slope to the summit ridge. While strenuous, bushwhacking was very light and the few inches of crusty snow on the south-facing slope was perfect for kick-stepping.
We intersected a trail when we reached the summit ridge and followed it up and over the southern summit and onward to the main summit. Neither summit offered a view, but by continuing about 100 m further north, losing just a couple meters of elevation in the process, we reached a small meadow above a steep bank where a decent panorama to the north and northwest unfolded.
After having an early lunch on the summit we retraced our route back to the road and made our way back to the truck. For a half-day winter hike this was a nice outing; in the summer I imagine the entire hike wouldn’t take much more than an hour.