Distance: 8 km
Elevation gain: 505 m View map Download GPS track
It’s always difficult to find the motivation to get out hiking when the weather and possible destinations are blah, and coupled with the fact that my weekends this semester are bookended by unusually busy and stressful workdays, we really had to force ourselves out the door this morning. We could’ve stayed home of course, but with very few exceptions we’ve found that getting outside is better than staying home.
Our destination was a small ridge sandwiched between Etherington and Baril Creeks. It is referred to as Etherington-Baril Ridge in Ridgewalks in the Canadian Rockies
and that is the name that has been adopted by most hikers and scramblers, but in the Kananaskis Country Trail Guide
it is named Three Cairns.
We started our hike in the large plowed parking lot of Etherington Creek Campground. A large network of snowmobile trails starts here and after gearing up we started hiking along the well-packed main trail, reaching the steep southern end of the ridge where most people begin the ascent just 2 km from the truck. I’d anticipated that this route would be infeasible due to snow and had planned an ascent up the forested eastern or western slopes, but with very little snow along the steep ridge I decided to avoid bushwhacking and breaking trail and just head up the open slope.
This route was very steep, rising 300 vertical meters over a distance of just 500 m, but it did deposit us on the much gentler ridgecrest after just 45 minutes of hard work. The snow was much deeper in spots along the top, but an old snowshoe track kept travel easy enough that we didn’t bother putting on our own snowshoes.
Views from the top were very nice for such a diminutive bump, despite low cloud that enveloped the mountains to the west and south, but the cold wind meant we couldn’t linger very long. Not wanting to head down our ascent route we chose instead to head west off the summit, then loop back south to the main snowmobile trail. This route worked wonderfully to start, but about halfway back to the trail the forest thickened and a few small gullies and ribs made travel annoying and difficult. It didn’t last too long, however, and we soon connected back up with the snowmobile trail. A quick walk back to the truck concluded the day. As expected, it was great to get out hiking and exploring again!