Distance: 18.5 km
Elevation gain: 1160 m View map Download GPS track
Last weekend we visited the Ya Ha Tinda area for the first time, scrambling to the summit of the most popular mountain in the area, Maze Peak
. We were stunned by the beauty of the area and eager to go back, but as the area is not particularly popular by Rockies standards there isn't a lot of information available to help with planning. Thankfully, a few local scramblers (Steven Song
, Vern Dewit
, and Ben Nearingburg
) have paid a few visits to the area and last fall published reports online of their ascent of Evangeline Peak. It looked like an easy scramble and with little snow on nearby Maze Peak last weekend (and no forecast of significant storms this past week) we figured we'd give it a go.
As this ascent would involve a round trip distance of nearly 20 km and at least 1000 m of elevation gain we got an early-ish start, leaving home around 6 am and starting the hike just after 9. There was an enormous amount of fresh snow on the road on the way in, but only 2 cm was present where the route starts at the Bighorn campground. The amount of both old and new snow steadily increased the further we hiked, eventually becoming deep enough that hiking through it was quite difficult. It was particularly deep in open cutblocks on the lower slopes of Evangeline Peak we were using for the ascent and so rather than continuing to post-hole we chose to take to the forest where much less snow was present. Unfortunately the forest was a terrible mess of deadfall and it slowed us down considerably. The deadfall lessened as we approached the ridgecrest, but here the trees were bushy, right up against one another, and covered in fresh snow. Worse, there was at least 50 cm of fresh snow on top of more than 30 cm of old crusted snow and we found ourselves sinking up to our thighs in the stuff! This was incredibly draining and at times the trailbreaker was managing just 10 steps between breaks. We only persevered through this mess as I had seen from the parking area that everything above treeline was windswept down to bare rock and knew we were tantalizingly close to it.
It took us over 30 minutes to cover the last 400 m to treeline, but we eventually made it and were greeted with open, mostly snow-free slopes. And a strong, gusting wind, of course. Icy snow slopes forced us to ascend a subpeak that can be contoured around in dry conditions, and then 2 km of ridgewalking on gentle slopes brought us to the summit. This section should've been an easy and enjoyable hike, but we were absolutely exhausted and each step forward was a struggle. The strong wind also regularly enveloped us in clouds of flying ice crystals and was so strong and gusty on the summit that only one of my panoramic photos turned out, the others being irreparably out of alignment from being blown around as I took the photos.
All told, however, this was a great trip. The adversities we faced made it more adventurous and to obtain the summit despite them made it all the more sweet! We also saw many deer and a moose on the drive in, caught glimpses in the distance of what I believe were probably wild horses, and followed the fresh tracks of a pack of 5 wolves for about a kilometer! Combined with blue skies, acceptable temperatures, and an excuse to eat out on the way home, this was a fantastic day! The Ya Ha Tinda region deserves more attention, and based on the number of seemingly easy scrambles in the area I'll be back to do just that.