Distance: 17.5 km
Elevation gain: 1220 m View map Download GPS track
Exshaw Mountain is a small treed bump rising above the town of Exshaw. By itself it's hardly worth doing for anything more than exercise, but from its summit it is possible to continue north along a very scenic ridge that runs for several kilometers.
The first difficulty I faced was finding a place to park. The town is generally one large array of No Parking signs, and while one sign did indicate I could park by the Legion, this was on the opposite side of town and didn't look all that official. Eventually I parked near a bridge over Exshaw Creek, just north of some recycling bins, and tackled the second challenge of the day: Finding the trailhead. While the route was simple enough - just walk up the mountain - it took a few minutes to find a way to do so without walking through someones yard. I hate trails that start in towns!
Once out of the town and on the mountain I simply headed up, encountering a flagged and cairned trail about halfway up that lead to a cairn with a register. The actual summit was a few minutes further north, but neither offered more than a glimpse of mountains through the trees. The trail I'd been following ended at the summit, but the forest was open enough that heading down to the col between the mountain and the ridge wasn't difficult, although it was snowy.
From the col the ascent up the ridge was steep and fun. For the most part I stuck to a partially treed rocky rib, but detoured to the left near the top at a section of thick deadfall. After a quick break at the southern summit I continued along the ridge, which entailed ascending and descending a series of bumps, each about 40 m high. The first three were treed, but right after the third the forest dramatically thinned and the only remaining trees were the stunted photogenic kind. The scenery was absolutely spectacular and quite unexpected. The ridge itself was incredibly colorful - both rock and foliage - and the ridges to the east and west provided a good dose of mountain scenery too.
I continued along the ridge for several kilometers before stopping at a highpoint a short distance from where I knew it was going to get quite scrambly. At this point I had to decide how to return, with my two choices being to return the way I came or to descend to Exshaw Creek and exit that way. Not wanting to reascend all the bumps along the ridge and wanting to make the hike a loop I chose the creek option, descending off the ridge via a rib I'd recently passed.
The descent was initially quite steep, but soon relaxed and a leisurely 45 minutes after leaving the ridge I was standing in the wide bed of flood-damaged Exshaw Creek. I had thought this would make for acceptably easy travel back to Exshaw, but the first two kilometers of creekbed was one big mess of deadfall that made for horrendous travel. Things marginally improved at the point where a creek flowed in from Mount Fable - presumably the added flow from here blasted out the trees instead of just felling them - and generally got better further downstream.
About 2 km from town things got quite "interesting" as I encountered a dam on the creek. The flood had filled it to its brim with rock, meaning I found myself standing on the top of a 20 foot wall of concrete with no way down. Bad options existed on both sides; I went to the left and ended up clinging to a very steep hill for about 100 m before things improved. A short time later I arrived back at the car.