Distance: 5 km
Elevation gain: 635 m View map Download GPS track
When we go hiking on Sunday we usually look for something short so that it doesn't take all day and have us getting home late and rushing just before the workweek. Today that short hike was Gunnery Mountain, a small peak near Highwood Junction sandwiched in between the more popular Junction Hill
and Bull Creek Hill
trips. As this area doesn't typically get much snow and the ascent ridge is often windblown, we figured we'd be able to hike to the summit rather than snowshoe, but we still carried the snowshoes on our packs just in case. We call them training weights.
There are a couple of routes to the summit, but we chose to ascend the southwest ridge. This route begins at a small creek just west of the point where the Highwood River brushes against the road east of Highwood Junction. This presented us with the first challenge of the day as there wasn't enough room to park by the road here (in the summer you can just drive onto the grassy shoulder, but today it was nothing but snow). Instead we parked about 400 m further west in the pullout for an old warden cabin.
From here we made our way back to the small creek and started our ascent. The route was reasonably obvious the entire way: We just followed the ridge up! While it's probably fairly easy in dry conditions, about 20 cm of crusty sugar snow and drifts up to knee deep made it somewhat challenging today. The dreary overcast, humid, and cold weather didn't help a whole lot either, although it did get sunny and warm around noon as we made our way back down the way we came up.
The partially-treed summit and the views were not particularly spectacular, but knarly trees and brilliantly colored lichen along the way kept us reasonably entertained. We considered extending the day by heading down to Grass Pass and Bull Creek Hills
, details for which are in Gillean Daffern's Kananaskis Trail Guide
, but decided instead to call it a day and return directly to the car. For us today this was a great short hike at a time of year when there aren't many accessible great short hikes.