Distance: 8.5 km
Elevation gain: 530 m View map Download GPS track
After a frustrating weather- and work-related hiatus from the mountains, I was in desperate need of a break in the form of a long hike up a big mountain. Unfortunately, a few days ago a storm dumped up to 60 cm of snow in the mountains, rendering a hike up anything interesting out of the question. Instead we decided to go for quantity over quality and headed south to Crowsnest Pass to hike up a series of small peaks. Located off the Adanac Road south of popular Turtle Mountain, our target peaks were Hearts Peak, Spades Peak, Clubs Peak, and Poker Peak, a series of peaks termed by locals to reflect the officially named Maverick Hill a bit further to the south. Our plan was to tag them all in one moderately long ridgewalk.
We started our hike at an ATV trail to the southeast of Hillcrest Mountain, right where Byron Creek crosses the road. From here we followed the ATV trail as it gently ascended up the Bryon Creek valley, initially heading due west before turning and heading north to a col between Hillcrest Mountain and Hearts Peak. At the turn north we encountered fresh snow on the trail, and while it was initially only a few inches of slush it rapidly increased in depth until I was breaking trail through 30 cm of heavy slushy snow from last week with occasional winter snow below that. It wasn’t unbearably taxing, but after a couple kilometers of it I started to get quite tired/frustrated, and Sandra wasn’t feeling well enough to take a turn breaking trail.
We left the trail about 40 m below the col when a route to the summit that was mostly free of deadfall presented itself. In dry conditions this would have been an easy 160 m ascent, but the slushy snow and assorted foliage hidden beneath it were incredibly slick and made the ascent far more difficult.
After quite a bit of slipping and struggling, and as I found out later, picking up a tick, we reached the summit and, thankfully, were afforded with some pretty nice views for such a lowly peak. The weather was spectacular too – an incredible rarity it seems – but it was also readily apparent that our traverse to Spades and Clubs Peaks wouldn’t be happening today. I’d hoped that the ridgecrest would be free of snow, but the entire route was covered and we just didn’t have the mental or physical fortitude to endure another 6 kilometers of postholing. Instead we retraced our very slippery steps back down our ascent route, then slogged back to the truck. In just the few hours we’d been gone a significant amount of snow had melted, so perhaps in a few days things will be in shape here. Just in time for another snowstorm, probably!