Distance: 6 km
Elevation gain: 700 m View map Download GPS track
Low on energy and motivation today I headed south to the Crowsnest Pass area, planning to hike up several small mountains and hills until I tired or time ran out. The first of these peaks was Hillcrest Mountain, a peak immediately south of the more popular Turtle Mountain
. It’s been on my radar as a late fall ascent for several years, but the Adanac Road used for access is not maintained in winter and I’ve always waited until it was too snowed in to drive.
I parked in an obvious pullout just north of where Byron Creek crosses under the road, then started hiking along a dirt road towards the peak. A quick kilometer later I found myself staring up at the brush and deadfall-covered south slope of Hillcrest Mountain. I’ve walked past it before and for some reason remembered lovely grassy slopes with lots of flowers; this was quite the opposite! With little choice though I started up, taking a rather circuitous route around fallen dead trees and slipping several times on the wet spring undergrowth. In a few years this route may become unfeasible as the new forest thickens, in which case an ascent from the west might be possible.
As I gained elevation the deadfall lessened and the new growth thinned, but the slope remained steep and unstable scree kept me searching for stable footing. The wind also became a factor. On the lee side of the slope where I was hiking the wind was gusting from all directions, oddly enough, and as soon as I’d brace against it the direction would change and I’d lose my balance.
The summit ridge is guarded by some small cliffs, and so I headed a bit further north searching for an easy way up. For some reason I passed by an area where they’d crumbed to nothing more than a steep grassy slope, not realizing the silliness of this until I noticed the cliffs were getting higher and impenetrable the further I went. Thankfully I found a way up without backtracking; my route wasn’t something I’d want to downclimb, but that’s what the easier route I’d passed by earlier was for.
Once on the ridge it was an easy walk to the summit. The wind was still moderate to strong, but it was steady, not gusty, so it wasn’t that annoying. The views were very nice as well and I spent quite a bit of time taking photos and identifying peaks. I also contemplated returning to the truck via a long loop route encompassing Hearts
, and Clubs Peaks
, the latter two of which I planned to hike later today anyway, but with the strong wind I decided to avoid such a long ridgewalk and instead return to the truck via my ascent route. As it turns out, this route would likely have been a terrible mess of deadfall.
The descent was uneventful other than the frustration of picking my way down the unstable and bushy slope. The entire trip had taken less than three hours, leaving plenty of time for my next trip: Ascents of tiny Clubs and Spades Peaks