Distance: 14 km
Elevation gain: 800 m View map Download GPS track
Last November while freezing atop Midnight Peak
I snapped a photo
of a grassy and treed peak to the east. I was quite surprised by this peak as in all the research I'd done on the area I'd never come across any mention of it, and for some reason I hadn't even noticed its existence on topo maps! Go figure. Hence it immediately piqued my interest. It certainly looked hikeable, so someone must have hiked it! And indeed they have. It is known as Hunchback Hills and it is described in Gillean Daffern's Kananaskis Country Trail Guide
and on many popular hiking blogs and websites, so I have no idea how I missed it. Regardless, it made its way onto my list of shoulder-season hikes to wait for a day like today.
The particular characteristics of today that made Hunchback Hills a great destination were strong winds that ruled out many loftier objectives and a wall of low cloud and snow enveloping most peaks further west. So a front country hike day it would be! I had originally planned to ascend a slightly lower eastern summit
of Hunchback Hills and then hike along the variably treed and open undulating ridge to the western (true) summit, but with Sandra still recovering from a cold we decided to take an easier and more direct approach to the summit via the Lusk Pass trail. To do so we parked at the signed Lusk Creek parking lot on highway 68, crossed the road, and picked up a signed horse trail heading to Lusk Pass. A little over 3 km from the car, shortly after crossing tiny Lusk Creek on a small new bridge, we left the trail and started bushwhacking up Hunchback Hill. The point at which we left the trail was quite arbitrary; I chose this point because on the topo map it appeared to perhaps offer a gentler ascent. In retrospect I'm not certain it did.
The bush along our ascent route was moderately thick, but with many small detours around thick areas we didn't find it too bad at all. There were a few snow patches near the top - some quite deep - but they were all supportive and so presented no problem at all. The wind, however, was fierce and made the short walk along the summit ridge frustrating and cold. Then again, it evaporated the sweat from the ascent very efficiently! The views from the summit were very nice and were similar to those from Cox Hill
. The highlight was perhaps a view of Barrier Lake from an unusual angle; other than Mount Baldy
I'm not sure if any other peak offers a view of the lake from the east.
Wildlife was strangely absent on this hike, although we did see a grouse and a bit of deer sign. We also came across some small bear tracks in old snow on the Lusk Pass trail, and of the 6 reports I found on the web from other people hiking up Hunchback Hills, 5 of them reported seeing bear tracks. It doesn't seem like great bear territory, but I guess they're there!