Distance: 6.5 km
Elevation gain: 770 mView mapDownload GPS track
After a week of marking exams and tallying grades (it's harder than you think!) and with a forecast of sun and light winds we decided to head to Kananaskis for a day of snowshoeing. Our objective was the north end of Kent Ridge; not the outlier
we've done before, but the actual north end of the ridge that lies nearly 400 m higher. The trail had been broken earlier this week by Steven Song
who confirmed the avalanche risk was tolerable via his ascent route.
Unfortunately the forecasters at Environment Canada fooled me again! Their sunny with light winds forecast actually meant low cloud, flurries, and moderate winds and I didn't feel like half-killing myself to see what the inside of a cloud looked like (FYI it's like pea-soup fog and totally not interesting). Thankfully I had a backup plan in mind: King Creek Ridge. Being one mountain range further east I hoped it would have better weather and I'd noticed from Little Lawson last week that it wouldn't be too hard to pick a safe ascent route. I'd also noticed before heading out that a group had ascended it last week in boots, so there'd be somewhat of a trail broken for us too.
This ascent actually turned out to be far more taxing than expected! While a trail was broken it had been broken by people in boots (through knee-deep snow) and the tracks had then frozen. Our snowshoes didn't fit it the tracks, obviously, and so our ankles were constantly being twisted as we stumbled along. We tried moving off the track, but the snow was pure sugar and was near impossible to ascend. We eventually made it to the ridgecrest - our average ascent speed being a stellar 1.3 km/h - and were very happily surprised to find the snowpack on the ridge was supportive. The comparatively easy traverse to the summit was one of the more pleasant snowshoeing experiences we've had. A small gap in the clouds even cast a bit of sun on the ridge and the Opal Range for perhaps 20 minutes too, but it disappeared just before we reached the summit and was replaced by wind and snow for our descent. Speaking of the descent, this was a blast in the sugar snow and at times we could just ski through the stuff. Only one fall each too!
NOTE: While the avalanche risk was low on the route we took today the steeper open slopes we ascended near the top would be dangerous in other conditions. There are safer routes up so it might be possible to reach the ridge even then, but don't go if you're not able to evaluate the risk.