Distance: 5.5 km
Elevation gain: 790 m View map Download GPS track
With the typical weekend storm due to roll in around noon on Saturday, I decided that today was a good day for a repeat ascent where I wouldn’t be annoyed if the weather turned before we made the summit. Prairie Mountain is our usual go-to exercise hike, but the weather models indicated that, miracle of all miracles, the sun might actually shine for a couple hours closer to the divide. We thus decided to head up Little Lougheed, a subpeak of Mount Lougheed near Spray Lake. The one caveat of this choice was that we’d need to leave the house at 5:30 am to both catch the sun before its forecast disappearance around 9 am and to avoid the herds that have been flocking all winter to this fairly random peak.
We started hiking just before 8 am under spectacularly sunny skies. I wore microspikes, but Sandra ended up in snowshoes after one of her (lightly used) microspikes broke as she was putting it on (when we got home we contacted the company and they sent us a new pair, so they've got excellent customer service!). We followed a very well packed trail into the forest, roughly paralleling Spencer Creek, intersecting the High Rockies Trail a few hundred meters from the road. We continued following a packed trail heading along Spencer Creek, turning left onto another packed trail a few hundred meters later. The place has been a zoo this year and tracks of all ages were everywhere.
We soon reached a large boulder field and intersected a more frequently used track. (On descent we followed this track and it connected up with the High Rockies Trail a bit further north than where we’d intersected it). The track through the boulder field was unusually circuitous, but for the most part it kept travel very easy. The one issue was the consistency of the snow. My microspikes couldn’t get a grip on it, nor could Sandra’s snowshoes. It wasn’t terrible on the ascent, but on the way down we both fell and took some long slides.
We kept a fairly good pace on the steep slope, but it was evident that a winter of puny ascents has taken a toll on my cardiovascular system as I repeatedly had to stop to catch my breath.
Since I’d first considered this ascent I’d been a bit concerned about the final slope leading to the summit. It’s the perfect angle for avalanches (a fact completely ignored by its social media groupies) and I could see from the road that much of it was snow covered. When we reached it, however, it seemed quite stable and with a solid track through it I figured we wouldn’t be disturbing it much anyway. We still made our way through it as quickly as possible though.
Loose, snow-covered rock and rubble below the summit ridge was annoying to deal with, but once through it was a quick and easy walk to the summit. Since we’d started out it had been slowly clouding over, but there was still blue sky and sunshine for our summit stay. The view of Spray Lake from the summit was particularly impressive.
A cool breeze drove us from the summit sooner than we would’ve liked and we made our way quickly back to the truck, encountering three groups totaling 11 people heading up. Setting the alarm at the ridiculous hour of 4:50 am had apparently paid off as we’d had the entire ascent and sunny summit to ourselves!