Distance: 7 km
Elevation gain: 960 m View map Download GPS track
Maze Peak is a prominent peak in the Ya Ha Tinda region of the Rockies, located west of Sundre and accessed by a long dirt road. I doubt it was historically ascended with any frequency, but in 2011 the Rocky Mountain Ramblers
and Bob Spirko
published reports of their ascents and since then it has been quite popular with local hiking groups and scramblers. It's been on my to-do list since 2013 when I stumbled upon those reports, but I never got around to it as the drive from our place in Calgary is a bit on the long side (2.5 hours) and I wasn't entirely sure how difficult the scrambly sections were.
Then this past December a trio of scramblers (Steven Song
, Ben Nearingburg
, and Vern Dewit
) ascended the peak in somewhat icy conditions. Their reports clearly showed that the scrambly sections along the final ridge I'd been concerned about could be easily avoided, and thus with only the drive separating me from victory this peak quickly climbed to the top of my list. After many weeks of weather-watching a suitable forecast finally aligned with the weekend and so we woke up early and started the drive at 6:30 am.
All told the drive wasn't particularly bad, especially now that it is mid-February and the days are substantially longer than a few months ago. We also had no trouble navigating to the correct dirt road, which we had been concerned about as the maps I was using had literally dozens of branching roads in the area, although we did find having a GPS track very useful in locating where to park the car and begin our ascent. (NOTE: On the way back we followed roads south to Cochrane as opposed to exiting via Sundre. While the time it took and the distance on dirt road was about the same both ways, the trip via Sundre was far more enjoyable as the road was much wider and more straight).
Our hike began with a steep ascent through open spruce forest, reaching the north-south ridge of Maze Peak in less than a kilometer. The hardest part of the trip was perhaps the section right before we gained this ridge. It was steep loose talus that slid easily with each step and would’ve cut us to pieces if we’d fallen. We ascended it directly, but there may be a way around it to climbers right if you're in the mood to investigate. From here we headed north along the ridge. There were a few short descents and one somewhat steep ascent (much easier than the talus slope) before we turned sharply to the right (east) and began the final ascent of the peak.
Photos by others of the final ascent were what had me worried about the difficulty of this trip. There are a few large rock outcroppings along the ridge and some groups like to climb up and over these, taking photos of their adventures as they do so. What wasn't evident until this past December was that these could be easily bypassed on the left! We did that today without any issues, although we did detour a bit too far and ended up on annoying debris. Staying as close as possible to the obstacle seems to be the best advice.
We kept a fairly good pace on the way up and reached the summit after 2.5 hours of hiking. While the skies had been completely clear when we'd started hiking it was now quickly clouding over, but we made it to the summit just in time for some spectacular sunny views of the Ya Ha Tinda region to the west. All in all a very good day and a wonderful area to explore! We'll certainly be going back to that area.