Distance: 4.5 km
Elevation gain: 800 m View map Download GPS track
After being stuck indoors yesterday while it rained in the mountains and with a weather forecast today calling for snow beginning before noon, we needed an adventure that was quick, yet scenic enough to justify the drive. We chose Mount Baldy, a popular scramble just over an hour from Calgary. The most popular route up is described in Alan Kane's Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies
as well as in many reports on the web, and all sources reference a moderately difficult crux that is avoidable. We're getting more into scrambling these days, but moderate scrambling is still quite difficult for Sandra so we knew before setting out that we'd be taking the detour route.
We parked in the ditch at the base of Mount Baldy, 1.6 km south of the Barrier Lake picnic area. A bit of flagging near the flood washout helped us find the start of the trail, then an obvious trail led us steeply up the mountain. About halfway up, near where we emerged from the trees and came across a rather well built rock couch, we encountered the first of two difficult sections. We detoured around it to the right on an obvious trail, and while initially dead easy, a steep and lengthy section near the end had terrible traction and Sandra had a rough time here. I didn't particularly enjoy it either, but powered through it.
We both made it through that section, but shortly afterward encountered a large rocky pinnacle on the ridge that I believe is the moderate crux of the ascent. A couple in front of us tackled it head-on, but we took a trail detouring around it to the right. Unfortunately Sandra's ascent ended halfway around this pinnacle as the route became too exposed for her. It was basically a narrow ledge on a cliff face and I wasn't particularly comfortable with it either. While she hung back I "ran" to the summit, struggling over lose ball-bearing scree on chunky rock for most of the remaining ascent. I'm not particularly experienced with this sort of stuff and the going was quite tedious.
I topped out on the summit after 1h40 min of hiking and scrambling, which isn't too bad considering I'd covered 800 vertical meters in that time! The overcast skies dampened the views a bit, but the panorama of Barrier Lake was still quite nice and many familiar peaks were visible in all directions. Best of all, I'd beaten the snow! Within another 30 minutes it was coming over the mountains to the southwest and by the time we made it back to the car it was starting to flurry. Talk about good timing!