Distance: 8.5 km
Elevation gain: 835 m View map Download GPS track
To celebrate the end of the school year Sandra and I decided to go camping in Crowsnest Pass and, of course, hike up a few mountains at the same time. A bit tired the first day, we decided to tackle a nice and easy one: Mount Ward.
We followed the directions to the trailhead in Alan Kane's scrambling guide
, getting beaten to pieces on the bumpy Allison Creek Road before driving about 1.3 km up the ATV trail/road leading to Window Mountain Lake. This section is only possible in a high clearance vehicle. We parked in a grassy area next to the trailhead sign, then started following an obvious trail right behind the sign. In short order it became quite overgrown, then led us right back out to the ATV trail we'd been following in the truck! That's officially the worst trailhead sign ever! We continued following the ATV trail as it gently climbed before transitioning to a hiking trail when it reached the headwall. After a steep climb and a pleasant walk through old growth forest we arrived at Window Mountain Lake, a gorgeous lake below Mount Ward that is evidently a popular camping area.
We hiked around the lake on good trail, then started our ascent into the cirque to the west of Mount Ward. As we ascended we stuck to green areas as much as possible, then transitioned to loose rubble and scree about 100 m below the col separating Mount Ward and Allison Peak. We were then surprised - VERY surprised - to encounter a large black bear! With nearly no shelter in the entire cirque and nothing but rock around I have no idea what he was doing there, less than 100 m below the summit, and with the racket we'd been making he certainly knew we were coming. I waved my arms and yelled a few times and he ran away, curving down towards the narrow entrance to the cirque where we'd started up.
After a few minutes we continued, a bit worried about heading back knowing there was a bear down there, but relieved he did what he was supposed to do (run away). Then, 20 minutes later and just below the summit I look back down into the cirque and see him climbing up towards us! He was much closer this time and the fact that he'd just ascended 300 m to get closer to us was very unnerving. I waved my arms and yelled to identify myself as human, then started throwing rocks to clarify my position on the food chain and that I had the high ground. He ran down again, I took a second to catch my breath, then yelled again. This is when it got interesting. He looked up at me, then quickly glanced in the opposite direction, then back at me. What I believe was happening was that my voice was echoing in the cirque (I could certainly hear it) and as he headed down he heard my voice coming from in front of him and behind. Presumably on his earlier descent one of my calls to Sandra had echoed in front of him, scaring him back up the slope where he encountered us again.
With him below us and likely quite confused and frightened we had no interest in heading back down and instead continued the last bit to the summit. After a long lunch break we started back down, making a good amount of noise and moving cautiously around each corner! Thankfully we never saw him again and arrived safely back at the truck without any further excitement. A very interesting way to start our vacation for sure!