Distance: 24 km
Elevation gain: 1685 m View map Download GPS track
Today was my 36th birthday and while you'd think that would mean I'd be relaxing or doing something else birthday-like, for me the best celebration is hiking in the mountains. And to prove to myself that I'm not getting old, I figured I'd tackle the second biggest one-day hike I've ever done: A 24 km ascent of Numa Mountain involving 1685 m of elevation gain!
Knowing we were in for a long day we left the city early and arrived at the Floe Lake trailhead at 8:00 am. The avalanche slope we'd use for the ascent was 6.5 km from the parking lot, and at a steady pace in the morning shade we arrived at its base at 9:30. Initially the ascent was easy and quite enjoyable, but after a few hundred vertical meters the slope steepened considerably and we found ourselves continuously making big steps to get from one good foothold to another. The unrelenting steepness rapidly sapped our energy and it took us 2.5 hours, about an hour longer than I'd planned on, to reach the col 380 m below the summit. We stopped for lunch here, then continued to the summit on vastly easier terrain than what we'd just covered. The views from the top were fantastic, particularly north towards the 10 peaks of Moraine Lake and east to Mount Ball, but unfortunately smoke and the angle of the sun obscured the view southwest to Floe Lake that I'd been looking forward to.
Neither of us had any interest in setting foot on the avalanche slope we'd used for the ascent again and so we decided to descend via Numa Pass and Floe Lake instead. This route would add 5 km and about 150 m elevation gain to our day, but it would be on good trail and far less steep than what we would have faced on the avalanche slope. We'd actually been considering this route all day, but were worried about a moderate step a few had reported near the false summit of Numa Mountain. Thankfully we were able to ascend it without much difficulty, but if coming from Numa Pass the descent of this step could be unnerving to some. The bigger mental obstacle was ascending a 100 m sub-summit just above Numa Pass, but it too went by easily and we soon found ourselves on the gentle ridge above the pass.
From this point forward the going was dead easy on good trail, passing through meadows and larch forest before reaching Floe Lake, then descending 400 m on easy switchbacked trail to the Floe Creek valley. Breaks in the Numa Pass meadows and at Floe Lake, the brilliant fall colors, and the wonderful weather made this a very pleasant hike out, although we did find the final 5 km a bit long. A stop in Canmore for dinner then completed a very nice birthday!