Distance: 13 km
Elevation gain: 940 mView mapDownload GPS track
With "sunny" weather once again enveloping most of Kananaskis and Banff we needed an objective further to the east to hopefully avoid the worst of the weather. I eventually narrowed our choices down to Old Baldy Ridge or Association Hill
, settling on Old Baldy largely because I couldn't stand the thought of gaining and then losing 300 m of elevation on route to Association Hill.
I've hiked up Old Baldy Ridge once before
, gaining the ridge via the usual route described in guidebooks. This route, however, was affected by the 2013 floods and I wasn't sure how safe it would be in winter. Instead we decided to follow a developing trail along the southwest ridgeline, described by Gillean Daffern on her website
. I had a suspicion this trail might have been hiked last weekend and thankfully I was right, turning what could have been a strenuous trail-breaking ascent into a reasonably straightforward hike.
We started our journey on snowshoes, wearing them for the 2 km section of fire road and the first 1 km of trail, but ditched them when we realized they were probably making travel tougher than it would be with just microspikes. While the snow was deep above 2000 m, the boot-broken trail we were following worked well with microspikes.
After an ascent that seemed to go on forever we reached the summit of the southwest ridge just in time for the winds to pick up. The resulting windchill (the temperature was -10 C) meant we had to cut our ridgewalk short, only hiking to the northwest highpoint and back again and avoiding the eastern section of ridge entirely. The views weren't particularly great as the clouds and flurries enveloped most of the larger peaks to the west, but weren't that bad for this time of year. We returned to the car via the same route, but on a summer trip it would likely be nice to circle back via the valley to the east.