Distance: 10 km
Elevation gain: 520 m View map Download GPS track
The Rockies have finally entered the awkward time between hiking and snowshoeing season. There isn't enough snow yet for fun snowshoeing, but in many areas there is too much snow for fun hiking. We weren't going to waste a sunny day sitting at home, however, so we headed out for a short half day hike instead. After a lot of indecision and a u-turn we finally found ourselves heading for miniscule Ole Buck Mountain along highway 68. Rising to just 1719 m and only 250 m higher than the highway it doesn't really deserve the mountain designation, but it would still be a nice hike.
To reach the summit we roughly followed the directions in the Kananaskis Country Trail Guide
(trail 83A), but instead of following the old road we simply forged our way along the treed ridgecrest. Bushwhacking was very light and there was tons of animal sign (coyote, bobcat, deer, moose, and hare). Others appear to use a ridge a bit further west to access the summit, but we took this ridge on descent and felt that it wasn't quite as nice as the one we ascended. The summit was entirely treed, but we headed a bit further north to a clearing that granted a view to the east.
It was at this point that I made an awful routing error. We wanted to head to a more northerly summit about 2 km away and I chose to follow the ridgecrest, largely because it had worked so well up to that point. This section, however, was nothing but horrendous deadfall, alders, and thick forest. It was awful! Thankfully the north summit did give us a decent view to the west, but even better was the cutline we intersected just below the summit that ran straight back to the true (south) summit! This was of course the route described in the guidebook that I hadn't read (again
...). It was slightly overgrown, but in far, far better shape than the disaster we'd passed through earlier. Frustratingly I had come across this line while trying to find something easier along the ridge, but I'd intersected it at one of its few overgrown areas and gave up following it after just a minute or so.
For a hike in the Rockies in November on a day with strong winds up high and snow and cloud further west Ole Buck Mountain was a nice outing, but I wouldn't really recommend it under any other circumstances.