Distance: 18 km
Elevation gain: 1200 mView mapDownload GPS track
This is a fantastic late-early season hike. While strenuous, nearly 10 km is spent wandering above treeline on a horseshoe-shaped ridge. Use caution in May and early June when the snow conditions may prevent a full loop.
The trail begins about 8.5 km south of the Cataract Creek Recreation area on Highway 940 at a gated old road peeling off to the right (west) from the main road. Park here and follow the old road, crossing a good bridge on the way, until you reach a fork about 330 m in. Turn right (west) onto the older road, cross another stream with a fallen bridge (still useable on foot), then ascend. Upon entering a field/regrowing clearcut, pause. Two roads ascend the hill in front of you and neither is the trail. The actual trail peels off to the left and is mostly flat, following the eastern (left) edge of the clearcut. It is currently marked by a small rock on an old stump.
After nearly a kilometer of soggy walking, the trail turns to the left and descends to a stream. Cross the stream using any number of logs bridging it, briefly ascend, then follow the faint trail near the left side of the clearcut. Shortly the trail descends to a small creek at the base of a large sandy hill and an old road appears. Follow this road as it ascends the hill, follows its crest, then ascends the northern end of the Pasque Mountain horseshoe. The only navigational issue may be at the top of the sandy ridgecrest when the road disappears in a field, but simply walking in the logical direction (towards the base of Pasque Mountain ridge) leads you right back to it. This field is also nice as it grants the first real views of the horseshoe-shaped ridge you will wander along. You will ascend the mountain to your right, traverse south, turn east, then exit from the ridge to your east. It really is that long! If there is still snow around, carefully survey the east-west ridge (the curved part of the horseshoe). The eastern sides of the hills on this part hold enormous amounts of snow and this is the only place from which you will have a chance to see them. If it looks bad, it's probably best to simply attain the south summit of Pasque Mountain and then return the way you came. We made the critical error of continuing and encountered waist deep snow and 20-foot cornices.
Continuing, ascend the northern end of the ridge on the old road. After breaking out of the trees, head right at a fork and switchback up to the northern summit of Pasque Mountain. While it might look difficult at first, breaking through the cliff band is easy. From this point, simply follow the ridge, first south to the southern summit (the true summit), then east, then north. As you approach the southern summit the ridge narrows and some light scrambling is necessary. From a distance a few areas look quite difficult, but nothing is particularly difficult for a hiker and everything would be a piece of cake for someone with scrambling experience.
From the southern summit you can either return the way you came or head east along the remainder of the horseshoe. The horseshoe route involves considerable (400 m+) elevation loss and gain and may involve areas of snow that are difficult or impossible to get through. From where you stand now the snow areas are invisible, so hopefully the situation was clear from the earlier view of this area. If you go in May-June and continue along this route and find yourself trapped above a huge cornice just before connecting up with the north-south eastern ridge, you may be in trouble. We lucked out and found a route through the cornice, but if you're not so fortunate and in dire straits there is apparently a horse trail in the meadow in the southeastern corner of the horseshoe that will lead you back to the road after quite some time. I'm not even sure it's possible to get there from this point, however, it was something we considered before finding a route through the snow.
The exit from the horseshoe is steep, possibly snowy, and mostly off trail. The bushwhacking isn't that difficult, but the trees make navigation difficult and I wouldn't recommend doing it without a GPS track to follow. If you follow the GPS track on this page, two things are worth noting: First, ignore the many game trails, the cutline, and the horse trail you encounter. Second, and this helps avoid panic near the end - you do NOT need to cross the river at the bottom! Just follow it downstream a short distance until you encounter another stream and then head to your right. The stream passes under Highway 940, so just walk a bit upstream and walk out to the highway above the culvert. It's about 2 km to your car from here and all downhill. Gillean Daffern describes an alternate route
on her blog.