Distance: 18 km
Elevation gain: 850 mView mapDownload GPS track
Hiking Powderface Ridge this past fall
I realized that it would likely make a nice snowshoe trip with minimal avalanche risk come winter. While the usual hiking route would be inaccessible due to the closure of Highway 66, the approach along Powderface Creek likely wouldn't be a problem. Surprisingly, I couldn't find any reports of this trip on the web at the time, but then a few weeks ago three reports appeared, by Vern Dewitt
, Steven Song
, and Matthew Hobbs
. With the knowledge in hand that this was indeed very possible and the continuing (season long...) awful mountain weather and avalanche risk, we headed out early to tackle Powderface Ridge.
The route is largely straightforward. Park at the winter closure on Highway 66, head west along the road to the Powderface parking lot, then follow the wide trail along the creek. The trail is fairly flat, but steepens in the last 2 km before reaching a pass at about the 7 km mark. We wore microspikes for the first few kilometers, donning our snowshoes as the snow deepened near the Prairie Link trail junction. From the pass Powderface Ridge lies out of sight to the southeast; the peak immediately to your left is an outlier to the west of the actual ridge. Two routes will take you to the ridge. Either ascend the outlier and then head east to the ridge (losing 75 m of elevation on the way), or locate the trail through the brush to the southeast that ascends to the low point between the ridge and the outlier.
With the drifted snow and high winds we were unable to locate the trail and so chose to ascend the outlier and then proceed to the ridge. While for the most part this worked fine, there was considerable new snow from storms in the past few weeks and we found ourselves slogging through knee deep snow at several points. Incredibly strong wind gusts also presented a bit of a challenge at points. After about 30 minutes, however, we reached the cairned highpoint of Powderface ridge. After a short stay we headed back down, locating and taking the trail through the trees back to the pass. As it starts at the low point, it was much easier to find in this direction.