Distance: 11 km
Elevation gain: 1200 m View map Download GPS track
Waterton National Park is quickly becoming our favorite place to hike, despite being nearly 3 hours from our house in Calgary. The trails are in wonderful shape and mostly uncrowded, the drive is far more pleasant than the drunkfest of the trans-Canada, and the forest and rock colors are fantastic. Today, with forecasters calling for cloud and snow in Kananaskis/Banff (it turned out to be 100% sunny, actually), we decided to head for Waterton again. Our destination was Ruby Ridge, aptly named for the red argillite rock that makes up a large portion of the ridge.
Our day started at 9 am with a leisurely 1.7 km walk along the Lineham Falls trail. The gentle grade meant we didn't really notice we gained 230 m along this section and let us get warmed up for what we faced after that: An off-trail ascent of 650 m over just 1.5 km! The first 350 m of this was the worst. What started as clumpy grass that provided acceptable footholds soon transitioned to horrendous treadmill scree. It was extremely colorful red and green argillite scree, but swimming uphill is no fun under any circumstance! Thankfully the grade eased and the terrible scree disappeared for the last 300 vertical meters of the ascent.
From the summit we followed the ridge to its end 2 km to the northeast. This first entailed a fun downclimb of the main summit on blocky rock, but by choosing our route carefully we easily managed to avoid any exposure and kept the entire affair well within the definition of easy scrambling. From the low point we began the gentle ascent to the eastern end of the ridge, then followed it a bit further just for fun. The weather was great and the red and green argillite along this section had some really interesting patterns in it. The mountain scenery was, of course, spectacular too!
The missed highlight of the trip was a pair of rams butting heads in some meadows to the south of the ridge. We saw them staring each other down, but after 10 minutes we got bored watching and moved on. Ten minutes later we heard the incredible crack as they rammed together, followed by another crack about 20 minutes later. Unfortunately by the time we were back within sight of them again the fight was over.
After a leisurely walk and fun scramble back up to the main summit we headed back down the way we came. While would have been possible to descend to the Akamina Parkway via a gully starting at the low point of the ridge, we'd seen a bear wandering into the woods around that point on the parkway and decided to play it safe. Another year I may try to ascend via this alternate route in late September, then hike down to Ruby Lake at the base of Mount Blakiston. The entire region is one huge larch forest and the colors would be absolutely fantastic in larch season.