Distance: 8.5 km
Elevation gain: 720 m View map Download GPS track
This past week I've been frustratingly sick with a nasty cold and consequent severe asthma, so today we needed a very easy hike that I'd still be able to do in my weakened state. A dump of snow Friday night limited our options close to Calgary, but further north near Lake Louise very little had fallen and the forecast seemed very nice as well. We've hiked most of the hikes in that area, but on our two trips to Saddleback Pass we'd never bothered to ascend diminutive Saddle Mountain. With an easy trail nearly all the way to the top and larch trees in the pass it seemed like the perfect hike for today.
We started hiking at about 9:00 am and quickly climbed into the clouds. At times the cloud was so thick visibility was perhaps only 50 m, but it was eerily beautiful as the dew coated everything in fine water droplets. Nearer to the pass the dew was instead ice, but thankfully the trail wasn't slippery. Surprisingly many larch trees still held their needles, but with such limited visibility the views weren't particularly exciting. Then, just as the trail began to level out in the pass, the outline of the sun appeared through the fog! I couldn't believe our luck! The pass was still enshrouded in fog, but I figured the 125 m to the summit of Saddle Mountain would take us out of it.
We started the short ascent of Saddle Mountain from the western edge of the pass, following a trail when available and carefully scrambling around and over ice-coated boulders when the trail faded. Then, after hiking over 600 vertical meters from the car through cloud, we emerged from it just meters below the summit of Saddle Mountain! We've rarely been completely above the clouds and the views were absolutely stunning, especially in light of the gray and discouraging weather we hiked through to get there. Better still, there wasn't even the slightest breeze and with the warm sun we were able to enjoy a stay of over an hour on the summit.
During our hour on the summit the cloud level didn't move more than perhaps 10 m, occasionally sending puffs of cloud past us, but shortly after we arrived back in the pass the fog started to rapidly dissipate. Yellow larches adorned with ice fog, blue sky, and puffs of cloud made for some fantastic scenery! After hanging around for awhile we started back into the clouds below us, but by the time we neared the lake nearly all the cloud had evaporated to reveal a brilliantly sunny day at all elevations. It was a great end to a surprisingly wonderful day in the mountains!