Distance: 3.5 km
Elevation gain: 230 m View map Download GPS track
Having missed getting out last weekend due to the plethora of poor drivers on the road and yesterday due to work, I was a bit desperate to get out today; two weeks of sitting had tired me out and had me (almost) feeling my age! Our options were limited today due to strong winds and a high avalanche risk, but I figured we could find an acceptable route up one of the many named bumps in the Crowsnest Pass area. I also wanted to get in some good strenuous snowshoeing and figured the meter of new snow from last week would help out quite nicely with that.
Our first destination for the day was Saskatoon Mountain, a popular little hill rising above Coleman. Essentially any route up will work, but I chose to ascend from the northeast as that slope seemed the least steep and that was an important consideration for today given the avalanche potential.
There wasn’t a whole lot of room to park on the road due to the massive snowbanks, but we found a slightly wider spot to pull off at near where a snowmobile track headed into a clearcut. It hadn’t been my intention to follow a track today, but I wasn’t going to be foolish and try to break my own when there was one right there! We thus followed the track as it gently ascended, turning to the south to follow a power line a short distance from the road.
At a highpoint we left the snowmobile track and crossed a clearcut, aiming for the gentle northeast slope of the mountain. Unfortunately breaking trail was far less enjoyable than I’d hoped. The fresh snow, totaling perhaps two feet in settled depth, was overlying a couple feet of fragile sugar snow and with every second step we’d crash through into the lower layer, sinking up to our mid-thigh. Pulling the snowshoe out from that depth was impossible for Sandra and maddening for me, so we spent most of the ascent wallowing around and literally plowing through the snow rather than walking on top of it. Worse, the tangled mess of snow, snowshoes, and snow gnomes that grabbed the snowshoes when they sunk deep really prevented me from moving fast enough to even break a sweat!
This was a very short trip, however, and after 40 minutes of wallowing just 700 m through the snow we reached the summit ridge and intersected another snowmobile track. This made the remaining short distance dead easy and we soon arrived at the surprisingly scenic summit. For such a small mountain the views were great, especially that of Crowsnest Mountain to the northwest, and I spent quite a bit of time taking photos. I also tried out a new toy I got for Christmas – a Kestrel anemometer
(wind meter) – and found that the wind was blowing 40 km/h with regular gusts to 60 km/h. With an air temperature of -10 C that equates to a wind chill in the mid -20’s. The funny and disturbing thing was that both the wind and windchill didn’t seem that cold compared to what we’ve endured on other mountains. I’m quite curious to see what this anemometer measures on future trips!
While it wasn’t that cold, we didn’t linger long and quickly made our way back to the truck. The low angle of the terrain meant we didn’t get to have any fun plunging down the slope either, and with no particularly nice area for lunch we ended up eating in the truck. We then drove to the base of nearby Wedge Mountain, planning to ascend the absurdly tiny Iron Ridge at its south end since Wedge Mountain was too steep for the current snow conditions. Unfortunately, Iron Ridge was fenced off with No Trespassing signs all around it, and with few other viable options in the area we decided to head home. The views from Saskatoon Mountain had been nice, but the 3.5 km and 230 m of elevation gain was hardly enough to make the drive worthwhile.