Distance: 11 km
Elevation gain: 1200 m View map Download GPS track
Kept indoors more than we'd have liked this month by work and weather, we were eager to get out for several days of camping, hiking, and scrambling. We quickly decided to head to the Columbia Icefields, an area we've never scrambled before. After arriving Saturday morning at our secret peaceful camping spot we spent the afternoon relaxing and reading, waking up Sunday morning to clear and sunny skies. As every peak in the area still had quite a bit of snow from Friday, we decided to tackle our easiest objective that day - Tangle Ridge.
While described in Alan Kane's scramble guide
, Tangle Ridge is nothing more than an easy hike following a cairned and usually obvious trail all the way to the summit. With no hands-on sections, no exposure, and no real routefinding involved it was the perfect hike to do in the fresh snow that still covered the upper slopes and shaded areas in the forest. The hardest part of the day, actually, was finding the trailhead, and this was entirely due to me not reading the directions. Parking was at the Tangle Falls viewpoint just north of the awful "Glacier Skywalk" and I thought the trail headed up beside the falls. Nope. It started to the right of the falls, but for several hundred meters followed an old road parallel to the current parkway (the trail was signed as Wilcox Pass as that is where the official trail goes).
After leaving the old road we ascended through old growth forest on a very good trail, passing the ruins of a cabin
along the way, before the trail moved alongside Tangle Creek. When the trail was nearly level with the creek cairns showed us where to cross and then guided us through a rocky section before reaching softer ground and an obvious trail about 5 minutes from the creek. The ascent steepened at this point, but remained easy. Above treeline the trail faded in residual snow, but the ascent grade lessened and it was utterly impossible to get lost as we continued up on stable scree and increasingly deep snow.
It took us just 2 hours 45 minutes to reach the summit, at which point we noticed the weather was doing two things. First, what had started as a crystal clear day had rapidly turned into a very smoky haze as we ascended (and it would only get far worse that afternoon and the next day). Second, the bluebird sky had nearly completely clouded over and the winds, which had been nearly non-existent on the ascent, picked up to point that we had to brace ourselves against them. Wonderfully, however, this strong westerly wind seemed to blow the smoke away, giving us respectable views where just 30 minutes earlier there had been nothing but thick smoke! I'd have preferred the beautiful blue, smokeless sky of the day before (when we sat in camp...), but to have gotten views as good as we did that day was somewhat of a miracle I'm happy to accept!
I'd strongly recommend Tangle Ridge to any hiker uncomfortable with scrambling, but who enjoys summit views. This really is just a hike, and one with spectacular views at that!