Distance: 26 km
Elevation gain: 1250 m View map Download GPS track
In need of a brain flush and general workout midweek, I contacted Matt Hobbs to see if he’d be interested in getting out together for a scramble. I proposed Sofa Mountain, but Matt wasn’t too interested in the approach and counter-proposed Vimy Peak, using bikes to make short work of the 7 km approach to the base of the mountain. Unfortunately I discovered that not only was my bike – which I haven’t ridden since 2005 – in desperate need of servicing, I also was a pretty terrible rider on PAVEMENT! It just didn’t seem to be a good idea to go for my first bike ride in 12 years on a rough trail on a broken bike, so we decided to go by foot instead.
We found the trailhead on Highway 6, 500 m from the Highway 5 & 6 intersection, parked in the small paved parking lot on the left side of the highway, then started hiking along the nearly flat Wishbone Trail. It was just past 8:30 in the morning, but the temperature was already above 20 C and with absolutely no breeze – an incredible rarity in Waterton – it was sweltering hot. The hike was wonderful though, with thick spring foliage all around and dozens of different birds chirping and fluttering around. The diversity here is amazing, especially compared to Kananaskis and Banff. We even saw a couple pairs of sandhill cranes, something I’ve never before seen.
After a little over an hour of hiking we reached Sofa Creek. It was nearly knee-deep, but very easy to ford, and 20 minutes later we reached a signed intersection, a total of 7 km from where we’d parked (all of which could have been biked). We turned left here and began the gentle ascent, reaching the crest of the northeast ridge of Vimy Peak about 45 minutes past the junction. The trail didn’t stick to the ridge, however, and instead followed a small drainage to the southeast of the main ridge. A short time later we came across a snowpatch with very fresh bear tracks in it – we’d likely scared him off the trail when he heard us coming – then in relatively short order started to encounter extensive and deep snow patches on the trail. Thankfully the snow was completely supportive and I was able to fill my hat and shirt pockets with snow to try and keep cool in the heat, which was now approaching 30 C.
As we gained elevation the snow became deep and permanent, but even in the bright sun it remained solid and supportive. At treeline the snow mostly disappeared, but still covered extensive sections of the trail. The surrounding terrain was easy, however, so we simply forged our own way to the summit, utilizing bits of trail when they were useful.
We reached the summit five hours after starting out and were greeted by wonderful views in all directions. The view to the north, overlooking Waterton Lakes, was particularly impressive, although the lakes were partially hidden by a western outlier of Vimy Peak. We spent an hour on top admiring the views and eating lunch, and as was the theme for the entire day, it was hot on the summit with no breeze.
The trip back down was uneventful with the exception of the mid-afternoon heat. It wasn’t bad higher up where I could fill my hat and pockets with snow, but once off the mountain the hike back to the car was a bit on tedious side. Still, the flowers were just starting to bloom and beautiful, the sandhill cranes we’d seen that morning were back, and it was late enough that a post-hike burger was only hours away. Overall another great day in the mountains!