Distance: 15.5 km
Elevation gain: 700 m View map Download GPS track
I’d been looking forward to another nice hike this weekend, but as the weekend approached the forecast winds steadily increased until by Friday evening gusts of 110 km/h were anticipated at ground level in Pincher Creek. The forecast of slightly less intense winds north of Calgary was offset by a forecast of cloud, so we decided stick below treeline and hike for exercise instead of views. After consulting my dwindling list of hikes for such conditions we settled on Blue Hill, a small treed hill located in the foothills west of Sundre and east of the Ya Ha Tinda and home to an active fire lookout and several communication towers.
After a long drive from Calgary we started hiking up the gated access road at 9:30 am. While the road was mostly dry to start, we encountered a bit of snow and ice a short distance from the gate and donned our microspikes, following a set of old truck tracks that made travel easy when the snow got deeper. We carried our snowshoes in case they were needed higher up, but as the snow increased in depth we started to realize they’d be largely useless in the icy sugar snow. After a few kilometers of mostly level hiking the road gently descended to a small creek – the horizontal halfway point of the trip – and steepened considerably, although the grade was still quite gentle relative to most other hikes.
The truck and people tracks we’d been following ended around this point and I had to start breaking trail through increasingly deep snow. In many areas the snow was wet to the ground and snowshoes would perhaps have made a difference at this point, but as I wasn’t struggling too badly I decided to leave them on my back; this was an exercise hike afterall! The last two kilometers were particularly difficult as the snow ranged from mid-shin to nearly knee deep, but the relatively gentle grade of the road made it tolerable.
I arrived at the summit around noon, after about an hour of easy walking and 90 minutes of hard trailbreaking. Unfortunately, the summit was a huge disappointment. Unlike every other lookout we’ve hiked to, this one was nearly surrounded by trees and only the tips of faraway mountains were visible over the treetops. Bob Spirko
perhaps sums it up best: “Because of the snow it was an exhausting, boring, unrewarding hike. In dry conditions I’m sure it would be merely boring and unrewarding”. I really should read these reports more closely before heading out! After a short stay we made our way down, breaking for lunch in the shelter of the trees before driving back home. The meatloaf we had for dinner was certainly more interesting than the hike, but the hike did help me burn enough energy to have cheesecake for dessert!