Distance: 8 km
Elevation gain: 615 m Route map
Snowshoeing season has arrived frustratingly early this year, and while I don’t mind repeating nice trips, I’ve recently been spending too much time in Kananaskis and the scenery and drive was starting to get a little repetitive. Thus today Sandra and I decided to head down to the Castle Wildland for a short trip up a northeastern outlier of Mount Gladstone. I’d hatched this trip on the summit of Mount Gladstone, but since then had noticed that Dave McMurray had ascended it and had given it the name “Gladstone’s Toe”; not the name I would’ve gone with, but original enough I’ll stick with it.
Our day didn’t start out well, however. After arriving at the oil well at the start of the trailhead I attempted a simple u-turn, driving onto what appeared to be six inches of snow where I’m quite certain there had been a nice flat road when I’d done Gladstone a few years ago. Instead there was a ditch of sorts, and the truck became hopelessly stuck. We got out our shovel and started digging and I was shocked to find that the front end of the truck was sitting on nearly a meter of incredibly hard snow! It took nearly an hour of vigorous shoveling to clear most of it away, and it was quite unnerving and dangerous as we cleared the last of it aside as the truck was left balanced on pillars of snow under the tires. A push and a bit of jigging around after that and we finally got the truck out, then set out on our snowshoe trip at the unusually late hour of 10:30.
The next phase of the trip involved crossing the completely unfrozen Gladstone Creek, and while it wasn’t difficult in the end, it took quite a bit of searching to find a suitable spot to do so. It was nearly 11:00 by the time we were finally on our way!
Surprisingly, we intersected a snowshoe track not far from where we crossed and followed it as it made its way upstream (we’d follow this on the way back and would find a nearly dry section of creek to cross). Eventually I decided it was time to leave the packed track and climb steeply to the southwest ridge that would serve as our ascent route, and was happy, if not ecstatic, to discover that the deep snow was almost completely supportive! This remained the case for the entirety of the ascent – a meter of snow so dense, windblown, and crusted that barely more than the teeth of our snowshoes sunk into it. The quality of the snow made the ascent relatively effortless, although the beginning and end of our ascent ridge was steep and hauling a heavy pack up anything on snowshoes is certainly strenuous.
We reached the crest of the ridge 3 hours 15 minutes after having arrived in the parking lot, or 2 hours 15 minutes after digging the truck out, or just 1 hour 45 minutes after actually starting out at a normal pace. Contrary to nearly every other snowshoe trip I’ve done, the easiest and most pleasant part was the actual snowshoeing!
The view from the summit was quite nice for this time of year and the temperature mild enough that we were able to have a snack with a view. While Dave had reported that a distant forested bump was a few meters higher than the open ridge on which we sat, I saw no point in continuing along the ridge just to say I reached an arbitrary highpoint of an arbitrary ridge. I suppose if you’re picky about such things you can say I was on Gladstone’s Toenail instead of toe, but whatever.
After our snack we explored a windblown ridge extending to the north, then retraced our path back down. Near the bottom of our ascent ridge we took a more direct route back to the main trail, then had a little campfire to cook another snack. I think this was campfire #6 of the season, which means I’m more than halfway to my goal of 10 campfires. And I even started this one flawlessly with just my flint on the first strike!
The long drive back home, coupled with the time our misadventures took to start the day, had us arrive back in Calgary sufficiently late to justify some burgers, capping off our comedy of errors day on a positive note.