Distance: 4 km
Elevation gain: 690 m Route map
After three days of moderate hiking and intense heat, we decided to undertake a short, “easy” hike up Vision Quest Ridge. The ridge was used in the past as an Indigenous spiritual site and appears to still be used today in a similar capacity.
We parked at the “Waste Transfer Site” just north of Whitegoat Creek on the David Thompson Highway, which I nearly missed as the road is unsigned, and picked up a good trail heading north along the fence. The ascent started immediately, rapidly steepened, and only mildly relented for very short sections. While there was a braided trail through the forest and rubble the entire way, it was covered in loose rock that was difficult to ascend and near impossible to descend without slipping. It was also swelteringly hot and at times I was sweating so hard that it was literally running off me. I had to take many breaks just to let my body cool off. I don’t think I’ve ever sweated that hard. And this was before 8:00 am in the morning!
After about an hour and 45 minutes of hiking we reached the hikers summit of the ridge. The ridge continues for many kilometers, but difficult exposed scrambling and/or technical climbing is required to go further and we had no interest in that. The view was dominated by Abraham Lake and would’ve been gorgeous early in the evening, but the morning light and heavy haze detracted from our view today.
I was in no shape to head back down right away, having been exhausted by the heat and steepness of the ascent, so we sat in the shade of a small tree for an hour reading the entries in the summit register. It’s a fairly popular ascent for this area, but as I only recognized one name it is apparently not that popular with the Calgary scrambling community. As a spiritual site, however, many people battling substance addiction undertake this hike, and as such the register contained several unique entries from alcohol, crystal meth, and other drug addicts. A few were repeat ascents marking years of sobriety, and at least one treatment center appears to bring groups up as part of their program. This made it one of the more interesting summit registers I’ve ever browsed.
The hike back down, while less physically strenuous, proved to be quite a bit more difficult as the loose rocks were like marbles and we had to move painfully slow to avoid slipping. On the plus side, a big cloud provided some shade for a good portion of the descent!
Despite the apparently easy stats for this hike we were exhausted from the heat and spent another hour driving around looking for a nice shaded place near water to relax. We never did find one; every creek in the area is exceedingly wide from the 2013 flood and Abraham Lake didn’t have any shade whatsoever (nor even a hint of breeze!).