Distance: 4 km
Elevation gain: 610 m View map Download GPS track
With warmth and sun returning to the Rockies after the longest winter I can remember, I was eager to get out somewhere with minimal snow. There weren’t, however, a lot of snow-free options as the usual destinations in the foothills received much more snow this year than normal, but I hoped the southwest-facing slopes of Wildhorse Ridge in the eastern Ya Ha Tinda would be dry enough. The worst scenario I envisioned was a lot of post-holing in isothermal snow, which I figured wouldn’t be all that bad.
Alison, Sandra, and I arrived at the base of Wildhorse Ridge shortly before 8:30 and were happy to see that it was bone dry lower down and seemingly not that snowy high up. As we set out in the shade of the ridge we were surprised by how cold it was, but the steep ascent quickly warmed us up and we were soon sweating and removing layers as we climbed out of the shade.
As we gained elevation we started to encounter small snow patches in shaded depressions and were, at this point, happy to find they were frozen solid. Higher up the snow patches started to merge into one huge snowfield that gradually increased in depth until it was covering the copious deadfall on the mountain, and as we neared the false summit the snow was likely at least 2-3 feet deep. The depth wasn’t an issue as it was frozen solid, but our anxiety rose as the slope steepened; we didn’t have crampons or ice axes and arresting a slip would’ve been problematic at best.
We continued a short distance past the false summit, but quickly realized the foolishness of continuing and retreated. With the right gear (and knowledge of how to use it, of which I have neither) it would’ve been an easy ascent, but with the snow conditions today going further would’ve been downright dangerous.
While it was quite discouraging to abort the trip, the views from the false summit were very nice and, as always, it was great to be outdoors. The descent was uneventful, but somewhere along the way Sandra picked up two ticks that we subsequently found while driving to our emergency backup hike.