Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Two-stepping to Tent Ridge

On the west arm of Tent Ridge looking back
Lisa and Mike on the west arm of Tent Ridge looking back at our hike and scramble

Kananaskis Country - what the folks who live in south-west Alberta refer to as K-Country - is the place where the locals go to play. Full of glorious Rocky Mountains, K-Country has all the vistas, views, and trails of the Mountain Parks, but almost none of the National Park tourists.

Mary below the Fist (or Mt. Smuts)
Mary below Mt. Smuts on the ridge high point
Last year, while working with the Mountain Legacy Project (mountainlegacy.ca) I fell in love with K-Country, so, when Lisa and John arrived for a bit of Rocky Mountain hiking, I was keen to get out and try our hand at something in Kananaskis. That something turned out to be Tent Ridge (see map below). But, it did take us two attempts to actually get up on the ridge.

The first attempt saw Mike, me, John, and Lisa spend an hour in the car at the trail head waiting for the weather to clear. We didn't exactly waste our time - we played Famous People 20 Questions (pick a famous person - write the name on a piece of paper - give to friend - friend sticks paper on head without looking at it - repeat for everyone playing - everyone asks questions - guess name of famous person stuck to your head). The weather never cleared, so we left for another hike elsewhere.

 The next day was better situated for weather so we headed out again. This time to great success. Tent Ridge is rated as a challenging hike. It is approximately 11 km long, with about 780 metres of elevation gain. It does have a few airy steps where hands on the rock are required.There is some route-finding necessary, however, accomplished hikers and scramblers should have little difficulty. Indeed, all our difficulties seemed to fade away as each step along the ridge offered better and better views. As an added bonus, the approach to the ridge is via a gentle valley trail -- not your typical calf-clamping steep gasper of a trail that MOST hikes in the Rockies present.
Storm in the north over Spray Lakes
Storm in the north over Spray Lakes
If our first attempt at Tent Ridge saw us rained out, our second saw us sheltered from nasty weather. As we rounded the western arm of the ridge huge thunderclouds gathered to the north -- and sped right past us without so much as a drop. Talk about lucky!
Plant photogs
John and Mary taking pictures of plants - Lisa on the ridge line

The ridge presented us with some lovely wildflower shows - new plants, like Bladder Campion, and Autumn Gentian, that I had never seen before. Everyone took turns trying to get good macro photos. John capped off the day by presenting us with a wee dram of good single malt scotch - Springbank from the bonnie Mull of Kintyre on the west coast of Scotland. In fact, the entire west arm of Tent Ridge, with its wide back, sloping down towards a blue-on-blue lake, reminded me a lot of Scotland and some of the grand hill walking we all enjoyed in that fair country.

Our route down off the ridge took us steeply down through lush meadows full of Paintbrush, Arnica, and Saxifrage. We had to exercise a bit of route finding expertise to find our way, but all was accomplished in good time. We arrived back at the trail head just as the first raindrops began to fall. Another day seized traipsing around in the mountains -- I could get VERY used to this!

A toast to the hike
If you're lucky enough to be in the mountains, you're lucky enough!
John, Lisa, Mike, Mary

Map of Tent Ridge

View Tent Ridge - Kananaskis Country in a larger map

More pictures from the hike: Tent Ridge pictures