Sunday, 8 November 2009

Horton Hill? Ha!

In 27 years of hiking in the neighborhood, I always struggle to find fall shoulder season hiking. Spring shoulder season is easy; lots of hiking is available in May when the skiing season ends. But between late September and early December, hiking tends to be spotty, and of course, the ski hills are not yet open.

So I was pleased when Gillean Daffern recommended the Horton Hill hike here as a shoulder hike. Looking at the map, it had all the makings of a good idea today, with bright sunshine and +4° temps. However, the directions Gillean offers are atrocious and misleading, and the trail is non existant, at least as far as we got.

Her instructions to start the hike are:
Park at Canoe Meadows parking lot on Hwy. 40. Walk out to the highway and turn right. At the K Country boundary sign, climb the grassy bank on the opposite side of the road and follow the powerline right-of-way a short distance to the right. Just past a broken-down fence turn left and shortcut up to a logging road. Turn left and follow this road up a long hill to a T-junction. Turn right on another logging road that climbs into the cutblock on the west slope of the hill.

Here's the alleged "T-Junction", which as you can see isn't a junction at all:

In fact, it's so not obviously a junction that we walked right by it, and past it by over a kilometer. It's also not at the top (or even part way up) a hill at all, having gained a mere 20 m from the broken fence. So here's the "another logging road" that she wants you to turn onto:

Road? What road?

Farther down the "road" from this mess, whatever has thus far passed as a road (more like a bulldozer track) turns into this:

Kinda gives you the feeling that the alleged "road" really doesn't exist. There's no trail at all, so you have to clamber over and around all of these trees. Bush-bashing is far more enjoyable.

On top of this, the topo map that Gillean shows on her site is incorrect. The power-line marked on the map doesn't exist, and in fact, there's no sign of it. So if you wander up the road looking for the power-line as a landmark ro find the right turn, well, you're out of luck.

I can say that if you miss the turn and continue along the actual logging road, you'll eventually get to fenceline and meadow marked on the topo, and arrive at a TeePee camp used by the Tim Hortons folks.

The road is flat, muddy and boring, but had lots of tracks on it, including elk, deer, cougar, bobcat, coyote and wolf.

We wandered up and down the road for over an hour trying to find the route and finally gave up when we ran across all the downed trees laying across the "road" pictured above. We went back to Canoe Meadows and watched the kayakers play in the race course area (which looked really cold to me).

So having never made it, I can't attest to what climbing Horton Hill is actually like. But I can say that you should expect challenges following Gillean's "route" should you try to do it.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Hiking: The Year in Review

The weather is pretty nasty today, but the forecast is calling for sun and +4° tomorrow, meaning we might get out for one more hike this year. However, given the snow and wind that has happened so far this fall, I'm not betting our target of Horton Hill (see the reference here) will be doable.

So with not much to do today, I was looking back at our year in hiking. The stats are pretty impressive:

Number of hikes: 27 (normally 8 or so)
Total distance hiked: 275.7 km (172 miles). Last year: 59 km
Vertical climbed: 10,899 m (35,750 vertical feet). Last year 2,879 m
Average hike length: 10.2 km, longest 30.6 km
Average height gain per hike: 404 m, biggest one day gain 900 m
First hike: May 17
Last hike: October 17
Hiking season duration: 153 days

Tied for best hikes of the year are Burstall Pass, Rummel Lake & Pass and the Headwall Lakes. I continue to be impressed by this section of the Spray Valley. Within 8 km are half a dozen spectacular valleys with stunning scenery and fantastic high alpine terrain. And I remain surprised that folks tackle Chester Lake when they could just as easily go to any of these three and have a better experience.

And Stanley Glacier is also in the "best of" category, especially so because we caught it early in the season when the glacier was still impressive.

As always, it was a treat to return to West Wind Pass, Old Goat Falls, and to summit Jumpingpound Mountain, and even more so to take friends to discover the spectacular hiking that we have nearby.

I won't be returning to the Horsehoe Loop near the Alpine Club clubhouse in Canmore any time soon. Ditto for riding the Goat Creek trail from Canmore to Banff, which was a pretty uninteresting waste of a day. I won't try to summit West Wind Ridge again, but will keep West Wind Point on my list of places to go back to.

The toughest hike of the year was Tent Ridge, without question, though the circuit around Read's Ridge also stands out as quite the workout.

I was also really glad we got up to Sunshine Village for the Citadel Pass and Quartz Ridge hikes. It's one thing to see this in the winter, and yet another to see it in the summer.

My list of "hikes still to do" has been whittled down to a mere 15. However, the list started at 18 at the beginning of the year, and while a handful came off, another handful were added. I suspect I won't run out anytime soon.

I had planned to do a similar wrap up of last year's ski season. Sunshine Village opens in a mere 4 days, and knowing we won't be getting there for at least a month, I still may.