Friday, 24 June 2011

Hike 1: Barrier Lookout

It's been 15 years since I was last up to the Barrier Lookout, but Yates Mountain is still there and hasn't eroded much, so is still as tall as I remembered ;-)

We decided to tackle it from the YMCA side, going up the Yates route which leaves from Camp Chief Hector. We found the start a bit confusing; the trail starts from the extreme west end of the parking lot, not the middle, and the forest is a rabbit warren of trails as one would expect for being a YMCA camp. On the bright side, the Yates route itself is actually signposted with a "Lookout" sign at the intersection with the Big Tree Trail (which seems to just end at the Yates access). Gillean warns that Yates "steepens alarmingly" at one point, and on this point she is markedly correct. This another one of those trails built by people who don't believe in switchbacks.
Arrow straight up a 30° slope
Ignoring the grunt of the steep bits, the Yates access is a very pleasant and quiet trail, especially in comparison to the bike infested fire road of the Prairie View trail. Being on a north facing slope, there's lots of moss and squirrel middens, and a bunch of nice flowers, so it makes for very nice walking.
A Venus Slipper orchid. At least that's what KC says
There are 3 viewpoints on the Prairie View trail. The first seemed to appeal to people who had slogged up from Barrier Dam, but while nice isn't as good as either higher viewpoint.
Looking past Barrier Lake to Wasootch Ridge and the Kananaskis Valley
The section above this makes me wonder why this trail is popular with mountain bikers, for it is here where the fire road ends (at the old Pigeon Lookout location). The trail gets steeper, becomes a footpath, and has sections where bikes have to be carried. But you end up at the next viewpoint, which is worth the short grunt up from the first viewpoint.
Why this is called Prairie View trail
But we pushed on all the way to the fire lookout, unlike the majority of the hikers we ran into today. This is somewhat different from the last time I was here, where 90% of the people continued up.
Yamnuska & environs from the top 
Rain hitting Jura Creek valley 
The Quaite Creek valley & Lac Des Arcs
There's a very friendly Clark's Nutcase Nutcracker up there.
Please don't feed me
We also ran across 2 deer in our travels, but they were scrounging down at the camp.
Stereo ears
The weather today was "hiking friendly", with a sunny morning and temps in the 16°-20° range. Storms were brewing in the mountains all day (most notably in the Jura Creek area and the Kananaskis Village area), and we watched rain around us, but everything seemed to avoid Barrier and we only got sprinkled on a bit near the end of the day (while the Trans Canada was wet around Lac Des Arcs).

I like the Yates access better than the "normal" route up from Barrier Lake, even though there's no obvious loop trail like you can do with Jewel Pass. Even though Yates is steep in parts, the steep parts don't last too long (or maybe they do but they don't seem like it). And Yates is not full of mountain bikes, so the trail is in good condition and not a rutted, muddy mess like Jewel Pass.

BTW, we were told by two bikers that they spooked a black bear in the vicinity of the Jewel Pass/Quaite Creek trail intersection. Play safe out there people! 


Edwin said...

Damn, that's quite a scenic trail. Could you help me out here and just give me some info on how far this trail is from whre you guys live... Can't seem to find it.

RyderDA said...

It's about 45 minutes west of my house in downtown Calgary, and 15 minutes east of my house in Canmore. Search "Barrier Lake, Alberta" in Google Maps and you'll find the lake. The lookout is on the top of Yates Mountain immediately north of the lake. The YMCA camp where we started is north of the mountain by Chilver Lake.