Saturday, 30 July 2011

Bush Bashing Hunchback Hill

Apparently, even retired people have to pay attention to weekends. We have lots to do on both our new house and for our move, but little of it can be done on weekends. That means we're off for the weekend, and it's a long weekend so the neighbourhood is busy as all get out.

So after a really hectic week, I was looking for a shorter afternoon trip, and decided to try the new Hunchback Hills route from the 4th Edition of the Kananaskis Trails Guide, Volume 2.

The trail starts with a rather uninspired though pleasant saunter up the Lusk Pass Trail, a thankfully short trail in a disenchanted forest. Just before we got to the old campsite, we found a huge grizzly bear track.
Fortunately, it's not that new. I think.
We followed the written instructions in the book and set off to the northeast from the campsite (in fact, from the biffy). Mistake. Far from being "dry, open pine forest" as described in the guidebook, it was ultra dense trees the size broomsticks and spaced so close together as to make squeezing between them difficult. We struggled for 45 minutes to make 100 m of vertical and 400 m of distance. Accordingly, if I were to do this again, I would follow something closer to Map #7 in the book, which suggests leaving the Lusk Trail a few hundred meters east of the campsite. We descended directly down that way, and while mighty steep near the trail, at least the spaces between the trees were better.

The book talks about intermittent flagging on the route. Flagging on the route is actually pretty consistent once you find it. It starts about 100 vertical metres above the Lusk Trail on the edge of the ridge and literally hugs the "cliff" edge (2 to 10 m cliffs as in the photo below)...
Exposed Cardium sandstone, I think
...the entire way to the top with a few breaks (either that or we lost it once or twice in the dense bush). Follow the flagging and there's a "path" that's the equivalent of a really weak game trail. Better than nothing. Here's KC coming out of some thinning trees.
The thinnest trees we found
There is a false summit about 500 m from the actual summit with really nice views to tantalize you.
The Powderface Trail, Moose & Jumpingpound
The summit lies 750 m away.
The book talks of "grassy steps with occasional deadfall"; we found virtually no grass, and continuous of deadfall, making the trek very slow going. We took 2:15 to get to the summit from the Powderface Trail parking lot and 1:30 to descend, hence I don't consider this a short hike at all.

On the plus side, the view from the top truly is grand, better perhaps than the summit of Jumpingpound or Cox. Barrier Lake was particularly delightful, and looking down on the Barrier Fire Lookout was unexpected.
Barrier Lake, Heart Mtn Horseshoe, Barrier Lookout & Yamnuska 
Cox Hill on the left, Moose in the middle & Jumpingpound

Logging on the slopes of Mt Baldy
Nakiska ski area & Mt. Sparrowhawk

KC sits on the ridge. Jumpingpound on the left, Nihahi in the centre

You can even see Calgary.
The city, some 80 km away
On the descent, we tried to retrace our steps, but not far below the false summit veered too far east. On a flattish area just below the false summit, there's a spot where the cliff disappears, and in an effort to stay east and on the cliff edge, we ended up getting below the rockband into a deep gully. This necessitated a rather unpleasant climb out over a significant amount of deadfall.

I struggle when I think about hikes like this. The top rocks. The views are awesome. But getting there is NOT half the fun. I was reminded of other routes I have been on (like Red Ridge) where there really is no trail. Kananaskis Country forests are really tough to bush bash. They are full of blowdown and deadfall. It really made it clear that if you go try this, you need to take a GPS with a topo map display. It was the only way we could figure a route up, identify false ridges and get ourselves out of the wrong turn we made.

I'm not sure I will be in a hurry to do this again. Which is a shame, because if there was a actual trail to this summit, it would easily become a favourite hike of mine. 

1 comment:

Edwin said...

Excellent post, loved reading every word!