Friday, 22 June 2012

Hiking Raven's End (again)

We have been ensconced in our usual June monsoon weather, with rain most days. The forecast for yesterday was for sun with no chance of rain, so it seemed like a great day for our first domestic hike of the year. But where to go?

There is still a ton of snow up high. Some of our favourite places (like C Level Cirque) have significant avalanche danger. Even Heart Mountain still has snow patches on it, and the traction there is so poor at the best of times I'm not going back there until it has fully dried out. All the rain means traveling in creekbeds or near river courses is unwise. This means that some usual early season canyon haunts like Grotto or Jura could be dicy.

So we headed to another popular early season hike, which depending on who you talk to is called Raven's End, Yamnuska Ridge, or the base of the Yam Cliffs. We were last up here in the spring of 2009. It's still popular. On a Thursday, we probably saw 25 hikers, including one group of 12 women, plus two wonderful dogs (Pallisar, a golden retriever, and Charlie, a yellow lab).

The trail has only a few true muddy patches, but a lot of it is what I would call "greasy", with a wet trail making for occasional slippery footing.
Near the start. The goal is the meeting of the cliff and the ridge
We were greeted at the start of the trail by a deer wandering through the forest.
One of 3 we saw today
The trail rises in stages, first with a grunt up to a sandstone bluff where climbers practice with pretty views up the valley.
Heart Mountain in the centre
Then it traverses right to a creek gully where it again grunts up...
The target: where the forest meets the cliffs
...then it skirts the ridge to a rather pretty overlook of the Morely Flats...
Looking east toward Calgary
...or back into the mountains...
KC photographs flowers
...before the final steady climb to the top.

The above photo is an interesting perspective. Yamnuska looks like a pancake flat cliff from below. Bu the higher you get, the more you can see how curved it is.

Once again, we got to see behind the ridge into the CMC Valley. It was named after the Calgary Mountaineering Club because they climb the cliffs in the valley.
Big cliffs lie behind
We always stop at the cliff edge, but there were people continuing past there on at least the beginning of the Yamnuska Traverse, which just looks brutal to me. Here's one of the routes:
Note the dude in the circle
To continue on the traverse, you chimney through a rock slot, then traverse, then head straight up the scree to a break in the cliffs, then traverse to the top. The guy in the red circle took ~45 minutes to get there from where I'm standing. Apparently, you can also avoid the grunt up the gully by tracing the left cliff edge (not in the photo) for a part of the way. This is somewhat more dangerous, as you really are on the cliff edge (it's the climber's egress route if they don't rappel down) and really have 1,000' straight down to fall. Not my idea of a good time.

They said it wouldn't rain today. They lied.
That's rain
We only got showered on very briefly, but 1 km out of the parking lot on the way home it was pouring.

This is a nice but popular hike. It's always a good early season choice as it is snow free early. If the monsoon rains would stop here, maybe the trail would even dry out. 

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