Saturday, 15 August 2015

June 24: King Ridge

When I was up Mt. Lawson back in September 2011, I drooled over getting up King Ridge, which is directly across the valley and overlooks Highway 40 and parts of Peter Lougheed Park. So on a sunny day in June, we decided to explore.

We were not alone. A pair of nice young ladies from Okotoks and their (on leash) dogs were heading up, too. Without much guidance other than some Instagram photos, they had started off wrong. They headed up King Creek, which is where you park to climb the ridge. They had crossed the creek 5 times before turning back. So we pointed them to the trailhead and gave them a general description of the route (that I gleaned by reading Gillean Daffern's books and looking at the Gem Trek map), and off they went.

We met them on the trail ~15 minutes later, already taking a breather. No, this was not an indication of their fitness level. King Ridge climbs over 500 m in less than 2 km. Straight up. Whoever designed the trail hates switchbacks.

On the bright side:

  • Heading up at the same pace as them made us puff and pant but didn't kill us. It was actually quite reasonable as we were not in a hurry.
  • The higher you go on the open slopes, the better the views get.
Mt. Lawson, South end 
Looking back to the lakes area 
Lower K Lakes comes into view 
60% of the way up. You can see the grade. 
Lower Lake 
Upper and Lower Lakes
After a steady 2 hrs of climbing, we popped into the trees at the south end of the ridge, getting our first glimpses of the Opal range behind.
Gnarly rock
The ridgetop is reasonably flat but tree covered at this point, with nice but limited views. For some reason, our hiking companions chose to eat lunch in the forest, and never climbed higher.

They missed out. Because in the next 2 km, while there is a climb of another 200 m, it's a non-grade on grass with ever improving views both south and north to the ridge's north peak. It took us just an hour after topping out in the trees.
The view south west from the trees 
Looking back down the ridge. The spike is Mt. Wintour 
The lakes plus 
Looking across Upper Lake to Mt. Sarrail & Foch 
Not a selfie, actually. Karen held her pole to my camera 
Looking north to the Fortress valley 
The top of the grassy knoll 
Clear sightline back across Lower Lake 
The verdant backside of Grizzly Peak Ridge 
North. Lawson on the left, Fortress in the middle and Grizzly on the right
We thought the uptrack steep and that we would have difficulties descending. Not really; there were a couple of marbly sections, and one place where the trail braids that we didn't notice on the way up. We turned around at the ridge's north end after 3:45, hit the top of the steep descent in 40 min, and were at the car in 2 hrs after leaving the top (including confusion time at the braids).

This is a great hike if you can manage the steepness of the uptrack. Bring poles to better control the descent. And on your way up, while climbing through an obvious rocky creekbed, look behind you occasionally so you can find the track down.

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