After months of being closed, part of the Highwood finally opened up! The flood had really damaged the area, and a quick google search online will show the destruction that occurred. I thought that the Highwood would be closed for the rest of the season, but nope! So when Jess asked if I wanted to go hiking on Sunday (which, of course, I did), I knew the Highwood would be an awesome area to go. With the larches turning colour, it was going to be beautiful. After considering a few choices (Pocaterra Ridge, Wasootch Peak), I suggested hiking to Grizzly Col at the Pocaterra Cirque.
What I did not count on, though, was the winter. Oh Calgary and the mountains… how much I dislike winter at times, though the snow makes the mountains look so pretty. I guess I was just expecting a little while longer to enjoy our 1-week fall. Snow came early in the mountains, and as we drove on the Highwood Pass toward the parking lot, our altitude continued to rise. Before we knew it, there was snow on the ground and lots in the mountains around us. That didn’t stop Jess, Dave and I from hiking though.
As expected, Pocaterra Cirque was so pretty, especially with all of the golden larches covered by snow. I really love this area, and as long as I’m in Calgary, I will make it a point to hike in the Highwood at least once each fall. After taking photos and stopping to eat lunch, we pressed onward. Mount Tyrwhitt and the rock arch loomed in front. We would not be ascending this mountain, but heading to the pass overlooking the continental divide. Grizzly Col (which I believe is the mountain to the left of the pass) looked quite snow-covered, so the plan was to assess that climb once we arrived at the pass. But as we ascended, the wind became fierce and at times was so strong that it stopped us in our tracks. Thank goodness I was prepared with my winter gear- ‘crampons’, gaiters, my alpine jacket, a hat and gloves. We weren’t all as prepared, and the wind was a bit concerning. In addition, the clouds were dark. Fearing a storm and potential white-out conditions, we opted to head back shortly before reaching the pass. Safety first!… (which is a motto I repeated throughout the weekend after the cougar incident). Like I mentioned, there will always be next time.
Highlights of the hike (other than time spent hiking with friends, of course…): hiking in the snow! I enjoy winter hiking and it’s something I want to do more of. So step 1- take an avalanche safety course :). The other highlight: crossing paths with wildlife! Not bears or cougars or Rocky Mountain sheep this time… but three quails. So cute.
Start: 11:50 am; End: ~ 4:00 pm