After enjoying a wonderful day on Missinglink Mountain the day before, I found out that the new ring road around the east side of Calgary was completed. This meant a very quick and easy way for me to get down south now (avoiding Deerfoot Trail) and I wanted to try it out. I decided to head back down to the Sheep River area for another shot at a front-range summit, this time Mount Hoffman. The Stoney Trail freeway worked wonderfully and in about an hour from the NE edge of Calgary I was driving past the Kananasis sign already!
After parking at the Indian Oil day use area I spent about 30 minutes trying to find the bridge that no longer existed. :( The June 2013 floods ripped every trace of that bridge away and now there's no easy way across the Sheep River. I guess this hike may not get as popular as Bob may have thought back in 2011 when he did it.
I was pretty bummed out but thought I could wade the river. Being November, it was pretty low about 300 meters upstream. I stood there and stared at it for a while before plunging across with my boots and snowshoes still on!! The amazing part was how well it worked! The water was only half way to my knees at the deepest and due to my windproof pants and high water proof winter boots I never even got wet feet! Crazy but it worked. Going bare feet wouldn't have worked due to ice sheets on each side of the river that would have made it dangerous without the crampons on my 'shoes.
Once across the river I followed the bank to the left and found the main trail across from the falls. I followed the obvious road and some fresh horse tracks until it took an obvious dip to a stream ahead. At this point an overgrown but obvious road led upwards and I followed it. I was glad to have the 'shoes - I almost didn't bring them after not needing them on Missinglink the day before. There was a good layer of snow on the trail and it would have been exhausting without 'shoes. The only PITA was the warm weather meant the snow was balling up underneath my feet which made the 'shoes very heavy every once in a while.
[Finally across the Sheep River and working my way up the trail - looking back.]
[The wide road is obvious and gains height steadily - this is looking back.]
[The road dips to a stream ahead, this is where you look to the right for an overgrown but obvious road heading up into the bush.]
[Looking back at the approach road (R) and left at the overgrown trail you want to follow.]
As I worked my way higher the road became quite over grown in places. I started noticing pink ribbons though and for the rest of the hike every time the trail became indistinct I would look for a ribbon and there would almost always be one or two to guide me on.
[The road is mostly obvious - what a lovely day to be out and about.]
The road doesn't run out completely until you're already on the north ridge of Hoffman, just before the trail turns dramatically steeper. From this point on I followed a line of pink ribbons up a steep hill and then through a patch of fallen timber before finally breaking out of the trees just before the summit bump. The sun was brilliantly warm and I hiked the whole day in my long sleeved t-shirt. What a great way to spend a Saturday in late November. I felt privileged to be out in the woods all by myself in such a gorgeous, peaceful setting.
[When the road ends there is probably a trail under the snow but I followed pink ribbons. Without them I would have done more bushwhacking then necessary.]
[The upper ridge flattens out but I had to deal with a lot of deadfall there. Thank goodness for a highway of pink ribbons! :)]
[Finally out of the trees, the summit bump ahead.]
[Vern on the summit of Hoffman, enjoying the great weather and views to the west.]
[The views to the west include Highwood, Shunga-la-she, Gibraltar, Burns, Bluerock and Ware. Even Missinglink is on the right. ++]
[Shunga-la-she was another November summit almost exactly two years ago.]
[Another great summit panorama looking up the Sheep River to Gibraltar - another mountain on my "todo" list. ++]
[Gibraltar Mountain is impressive from this side. Mist Mountain on the distant left and Storm on the right.]
[Bluerock Mountain is very stately.]
[Missinglink with the whole route from right to left. You can see that the last 2/3rds is almost entirely in the trees.]
[Rose and Threepoint on the left and Mount Ware on the right.]
[Another shot of Gibraltar.]
[Looking back at the summit cairn.]
After enjoying the windy summit, I descended back to tree line where I enjoyed a lengthy lunch break before heading down. Unlike Missinglink, Hoffman is all downhill from the summit and I made very short work of the 4km back to the river. I re-waded across the Sheep River in my snowshoes, this time I got a little damp, and made it back to the car in around 3 hours round trip time. I enjoyed Hoffman immensely - it's too bad the bridge is out because I'm not sure it'll get rebuilt any time soon. I guess it means less traffic on the mountain if you choose to do it.
[Another view of the entire Missinglink 'massif' - summit at left.]
[A very warm and enjoyable spot to enjoy hot chocolate and lunch.]
[Heading down on a beautiful winter day.]
[More scenery on the way down.]
[Looking down at the Sheep River just below the falls.]
[Sheep River falls.]
[This is where I regained the opposite shore on ascent - this is just before re-crossing the Sheep on my way back. Sheep Falls is about 300m downstream of here.]
[After re-crossing the river, looking back at the river and opposite shore. I just walked right through with my 'shoes on.]
[Going up to the parking lot. The bridge used to be in the lower left. My tracks go upstream on the right side of the river about 300m where I crossed to the left.]