I've been a bit obsessed with the Ya Ha Tinda region this year. I'm not sure exactly why, but I've been there 4 or 5 times since my first trip in November 2014 up Evangeline Peak / Rum Ridge with Steven and Ben. While hiking Labyrinth Mountain and Mount Minos with Wietse in April, we looked across the Ya Ha Tinda road at a lovely ridge, rising directly over the road with no bushwhacking and no approach and wondered how easy this would be. I remembered looking at the lower slopes every time I drove into the area, wondering the same thing. A friend of ours, Dave Salahub decided to try it out and reported back that it was easy and pleasant. I needed no more prompting and decided that this would be the perfect trip to introduce my family to the Ya Ha Tinda hiking experience.
Saturday, June 6th was chosen as the day of our hike and it dawned bright and clear. The long drive was interesting thanks to the new sets of eyes and a beautiful momma grizzly with three adorable cubs that we got to watch along the approach road as they grazed dandelions in the ditch. The cubs were bouncing around and amusing themselves with every little thing they could find while the large mother grizzly kept a sharp eye on me. Thankfully they weren't close to our trailhead, although my son was asking if there would be other bears on our hike... ;)
Parking was obvious. There's two major drainages coming off Wildhorse Ridge. You want to park under the first one and hike up the ridge to climber's left of it. This is what we did. Thanks to a burn years ago, the slopes are mostly grass and rocks here. We had to deal with some fallen, burnt timber but nothing much. As we worked our way higher, we had a choice to make. Dave chose to traverse climber's right, into the drainage above any difficulties down low and before the top of the first ridge. This loses about 80 meters of height gain and results in some pretty loose scree bashing to the col. We chose to try sticking to the ridge instead.
[From the road, there is no approach or bushwhacking - straight up on climber's left of the gully]
[The gully has some waterfalls blocking the way up it on the lower half - but the ridge is nicer anyway]
[The kids enjoyed the hike up the ridge]
[Height is gained very quickly on the easy ridge]
[This is the terrain you're avoiding in the gully]
[Interesting burn area - this was a controlled burn by Parks Canada years ago]
[More interesting hiking]
[Higher up there was more scree mixed with the grass]
[Looking back over Mount Minos]
[At the top of the ridge, looking over Labyrinth and towards Ya Ha Tinda ranch. Wildhorse out of sight to the right. ++]
After gaining a small bump, we had to traverse some gendarmes to the col before the summit slopes. This is what Dave was avoiding with his bypass route. This is where the only scrambling is on Wildhorse. It's mostly easy, but some members of our party were less comfortable on the grippy slabs than others. Eventually we all made it to the col. We traversed climber's left around the gendarmes. The final grunt to the summit was easier than it looked, but definitely scrambling rather than hiking. Again, for folks not used to steep, loose scree this is a challenge. Again, we all made it to the summit.
[Hann and KC come up to the end of the ridge, bypassing the small bump on its terminus]
[Niko and Seppi traversing to the col - Wildhorse looming above. We have to get past the gendarmes which will be the crux. You can see the top of the excellent scree run down on the right - would be very loose coming up that way!]
[Natural sheep shelter as we bypass the gendarmes]
[Not too difficult but for folks who aren't scramblers, this will be a challenging little section]
[Others go looking for fun scrambling terrain! :) The slabs in the area are very grippy rock and very sharp edges.]
[A familiar Rockies theme - the scree slog to the summit!]
[Hanneke comes up on the left with Maze Peak in the distance on the right and Labyrinth across the river. ++]
[Near the summit. ++]
The views were better than I was expecting and we were a good bit higher than either Minos or Labyrinth which was nice. There were millions of small black bugs at the summit, so we were chased down rather quickly! We took a long break further down, where the bugs were absent for some reason. The rest of the descent was easy and fun. We bypassed the crux by taking Dave's route down. Some of the best scree skiing I've had in years! The kids loved it. Traversing back to the ascent ridge was interesting - we didn't pick the best line. It should be easy but we were too impatient and made it harder than it needs to be.
[The summit of Wildhorse Ridge. Maze Peak in the background. You can't see them but there's millions of tiny black bugs swarming us here! ++]
[Looking over the foothills from the edge of the Rockies! Maze Peak on the L and Wildhorse Ridge descending to the R. I think you could come up that way too for a much longer outing. ++]
[Tele of the Ya Ha Tinda ranch and the Red Deer River]
[Puma Peak rises dramatically over Mount Minos]
[We descending about 100m before stopping for lunch. There were no bugs here for some strange reason. They must be peak bagging bugs...]
[A good day to be alive!]
[Interesting terrain from the col, looking over our scree descent slope down the drainage. The gendarmes we bypassed are obvious on the right. We descended here and then traversed skier's right back to our ascent ridge.]
[One of the best scree runs I've ever had! And it's virgin - no Yamnuska here!]
[At the bottom of the scree run. We traversed to the right over slabby terrain and got into some challenging stuff. I think we should have descended a bit more before cutting across.]
[Like I said, we got into some tricky terrain... ;)]
[Back on easier terrain, looking back at the summit with the awesome scree slope from the col]
[Descending the ridge was fast and easy.
I highly recommend Wildhorse Ridge as a short, pleasant and easy scramble with great views and virtually no bushwhacking or approach.