Ridge traverses are usually awesome and Victoria Ridge is no exception to this rule. With light winds and cool temperatures I moved pretty quickly, south from the summit of Victoria Peak, really enjoying the views west towards Castle Mountain - although smoky haze did ruin them a bit.
There are surprises on the ridge traverse. I descended more than expected and also there were more bumps than first appeared from Victoria Peak. There are good surprises too! The sheep leave awesome trails everywhere along the ridge crest. The terrain changes from red to black rock, larches are everywhere and the views in all directions are sublime.
[Victoria Ridge is WAY off to the far left in this summit shot from Victoria Peak. ++]
[Stunning colors as I work my way along the ridge to the left. ++]
[Looking back up at Victoria Peak from the first low point. You'll lose a lot more elevation than this on the traverse...]
[These are the cliff bands that I will traverse over on the ridge running to the left here, above them.]
[As I work my way above the cliff bands, this is looking west over Mill Creek. ++]
[It's a bit of scrambling work to get around these bumps which sit over big cliffs.]
[Looking back over the terrain I've traversed already - Victoria Peak right of center, already getting distant.]
[Looking off the ridge back at Victoria Peak.]
[Look at all that PINK! You have to be a confident man to climb this mountain... ;-) This is looking back at Victoria Peak from about half way along the traverse. It's a long way. ++]
[My favorite area of the traverse was just as I was getting onto the ridge proper for Victoria Ridge. Notice how Windsor and Castle are now almost behind me! ++]
[Windsor (L) and Castle Peak (R).]
[Great sheep trails assisted me while traversing beside some of the bumps along the way. The official Ridge trail actually goes on climber's right through the forest ahead of me here but on the way up I didn't notice it.]
[I find the trail again, after losing if for a while.]
[Following the good trail up to the false summit of Victoria Ridge. At this point I'm kind of tired of the whole traverse thing.]
[Looking back from near the false summit of the ridge. Note Victoria Peak in the FAR distance just left of center. ;-) ++]
The one bad surprise came when I finally topped what I thought was the summit of the ridge and realized that I still had to drop a bit before going up even more! Oh well. The wind was picking up and I wanted to avoid any bad weather so I snapped some quick photos from the true summit and headed down. The traverse from Victoria Peak to Ridge took me 2.5 hours - but I was motoring along pretty quickly.
[This is the nice surprise you get when going over the false summit... It's not as far as it looks - thank goodness!]
[Victoria peak at far left, Pincher Ridge at far right.]
[Looking down the Drywood Creek valley, Victoria Peak, Pincher Ridge and Drywood Mountain from left to right. The trail does *not* exit this valley, but exits the valley to the left, along Pincher Creek. ++]
[Windsor and Castle Mountain are behind me now - a completely different view!]
[Panorama of the entire traverse from Victoria Peak, just right of center. ++]
The trail for Victoria Ridge is one of the nicest exits I've ever done from a peak! It's all either soft sand or gravel / dirt and it's design is fantastic! First it traverses high above Pincher Creek before contouring around a massive drainage and plummeting into the valley below. With the fall colors this trail is breathtaking and beautiful. It was my favorite part of the day actually.
[A good trail back down to Pincher Creek helped me enjoy this exit immensely - not usually how a long day like this ends!]
[The trail stays as much above tree line as possible.]
[This late in the season, I was all alone up here.]
[The trail continues to snake along on the east side of the ridge above Pincher Creek - staying above tree line as long as possible. ++]
[Eventually the exit trail reluctantly starts descending through forest, down to Pincher Creek.]
[I love hiking in the fall - nothing on earth beats it. The smells, the colors, the lack of crowds and smoke makes it a magical time of year that never lasts long enough, even in dry / warm years!]
[The trail continues to make excellent use of open areas, where possible.]
[In the lower valley and hiking out of the Pincher Creek drainage.]
[Looking back up Pincher Creek as I reach the lower meadows.]
[Incredible scenery around Pincher Creek.]
[Looks like we might FINALLY get some rain this fall. It did rain at night but was back to good weather the next day for my scramble up Drywood Mountain.]
My second favorite part of the day was the 4 minute bike ride back to the truck! No wonder I was tired on my ride up - its all downhill. My total trip time was just under 7.5 hours, but I was going pretty quick all day. I highly recommend this scramble / hike for a nice calm fall day. And make sure you take the excellent ridge trail on the way out - you may find that the best part of your day.