After snowshoeing Coyote Hills the day before, Raf and I decided that Junction Hill looked too tempting to leave it alone for long. We both returned on Sunday, January 19 to see what it's summit would offer for views. Ironically we took different routes and drove separately - never even running into each other en route! This was not the intention... :)
When Raf told me that Kev and him were going to attempt Junction Hill on Sunday, I assumed he meant Kev Barton. I agreed to meet at the trailhead since it's easier for me to bomb down hwy 2 and go past High River and Longview from that direction than go through Calgary. When Kev Papke called me at 08:30 as I was driving past High River already, I realized that I should have asked which Kev... :) Oh well. (Kev Papke and I can usually car pool together.)
Obviously Raf and Kev were going to be later than me, so I told them I'd start up slowly and we'd run into each other. The day before, while driving back from Coyote Hills we'd talked about doing the SE ridge and considered we probably wouldn't even need snowshoes considering how bare it looked. When I got home on Saturday evening I forgot to do any research on the route or I would have noticed that the SE route is a good one.
Upon arriving at the parking area I changed my mind on the route. I decided to head up to the high point just west of the summit and traverse from there. This was based on tracks that I could see heading up that bump and my gut feeling. I even put on snowshoes to give me more grip on the frozen grass and to allow a quick ascent up some frozen snow in the steep gullies up to the first hill top. As I worked my way up I could see Raf and Kev park near me and start prepping their gear. I expected them to start catching up at some point.
[Starting up the lower section just above Hwy 40, looking ahead to Mount Armstrong in the far distance]
[A lonely trees withstands the strong chinook winds on this grassy slope]
[This one didn't survive the harsh climate]
[Nearing the top of the first hill, looking back at my ascent route and Hwy 40 and 940. The SE ridge route goes up on the far left. ++]
My route worked well. The views were great, even though the weather was a bit cooler and cloudier than the day previous. The views towards Strachan, Muir, McPhail and Armstrong just got better and better until I found myself on top of the first hill - a good 450 meter vertical gain above Highway 40 far below. I was following a clear track (boot - not snowshoe) at this point and continued to follow it. I lost the track briefly as I followed a sheep trail around the next bump on it's nw side rather than go over it. The traverse around the bumps after the first hill is further and bushier than it looks. There was also considerable amounts of snow here and I was glad for the 'shoes.
[There's a marker on top of the first bump. Great views of Baril, Armstrong]
[Rounding the first hilltop, looking towards the summit. It's much further than it appears here and there's much more snow too!]
[Looking back at Coyote Hills]
[Looking over at the Great Divide peaks]
[Nearing the summit]
Eventually I made it to the final summit slopes which were blown clear. I took the 'shoes off and went to the top where the views in all directions were impressive. Like Coyote Hills the day before, I had great sight lines to the Great Divide giants such as Etherington, Armstrong, Strachan, Muir, McPhail and others. I also had great views of Mist, Patterson's, Head, Holy Cross, Cat Creek Hills, Gunnery, Sentinel, Plateau, Burke and of course the Coyote Hills.
[Pano from near the summit with Holy Cross on the L, Gunnery, Sentinel, Burke, Raspberry Ridge and Coyote Hills all in the photo too. ++]
[From L to R, Patterson's, Head and Holy Cross. ++]
[Looking north and west from the summit views include Head, Patterson's, Pyriform, Mist, Stracken, Muir, McPhail, Armstrong, Odlum and many others. ++]
[Gunnery on the left.]
[Looking north over Cat Creek Hills towards Mist Mountain]
[L to R, Strachen, Muir, McPhail, Bishop]
[Armstrong and McLaren]
[South towards Mount Burke]
[Looking south down Hwy 940]
The wind was quite cool so I didn't linger long, figuring I'd run into Raf and Kev on my way down. As I bashed down through the bush on the west side of the peak I ran into "Jeff". He was also looking for Raf and Kev! He seemed very confused by the fact that they weren't ahead of him - apparently he was going as quick as possible to try to catch them. Seems like everyone was confused on this particular day... :) I continued quickly down to Hwy 40 and my truck - never meeting Raf and Kev and seeing no signs of them whatsoever! I realized at this point that they'd probably gone up the SE ridge.
(I confirmed later that this was the route they took - and enjoyed.)
[I found a nice sheep trail through the thickest trees along the 2nd and 3rd bumps]
[Great Chinook scenery on the way down]
[On the closed Hwy 40, looking back at the first summit bump.]
I preferred Junction to Coyote Hills simply because it's more direct, a bit less bushy and there was less sugary snow. The views are similar between the two peaks but slightly better from Junction due to it's position IMHO. Because Junction starts lower it also has slightly more total height gain. Just like Coyote Hills, Junction includes some height loss on the way up which contributes to the total, making it more than indicated by some other sources. My altimeter watch put the total gain at just over 910 meters.