After skiing a rather long day on Spoon Needle, Steven Song and I agreed that we should do a shorter day on Sunday, February 16. We settled on Mount McNab - a very simple snow shoe which should have me back home by around noon and agreed to meet at the parking area around 08:30.
As I drove towards the winter gate and the McNabb camping area, the weather slowly deteriorated from brilliant morning sunshine to full-on blizzard! I was following one set of tracks, which I was sure was Steven. Sure enough! As the snow storm almost blinded me, a car came from the other direction and slowed. It was Steven. He was concerned about getting stuck in the rapidly accumulating snow. I dismissed his concerns and convinced him to follow me. Two minutes later I was wishing I was in my 4x4 instead of the Corolla. I could no longer see the road and we agreed it was unsafe to continue.
I was ready to go home, but Steven was 4.5 hours from home and wanted to salvage something. He pulled out his map and we settled on "Mesa Butte". I had no idea what or where this was, but it was an official summit and the weather looked to be sunny just to the north so it was worth a shot.
We drove back to Turner Valley and turned north to Millarville and from there, back into K country! About 30 minutes after turning around in a snow storm we were standing beside our cars in brilliant sunshine, ready to hike Mesa Butte - what a weird morning.
There is nothing technical about Mesa Butte. We didn't take the 'official' trail, but simply headed up from near the equestrian camping area along the highway where there was room to park. We took the 'shoes which was a good plan because higher up we needed them to cross a logged slope which held quite a bit of fresh, unconsolidated snow. Once we hit the main part of the hill, we came across a beaten path which led to the summit.
[We walked up the road about 150 meters and then gained the ridge to our right.]
[Steven on the steep, grassy hill we used to access the logged slope.]
[Looking across the logged slope to the summit. The trail goes up the gully on the far side of this logged slope, we just cut across on 'shoes. ++]
[Looking back across the logged slope.]
[We link up with the regular trail - which obviously sees a lot of traffic even in winter.]
[Looking ahead to the summit. ++]
[Still looking a bit socked in to the west - but the clouds from earlier have retreated a bit.]
[Calgary is visible from near the summit.]
[Too bad we had more peaks to bag or we could have had a nice camp fire! Is this even legal in the park?! :)]
[Panorama from just under the summit looking south and west. ++]
[My favorite shot showing the trail to the summit and great views west. ++]
[Bluerock is almost visible.]
[A beautiful, sunny day in February.]
Calgary was clearly visible and the views back west were pretty decent too. We noticed that the bad weather to the south had pulled back over the divide and decided that since Mesa Butte was such a short / easy objective we should go back to McNab for another try. ;)