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Hillcrest Mountain

Summit Elevation (m): 2164
Elevation Gain (m): 700
Round Trip Time (hr): 4.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 8.5
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain something
Difficulty Notes: Mostly hiking and easy scrambling with some loose terrain and minor exposure on steep scree slopes.
Technical Rating: SC5; YDS (Hiking)
Map: Google Maps


On Saturday April 10 2010 Wietse and Naomi joined me on a relaxing outing to the summit of Hillcrest Mountain in the Crowsnest Pass. We got the idea for this mountain from Bob Spirko and Rick Collier. Originally we had planned on a ski trip up Crowfoot Mountain but with avalanche warnings in the red zone we thought it best to avoid as much snow as possible. It turns out that this was harder than expected. To access Hillcrest Mountain from Hwy 3, turn left (south) onto East Hillcrest Drive, go across the railroad tracks and the bridge before turning left on Adanac Road. Follow this road for a little ways before turning left on Adanac Rise. From here it’s a short drive till you can see Hillcrest and the road coming off the mountain on your right. Park anywhere along this stretch, we could have driven another 200 meters or so but there’s lots of access points here.

Hillcrest Mountain Route Map

I was surprised by the amount of snow clinging to Hillcrest’s slopes. It didn’t look like enough to stop our ascent but I expected almost nothing. At the very least it probably kept the wood ticks at bay. We decided to follow the road until the south slopes were above us. We followed an obvious gully / clearing (forest fires ravaged this area and the efforts to fight it are all over here) that petered out about 300 meters up the south slopes.

From here it was easy hiking / scrambling to gain the ridge. We made things more difficult, but interesting, but scrambling up the cliff band after skirting it on climber’s right for about 200 meters.

Looking south (L) and west (R) from the south end of the summit ridge.
Easy hiking terrain to the snowy summit.

It was the most windless Crowsnest Pass peak that I’ve ever been on! The weather forecast was actually accurate for once, the warm sunshine and stunning scenery of the peaks on the divide to the west kept us entertained on a very pleasant hike to the summit of Hillcrest. There was hardly any snow on the west side of the upper ridge which made for very pleasant walking while everything west was plastered in a fresh coat of white.

Interesting views east off the summit ridge through fire-ravaged trees.
Views to the east over Lee Lake and the barren prairie landscape are also very respectable.
Views west over Willoughby Ridge to the Flathead Range including peaks such as McLaren, Parrish, Coulthard, Ptolemy, McGladry, Pengelly and Darrah.

We should have spent more time soaking up the sunshine and enjoying the views but after about 20 minutes on top we turned our attention to Hastings Ridge. It would be cool to bag two peaks in such gorgeous conditions! We headed down the west slopes just under the summit to try to negotiate our way to Hastings. Our hopes were not high considering the amount of snow on the route. It was interesting how little snow was on Hillcrest and how much snow was on Hastings just to the west.

Naomi on an outlier of Hastings Ridge, Hillcrest to the right here.

The west slopes of Hillcrest are better for descent than ascent, but not by much. We negotiated some fairly steep (but very firm) snow that would have made me very nervous if it was any warmer / looser. We could see some avalanche debris across the valley on very low angle terrain which made us very cautious.

Looking back (east) at Hillcrest from Hastings Ridge.

Once down at the col between Hastings and Hillcrest we decided to keep going towards Hastings until the snow became too soft to walk on. We managed to stay on top of the snow up to the first bump after Hillcrest but after walking a bit further towards Hastings we started to post hole and the snow pack showed signs of going isothermal in the strong spring sunshine. We decided it wasn’t worth it and bailed back into the valley bottom to find the road / trail that would take us back to the car.

Walking back around Hillcrest’s south ridge.

A very pleasant stroll down the road (snow was amazingly firm) brought us back around the south end of Hillcrest and to our car. I found this hike very pleasing, which I’m sure had more to do with the beautiful weather than anything else. Driving 6 hours round trip to hike for 4.5 hours still seems a bit silly but when it’s spring and you’re desperate it can be justified!

Hillcrest Mountain
Hillcrest Mountain from the road.
Hillcrest Mountain from the road.
Naomi and Wietse walk up the fire road.
Naomi and Wietse walk up the fire road.
We cut up the first obvious break in the vegetation to our right, up the south ridge.
We cut up the first obvious break in the vegetation to our right, up the south ridge.
The burnt out forest is cool.
The burnt out forest is cool.
We cut up the first obvious break in the vegetation to our right, up the south ridge.
We cut up the first obvious break in the vegetation to our right, up the south ridge.
The burnt out forest is cool.
The burnt out forest is cool.
A great view from near the cliff band.
A great view from near the cliff band.
We cut up through the cliff band for entertainment reasons only!
We cut up through the cliff band for entertainment reasons only!
The cliffband was fun but avoidable.
The cliffband was fun but avoidable.
The cliffband was fun but avoidable.
The cliffband was fun but avoidable.
Back on easy slopes.
Back on easy slopes.
Incredible views south and west (R).
Incredible views south and west (R).
Views of the ridge, looking east.
Views of the ridge, looking east.
More cool looking dead trees on the south ridge.
More cool looking dead trees on the south ridge.
Looking south into the Castle region.
Looking south into the Castle region.
Crowsnest Mountain.
Crowsnest Mountain.
Mount Coulthard rises over Willoughby Ridge.
Mount Coulthard rises over Willoughby Ridge.
Darrah is huge.
Darrah is huge.
Views west over Willoughby Ridge to the Flathead Range including peaks such as McLaren, Parrish, Coulthard, Ptolemy, McGladry, Pengelly and Darrah.
Views west over Willoughby Ridge to the Flathead Range including peaks such as McLaren, Parrish, Coulthard, Ptolemy, McGladry, Pengelly and Darrah.
Views north  towards Center Peak.
Views north towards Center Peak.
Windsor and Castle.
Windsor and Castle.
Center and Caudron.
Center and Caudron.
Views to the east over Lee Lake and the barren prairie landscape are also very respectable.
Views to the east over Lee Lake and the barren prairie landscape are also very respectable.
Looking north towards Turtle (L) and the south end of the Livingstone Range.
Looking north towards Turtle (L) and the south end of the Livingstone Range.
Descent slopes towards Hastings Ridge.
Descent slopes towards Hastings Ridge.
Descent slopes towards Hastings Ridge.
Descent slopes towards Hastings Ridge.
Descent slopes towards Hastings Ridge.
Descent slopes towards Hastings Ridge.
Descent slopes towards Hastings Ridge.
Descent slopes towards Hastings Ridge.
Ascending Hastings Ridge.
Ascending Hastings Ridge.
Ascending Hastings Ridge.
Ascending Hastings Ridge.
Ascending Hastings Ridge.
Ascending Hastings Ridge.
Ascending Hastings Ridge.
Ascending Hastings Ridge.
About as far as we got. Hastings Ridge is running through the background but we didn't make it there due to soft, unstable snow.
About as far as we got. Hastings Ridge is running through the background but we didn't make it there due to soft, unstable snow.
Taking a nice break.
Taking a nice break.
A burnt stump that consumed a rock back when it wasn't burnt out!
A burnt stump that consumed a rock back when it wasn't burnt out!
A burnt stump that consumed a rock back when it wasn't burnt out!
A burnt stump that consumed a rock back when it wasn't burnt out!
Hiking back on the road around the south end of Hillcrest. Hastings is ahead and to our right.
Hiking back on the road around the south end of Hillcrest. Hastings is ahead and to our right.
Hiking back on the road around the south end of Hillcrest.
Hiking back on the road around the south end of Hillcrest.

 

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