Summit Elevation (m): 1829
Elevation Gain (m): 550
Round Trip Time (hr): 3
Total Trip Distance (km): 9
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 1/2 – you fall, you sprain your ego
Difficulty Notes: Crossing the Sheep River is the biggest challenge since the bridge was washed out in the June 2013 floods.
Technical Rating: OT3; YDS (Hiking)
Map: Google Maps
After enjoying a wonderful day on Missinglink Mountain the day before, I found out that the new ring road around the east side of Calgary was completed. This meant a very quick and easy way for me to get down south now (avoiding Deerfoot Trail) and I wanted to try it out. I decided to head back down to the Sheep River area for another shot at a front-range summit, this time Mount Hoffman. The Stoney Trail freeway worked wonderfully and in about an hour from the NE edge of Calgary I was driving past the Kananaskis sign already!
After parking at the Indian Oil day use area I spent about 30 minutes trying to find the bridge that no longer existed. 🙁 The June 2013 floods ripped every trace of that bridge away and now there’s no easy way across the Sheep River. I guess this hike may not get as popular as Bob may have thought back in 2011 when he did it.
I was pretty bummed out but thought I could wade the river. Being November, it was pretty low about 300 meters upstream. I stood there and stared at it for a while before plunging across with my boots and snowshoes still on!! The amazing part was how well it worked! The water was only half way to my knees at the deepest and due to my windproof pants and high water proof winter boots I never even got wet feet! Crazy but it worked. Going bare feet wouldn’t have worked due to ice sheets on each side of the river that would have made it dangerous without the crampons on my ‘shoes.
Once across the river I followed the bank to the left and found the main trail across from the falls. I followed the obvious road and some fresh horse tracks until it took an obvious dip to a stream ahead. At this point an overgrown but obvious road led upwards and I followed it. I was glad to have the ‘shoes – I almost didn’t bring them after not needing them on Missinglink the day before. There was a good layer of snow on the trail and it would have been exhausting without ‘shoes. The only PITA was the warm weather meant the snow was balling up underneath my feet which made the ‘shoes very heavy every once in a while. As I worked my way higher the road became quite over grown in places. I started noticing pink ribbons though and for the rest of the hike every time the trail became indistinct I would look for a ribbon and there would almost always be one or two to guide me on.
The road doesn’t run out completely until you’re already on the north ridge of Hoffman, just before the trail turns dramatically steeper. From this point on I followed a line of pink ribbons up a steep hill and then through a patch of fallen timber before finally breaking out of the trees just before the summit bump. The sun was brilliantly warm and I hiked the whole day in my long sleeved t-shirt. What a great way to spend a Saturday in late November. I felt privileged to be out in the woods all by myself in such a gorgeous, peaceful setting.
After enjoying the windy summit, I descended back to tree line where I enjoyed a lengthy lunch break before heading down. Unlike Missinglink, Hoffman is all downhill from the summit and I made very short work of the 4km back to the river. I re-waded across the Sheep River in my snowshoes, this time I got a little damp, and made it back to the car in around 3 hours round trip time. I enjoyed Hoffman immensely – it’s too bad the bridge is out because I’m not sure it’ll get rebuilt any time soon. I guess it means less traffic on the mountain if you choose to do it.