Opal Ridge South

Summit Elevation (m): 2575
Trip Date: July 11 2015
Elevation Gain (m): 1000
Round Trip Time (hr): 3.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 7.5
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain something
Difficulty Notes: No major difficulties. Mostly a hike with some easy scrambling up low cliff bands.
Technical Rating: SC5; YDS (Hiking)
GPS Track: Gaia
MapGoogle Maps

The weather forecast for Saturday, July 11 2015 wasn’t optimal for scrambling. I knew it wouldn’t be quite as bad as TheWeatherNetwork was predicting, but I don’t mess around with t-storms and so far have never been caught in one high on a mountain, due to a rigid avoidance of them. I scrapped my original plans to go to Yoho and decided at the last minute to do an easy / short peak that’s been on my radar for a few years already – the south peak of Opal Ridge. (Predictably, the weather was pretty good all day on Saturday and with the benefit of hindsight I now wish I’d stuck to my original plans… c’est la vie!) Nine years ago I did the Kane scramble up Opal Ridge North in February. Reading the trip report now, I didn’t sound that impressed! I’m happy to report that almost a decade later, on the south end of the same ridge; I had a much better impression. I’m sure the warm, sunny weather and blooming flowers had a lot to do with the change of heart.

The route is obvious and easy from Fortress Junction.

I parked at the Fortress Junction gas station, on the far north end of the lot, and started up a small drainage on the north east corner on a trail. About 2 minutes later I noticed ribbons on the left (north) side of the small creek and followed an obvious trail through forest to a road running north-south.

Since I’d made a last minute decision to do this peak, I didn’t have any beta other than a faint memory of Wietse telling me to make sure I went on climber’s left of the obvious drainage. I followed the road north, past a faint trail on climber’s right side of the drainage, which was blocked with some logs. I told myself that all I needed now was an arrow and a ribbon. And guess what? After a few more minutes I crossed an obvious drainage and low and behold; there was a log arrow across the road and a ribbon marking the access trail!! I’m not kidding either – I laughed out loud at how good that wish worked out.

On the upper ridge, looking back, north, as I near the south summit.

The trail is obvious from this point onward. Whenever it got faint I simply searched around a bit and usually had more options than I needed. The sign of a very popular scramble is multiple scree trails and routes and South Opal Ridge has many options, especially on the middle section where it navigates through slabby, cliffy terrain. The scrambling was very tame – this is a perfect first scramble or family scramble. Wildflowers, mountain sheep and great views of familiar peaks kept me company as I wandered up the unrelenting grade to treeline and above.

View of the Opal Range from the summit. Denny, Potts, Evan-Thomas and Packenham all visible.
Another pano of the view to the south, showing the Lower Kananaskis Lake in the far distance and even Joffre through the haze.

A cool “rock gate” gave me access to the upper ridge and from there it was a short hike to the summit. The register was full of recent ascents, including Bob and Dinah the weekend previous – this is a very popular objective. And it should be. It’s short, easy and still has great views and 1000m height gain. I wasn’t feeling 100% but still managed to summit within 2 hours of leaving the truck.

After snapping some summit shots of the scenic Opal Range vistas, I descended for a round trip time of under 3.5 hours. I should have saved this for a family hike, but I enjoyed it enough that I’ll go back some day. Opal Ridge South reminded me very much of King Creek Ridge, another easy scramble that I’ve done more than once.

3 thoughts on Opal Ridge South

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.