Summit Elevation (m): 1555
Trip Date: Sunday, April 22, 2018
Elevation Gain (m): 300
Round Trip Time (hr): 2
Total Trip Distance (km): 7.5
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 1 – you fall, you’re stupid
Difficulty Notes: No difficulties other than navigating a myriad of route possibilities and possibly early season wood ticks and / or Grizzlies.
Technical Rating: OT3; YDS (Hiking)
Since it was a gorgeous day and it only took me approximately 2 hours to bag my first summit of the day, I figured I might as well wander up a couple more summits before heading back to the concrete jungle. I drove a few kms back along Maclean Creek trail (hwy 549) before parking near another well site belonging to Pengrowth, along yet another access road. I chose to leave the snowshoes in the truck for this hike, and proceeded up the road in very pleasantly warm sunshine. I was questioning my choice to leave the ‘shoes behind as I forked off the main (dry) road and started up an icy / snowy side track leading towards the lower Jack Hill. Thankfully this side road was mainly icy and I was following tracks which held up in the cool shade. It was only as I paid more attention to the tracks that I realized a pretty big Grizzly had made them!!
I have to admit to pausing a few moments to consider the odds of running into the large bruin and how much I felt like a solo bear encounter on this otherwise lovely, peaceful day. Hiking solo has its perks, but also major downsides – getting mauled by a hungry bear just done hibernating being among the biggest of these. Ah well. If I turned back on every hike with fresh bear tracks I wouldn’t be nearing 600 summits would I? It was one of those “suck it up and keep walking” moments, so that’s what I did. After a slight height loss, I finally started up Jack’s Hill on bare grass.
I thought it was interesting that the views from Jack’s Hill were much better than Death’s Head as I easily crested the summit and looked back. I didn’t linger too long in the warm sunshine, as I knew I’d be back on snow towards the higher Jill’s Hill to the north.
I was right about the snow to Jill’s Hill! Thankfully it still held my weight for the most part (even without snowshoes), at least until I found myself wallowing knee to crotch deep right at the col and for the first part up Jill’s Hill. That sucked a bit, but was so short it didn’t really matter. My head was still on a bit of a swivel as I followed sheep detritus up Jill’s Hill – I really didn’t want to run into a recent Griz kill or anything. Thankfully that didn’t happen and soon I was enjoying the view from just under the high point, which I tagged and returned to the lower point for the better views.
After a nice break in warm sunshine and very little wind I decided to trek back. I descended the south ridge of Jill’s Hill before taking a 90 degree turn to my right and intersecting another exploration road running through the valley to the west. (There were no obvious trails on either hill – just a very faint track in the grass that could have been from the many ungulates in the area.) I followed the network of roads back to my approach track, which I followed back to the dry road and my waiting truck. I was tempted to add a fourth summit to the day with a hike up Sinnot Hill, but the amount of snow and the warm air around me kept me from this plan.
All in all, it was a great spring day in the foothills. There’s still more snow out there than I’ve usually experienced in later April but the fresh air and exercise hasn’t changed any. I highly recommend these hikes as training days or short afternoon / evening rambles in the summer when bigger objectives might not be feasible.