Summit Elevations (m): 1914 (Swany’s), 1938 (Îyarhe Îpan), 1981 (Quirk)
Trip Date: Wednesday, June 03, 2020
Elevation Gain – (m): 865
Round Trip Time (hrs): 4.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 27.5
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain your ego.
Difficulty Notes: Despite the distance there are no difficulties on this bike ‘n hike as long as you stay on the right roads on approach to the ridge.
Technical Rating: OT3; YDS (Hiking); RE2/3
GPS Track: Download
When I moved to the SW quadrant of Calgary last summer I quickly realized how convenient the front ranges near Bragg Creek were compared to when I lived in the NE. After work hikes and scrambles became much more realistic for me. Now that I’m working from home thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic I save an hour of commuting after work and that’s another hour of daylight available for hiking and scrambling. One of the first sets of ridges and peaks I added to my “after work list” was the trifecta of Îyarhe Îpan, Swany’s Ridge and Quirk Ridge. The reason they got added to my list so quickly was simple – 52 ascents of Prairie Mountain which is situated directly across the road and the Elbow River! Since the only route I knew of consisted of crossing the Elbow River, I was waiting until summer or even fall to finally tackle them. Then I read a social media post from Matt Clay where he and “other Matt” (Hobbs) completed a bike ‘n hike from the McLean Creek area. This route looked like much more fun than a river crossing and I instantly added it to my sooner-than-later list.
I arrived at the trailhead west of the McLean Creek camping area and was on my bike around 15:45. I haven’t biked very much this year but despite that and the fact that I was pretty tired, I managed to cruise along the easy Husky Access Road pretty good. There were a bunch of roads and trails on either side of the road and as it started to turn and rise towards Swany’s it changed into a logging road and my legs started to get a workout. I managed to bike pretty high before I finally gave up and pushed my two-wheeled steed up some steeper sections of road. About 50 minutes and 9 km from the trailhead I ran out of road just below the col between Quirk Ridge North and Swany’s Ridge.
From where I left my bike I hiked upward to the ridge above, traversing to the col through light(ish) forest. When I ran into silliness I simply hiked uphill until I intersected an obvious dirt bike trail running between North Quirk and Swany’s. I followed this track to the summit of Swany’s, reaching my first summit at 17:00 to better views than I was expecting. After snapping some pics I started an easy looking descend down SW slopes towards Îyarhe Îpan.
The descent slope to Îyarhe Îpan was bushier than it first looked. I was prepared thanks to Matt’s trip report but somehow it still caught me off guard a bit. It certainly isn’t horrible bushwhacking but you’ll get a scratch or two despite your best effort! This theme continued up the south ridge to the summit of Îyarhe Îpan. There’s been some blow down events recently and even though there was a faint trail weaving in, around and under the deadfall, it obviously didn’t avoid everything. Even though there was views from the summit, I traversed a bit further north for some great views, especially west and north.
The Matts had descended to their bikes after hiking Îyarhe Îpan but I was planning to add one more peak to the evening. It was only around 17:45 as I started back down Îyarhe Îpan’s south ridge. I avoided reascending Swany’s by taking a curving traverse across its south slopes before joining the dirt bike track leading up to Quirk Ridge North. I was wondering why this “summit” had a separate name but there were some great views from the top and Quirk Ridge looked quite far yet from there.
The highlight of my evening was hiking between Quirk Ridge North and Quirk Ridge. The views over Quirk Creek towards Forget-me-not Mountain and the Fisher Range rising beyond was magical. Many folks might wonder why I bother with these easy hikes but it’s definitely all about moments like this. Hundreds of Pasqueflowers and carpets of Shooting Stars added color to the scene of greens and blues. The dirt bike trail continued right over Quirk Ridge’s summit but I did not. I took some more photos and turned back down slope.
From Quirk Ridge North I started my descent directly back to the road and my bike through the same light forest I’d approach on a few hours previous. This worked great and soon I was packing up to start a fast ride to the truck. And FAST it was!! I love bike exits and this one was no exception. It certainly made me excited for many more bike approaches for 2020. Zipping along in my lowest gear with forest zipping past on either side, I’m sure I had a giant smile on my face the entire time. It only took about 20-25 minutes to bike the 9 km back to my truck and that included stops for photos. I highly recommend this quick and scenic trip for an after work or half day outing. It took me less than 4.5 hours to do all 3 peaks and includes a fast and fun bike ride at the end of it all.