Shunda Mountain (Baldy Fire Lookout)

Summit Elevation (m): 2090
Trip Date: Saturday, June 06, 2020
Elevation Gain (m): 365
Round Trip Time (hrs): 1.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 5
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 1/2 – you fall, you sprain your ego and should likely quit drinking while hiking.
Difficulty Notes: No difficulties. You literally walk up a road. Yes, it’s steep and loose in places but it’s a ROAD. This is a great “aunt Edna” hike. Assuming she’s in a good mood and wearing appropriate hiking footwear. 
Technical Rating: TL1; YDS (Hiking)
GPS Track: Gaia
Map: Google Maps

After hiking up and scrambling down Coliseum Mountain near the town of Nordegg on Saturday June 6th in very unexpected sunny weather, Wietse and I turned our attention to the even easier and shorter Shunda Mountain to the NW. Why did we bother with such a junior objective? Honestly, we had three choices at this point of our day. We could attack a larger objective in the area such as Eagle Ridge & Mountain and run the risk of t-storms which were building and add another 1000+ meters and 20 km to the 700 and 10 we’d already done. We could go home. Or we could enjoy a nice simple hike in gorgeous weather and get back home to our families on time. 99 times out of 100 we would have taken the first choice, this was the 1 time we settled. Don’t count on it again for a while.

Shunda Mountain / Baldy Fire Lookout Route Map
Shunda Mountain / Baldy Fire Lookout Route Map

We drove up the well maintained Shunda Mountain access road as it steepened to a gate blocking further access. Most 2-wheel drive vehicles will have no trouble with this road when dry. We saw minivans and cars at the trailhead. In case the gate is open when you get there you should know that the road beyond is significantly steeper, looser and narrower than the one that precedes the gate and is more suited to OHV’s. There were at least 6 other vehicles at the small trailhead. We marched up the road, quickly gaining height on the loose gravel. The afternoon sun was hot and we were surprised how steep the road was. Shunda is higher than Coliseum but the elevation gain is much less since you drive half way up the dang hill (when snow free).

Hiking up the steep, loose road on Shunda Mountain. It was bloody hot!

We passed several families on the hike – this is even more family friendly than Coliseum since it’s shorter with half the height gain and similar or even better views. Aunt Edna AND Uncle Billy would both enjoy this one – assuming they have quit their pack-a-day habits from earlier in the year…

Views north from a bench just below the summit over the approach road. The Bighorn Range stretches north at left.

Near the summit we deviated off trail and bee-lined to the top. Unlike previous experiences with closed lookouts and less-than-impressed attendants, this particular fire lookout was very cheerful and welcoming. She and her dog greeted us warmly from atop her perch and invited us to go anywhere we wanted to take in the impressive views. She deserves kudos for being so friendly – this is important for such a busy place that is a big hike for many who attempt it and reach the top.

The Baldy Fire Lookout.

I had my telephoto lens on this hike (I left it in the car on Coliseum) and greatly enjoyed the incredible views over Abraham Lake and south to Ya Ha Tinda and down the Ram Range. Views north up the Bighorn Range were unfamiliar but equally impressive. The weather remained beautiful as we slowly started hiking back down the road. Near the top we got blasted by a few OHV’s so be aware of this if you hike here. The leading bike sprayed me with gravel – that’s how close they charged past! Uncle Billy would probably get all grumpy about stuff like that but I’m a cheerful bloke and shrugged it off with admirable restraint.

Views west to Abraham lake and the Ram (L) and First (R) Ranges include, Falls Lookout (L), Onion, Sufi, Kista, Phoebe’s Tit (Michener), Elliott Peak, Sentinel Mountain, Mount Hensley, Windy Point Ridge, Lioness Peak, Resolute Mountain, Abraham Mountain, Allstones Peak and Hangman Peak (R).
Views to the north from Shunda Mountain include many unfamiliar Rockies peaks.
Views to the Ram Range and south to Ya Ha Tinda (L).

The descent was steep and loose but obviously quick. Within 1.5 hours of leaving the parking lot we were back and that included quite a bit of time at the summit. I highly recommend this small hike for its big views and easy ascent but be ready for a steep and very loose road that small people (i.e. kids) might struggle with a bit.

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