Summit Elevation (m): 1999
Trip Date: December 07 2020
Elevation Gain (m): 860
Round Trip Time (hr): 4
Total Trip Distance (km): 11
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you bruise your ego or sprain your wrist
Difficulty Notes: The crux cliffs can be mostly avoided – but why would you? This is the only scrambling you’ll do all day!
Technical Rating: SC5
Map: Google Maps
Fly Hill is a classic “Spirko hike”. A front range bump with some great views, tiring mid-route height losses and gains and a questionable claim as a “summit” of any official status. 😉 Many of my friends including both Sonny Bou and Matt Clay had done this hike but for some or another reason I hadn’t yet felt inspired to make the drive or the trek myself. With a day off in front of me and one of the last of an incredible string of beautiful late fall conditions to round out 2020 I decided that it was finally time to test myself against the mighty fly in the sky.
Now if you’re like me, you might assume that “Fly Hill” must be close to the 1967 centennial rock display visible from nearby Thunder Mountain. Well, you’re right and you’re wrong. In terms of the rest of the planet, Fly Hill is indeed, close to the display. In hiking terms, however, it is not really that close. You merely hike below the display on your way to “Hill #1” – you barely see it much less get close to it. After a pleasant drive and gorgeous sunrise along hwy 22, I drove my truck up along a small, icy track along Racehorse Creek from hwy 940 before parking at an obvious random camp and the end of anything drivable.
From the small parking spot I wound my way through a barbed wire fence and proceeded up along an obvious track on the NW bank of Racehorse Creek. I was warned by all the other trip reports to expect quite a bit of height loss along my route so I wasn’t surprised to quickly drop back to the creek. From here I should have immediately turned right but I messed around a bit before picking up the route on Hill #1 – thankfully bone dry.
I can’t say that I was exactly thrilled to be out on this particular December day but I also can’t say I wasn’t thrilled. I pondered my confusing state of mind while plodding slowly but steadily up my first hill of the day on dry grass and in light westerly winds. This area, like many others in Kananaskis, has been recently logged which doesn’t improve the views or the mood as you question your life choices one footstep at a time. Ok – it wasn’t that gloomy in my head – but sometimes it’s harder than others to relax into a low key trip and today was just one of those days. I proceeded up and over Hill #1 and despite expecting it, was still somewhat dismayed by the drop and regain on Hill #2. From Hill #2 I could clearly see Fly Hill and Hill #3 and started angling towards it – wondering how much snow I’d be in shortly.
As I dropped down along the east side of Hill #3 I was surprised to see tons of pink flagging along the valley bottom here. I decided to follow it but soon gave up as there was no obvious trail or track. I’m still not 100% sure what the significance of the flagging was – it wasn’t for logging and there was WAY too much of it for any sane use. Seriously people – just use the GPS on your f’ing smart phone and stop with the flagging nonsense already. You claim to love hiking and love nature? Than stop polluting it with bright plastic pink flagging ffs. :eyeroll: Despite trying my hardest to avoid it, I still ended up in knee deep snow up to the col between Hill #3 and Fly Hill. It wasn’t a huge deal – I just had to bear with cold, wet feet the rest of the day.
From the col I proceeded easily up drier ground to the “crux” cliff just below the summit ridge. I’ve rated this “SC5” but you can avoid any scrambling by deviating around to the left (SW) if you don’t like some limited exposure. After 3 minutes of fun on the crux I spent the next 15 or so scrambling and tripping along slick snow covered rocks to the first summit cairn. I think this is the high point – I have no idea why everyone seems to continue along the ridge from here but I decided I’d better make sure there wasn’t a higher point (there isn’t). Views to the east towards the Livingstone front ranges were pretty good and views west to the much more impressive High Rock Range weren’t terrible either.
After taking in the views I retraced my steps down the “crux” and up Hill #3 before descending towards the unnecessary pink flags and Hill #2. My mind went numb for the next 30-45 minutes and soon I was descending steep grass and dirt back to Racehorse Creek. As I hiking back over and then down to the truck I decided that rather than drive ~6 hrs and only hike ~4, I might as well try for another small summit in the area that I’d been considering and proceeded to drive over to it.