Old Baldy | Marble | Corkscrew Mountain

Summit Elevations (m): 1540, 1821, 1904
Trip Date: March 20 2021
Elevation Gains (m): 240, 333, 460
Round Trip Times (hr): 1:10, 1, 1.5
Total Trip Distances (km): 4.5, 3.0, 3.5
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you tripped on your untied shoelace. Pay attention!
Difficulty Notes: Easy hiking up a mix of OHV tracks, light forest and animal trails. 
Technical Rating: OT3

After a very pleasant hike to the Limestone Mountain fire lookout Wietse and I were ready to start playing front range “whack-a-peak” with a few of the small, named summits west of Sundre and east of the Rockies. We drove the ~19km back along the Limestone Compressor Station road back to 734 / hwy 940 before driving back up across the James River towards the parking spot for Old Baldy Mountain. The sun was warm and we were a bit concerned with what condition the spur access road might be in. We found the road no problem and it was in decent shape – muddy but with a fairly good base. We drove across a couple of bridges before arriving at yet another large compressor station and parked out of the way near the start of a snow covered OHV track leading towards our objective.

Roads and Foothills West of Sundre and Caroline. Lots of officially named “mountains” and ridges here to explore in the off seasons. Lots of access roads to get lost and / or stuck on too!!
Old Baldy Mountain Route Map. As with many other “peaks” in this area – the access road is the crux of the trip during the off season.

Considering it only took us just over an hour (round trip) to complete Old Baldy, you can be assured of a fairly short trip report! We hiked up the OHV track as it curved around the north end of Old Baldy before leaving it and starting up the north ridge in light forest. The hiking was actually extremely pleasant once we left the OHV track for the forest. We found ourselves on a carpet of green moss in warm sunshine with chirping birds and a pleasant smell that only occurs in Spring.

After finding bits of animal trail we were treated to a large summit cairn on the treed apex of Old Baldy Mountain. Despite the pleasant hiking there were very limited views from this lowly objective. We didn’t linger long and were soon hiking back down the north ridge.

Despite how pleasant the hiking was, I can’t really recommend this hike for anyone other than a really bored peakbagger looking to pad their summit stats. If you have young children who are just getting into hiking and you’re camping in the area on a hot day this might be a fun little adventure but other than that I’m sure you can find something more worth your time. As we walked back down the OHV track to the car we decided it was time to try another peak – Marble Mountain was intriguing enough to check out. After driving back out to hwy 734 we followed it north to the spur road along Teepee Pole Creek and our access to Marble Mountain’s south ridge.

Marble Mountain Route Map. The crux is the access road to the trailhead off road 734.

The small spur road was not winter maintained and was the most dubious road we drove all day. Sections were dry, but mostly it was a single track in slushy / icy snow with very little room to pass any oncoming vehicles. Ironically it was also the most busy road by far with some trucks and OHV’s on it – presumably these folks were the ones making the area sound like WWII with gunfire ringing out very nearby! We knew Marble was going to be a very short, easy objective. We also knew it was going to be very warm as it was south facing so we left almost all our gear behind and started up an obvious OHV track ascending to the NE up the south ridge. Within 5 minutes of leaving the car the OHV track steepened dramatically and we gained height very quickly in the warm sunshine.

A very pleasant stroll along the OHV track. Limestone visible at distant left.

As the track turned right and avoided a steeper roll in the terrain we stayed straight and ascended through very pleasant, light forest until arriving back at the track higher up just below the summit. We were surprised to run into our first hikers of the day as we topped out to some surprisingly decent views within only around 30 minutes of leaving our parking spot below!

Views south and west (R) include Old Baldy (C) and very distant north Ghost peaks (R).
Summit view north and west (L) includes Limestone Mountain (L) and Hill 1764 (C-R).

The descent was very quick and rather pleasant on the loose OHV track bed. We found ourselves back at the Teepee Pole Creek road less than an hour since leaving it! Once again – nobody is going to drive 6 hours return from YYC to ascend Marble Mountain but if you’re in the area anyway it’s actually a very worthwhile little hike. There are options to make this a much longer trek – the couple we met on the summit hiked up various roads and trails from the north end of the mountain. With daylight and energy left we drove back towards hwy 734 and our next objective of the day – Corkscrew Mountain.

Corkscrew Mountain Route Map. Hwy 734 was not maintained past the label which made for some tricky driving conditions.

We were in pretty good spirits as we cruised north on a very well maintained hwy 940 / 734 towards Corkscrew Mountain. We even started debating a 5th objective for the day, located further up the road from Corkscrew. All of a sudden I noticed that the road looked snow covered just ahead. This seemed very odd! Sure enough – a large sign calmly informed us that the road ahead was not maintained in Winter. Dang it! Just when you get on a role someone decides to stop plowing the dang road for some reason or another… We were a bit apprehensive about continuing up the snow covered road but decided to check things out and at least try to get to the lower SW ridge of Corkscrew for one last hike of the day. For the most part the road was in fairly good condition – at least until it plunged down towards the Clearwater River with a few sharp twists. This section was covered in snow and slush and we didn’t relish the thought of ascending it if / when it became ice. Our plans for a 5th objective died a quick death at this point! We drove the road a bit further until we could park safely at the bottom of the SW ridge of Corkscrew.

Corkscrew Mountain was the least pleasant of our objectives. It certainly wasn’t horrible but with no trail, more moderate bushwhacking and essentially no views, there has to be more engaging hikes than this in the area. There were some interesting landscape features 3/4 of the way up the mountain in form of deep fissures and cracks in the earth. As we crested the summit ridge we found ourselves in knee deep snow for the first time as well – not improving our impressions of this peak. The views from the summit were better than on Marble – there were actually views – but they were all to the east and north along the summit ridge.

The only summit views are of Corkscrew stretching to the north at left and the prairies stretching out to the east.

Within 40 minutes of the road we were turning back down Corkscrew. As usual the descent went quick and easy and soon we were back at the car and hoping the steep slushy hill was still slush and not ice. The road was fine and we made it up the hill no issues and were soon bombing back down 734 to hwy 591 leading towards Caroline. Reflecting on the day, we enjoyed some great spring hiking and managed almost 2k vertical and ~27km of hiking – not bad for some front range bumps and hills! This sort of trip isn’t something we like to do all the time but it’s the perfect kind of spring day that gets done a couple of times each year as the ski season slowly transitions to the hiking / scrambling / climbing one. I can’t say I highly recommend any of the objectives we did other than Limestone Mountain but of the three mentioned here, Marble Mountain is by far the nicest and most scenic.

2 thoughts on Old Baldy | Marble | Corkscrew Mountain

  1. The only reason why I did Corkscrew is because we ended up driving by it in spring 2019(?) and it was a white knuckle drive. Ten inches of snow made the drive particularly spicy. If I woulda gotten stuck I would likely would have had to back down. A prospect I certainly didn’t care for. Regardless I made that drive. Since then I have been wanting to get Corkscrew done, and that happened last year. It was a bit of a sufferfest snowshoeing up through the woods. Does this one make your top ten worst list?

    • Wow! No it doesn’t make that list simply because we had bone dry and easy conditions. If I had to work for it I would be much less generous… 🤔

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