We did this hike Saturday July 23, 2016. There was Curtis, Ryan, Sheldon, and myself. The guide books rate this hike as a difficult scramble and difficult hike. After doing this mountain, I would agree.
We decided to get an early start since the hike was only 4-6 hours long. We got up at 4:15 am and met Ryan and Sheldon at 6:00am at McDonald’s. No one in the group had hiked in the Highwood Pass area so it was a first for all of us. The weather forecast was supposed to be warm in the morning and cool with rain in the afternoon. In actuality, it was cold (cold enough for a toque and gloves) in the morning and then decided to get warmer by the time we were fininshing. We pushed on despite being a bit chilled.
After about 30 minutes in the forest, it opened up into the amphitheater and on came the wind. There were times when you had to lean into the wind to keep from being blown around. We were hoping that it would die down (which it didn’t really). This was the easy section, no hard hills or anything of the sort. Just before we started up to the saddle, we came across about a dozen or so big horned sheep just laying around in the rocks. At first, it sounded like a bear or some other large animal. I told the group to grab their bear spray just in case it was a bear. When we rounded the corner, there was nothing (the sheep blended in to the rocks so well). Then we spotted the sheep about 30 feet away.
When we reached the saddle we all looked at the task ahead and cringed a bit because of the sheer steepness, it wasn’t going to be an easy task. The rocks slid with every step up and you really had to watch your footing. It was a gruelling job just to get up to be window (which is a natural forming rock formation that you can see through). We stopped for a bit and rested, the mountain sheltered us from the wind so it was nice to not feel windswept. Onwards and upwards we hiked. The closer we got to the top, the more the clouds rolled in. They were moving faster than us. At one point, the clouds blew over the mountain and swirled around and came back to greet us. The top was extremely windy so we touched the peak and headed down.
We were all a bit hesitant on the way down. We didn’t really want to go the same route because of the difficulties we faced on the way up. We found a nice loose rock stream and were able to scree ski a large portion of the hill. We dodged large boulders, cliffs, and slabs of rock that would have sent us down faster and out of control. It was a much better downhill than up (we only fell a few times). Once back to th saddle, we ate lunch and watched the people come up to the saddle and sit out of the wind. The sun decided to come out at this point so we were blessed with a bit of warmth as we ate.
We headed down after a quick jaunt halfway up the other peak (we decided against it for two reasons, the wind and the fact that we were all getting fatigued). The trip down didn’t take long. We passed the sheep who seemed to have moved 50 feet and stopped. We passed another bunch of people coming up.
When we reached the parking lot, we realized how popular of an area it is. There was no spots left and people were parking on the road, which all made us glad we started early. We were back in Calgay by 2:30.
Be prepared for a difficult scramble with steep sections. We spent more time scrambling than hiking. The views are amazing as it backs on to the Kananaskis Lakes and valley. Well worth it.