January 26, 2018. A solo, easy snowshoe trip to the shoulder of a low mountain in the Crowsnest Pass, with a challenging extension up towards the summit.
Wedge Mountain, the so-called “poor man’s Crowsnest Mountain”, was my objective on my latest outing in the Crowsnest Pass. It has a wide, easy trail that begins by skirting the southern end of the mountain, then climbs steadily along its south-east slope to a clearing. The trip is described in Nugara’s A Beginner’s Guide to Snowshoeing in the Canadian Rockies and features an optional, challenging extension which ascends to the summit. The weather on the day was variably cloudy, with occasional bursts of snow. I figured this trip was ideal, since the walk along the trail presented minimal hazard in the even of inclement weather, and the extension to the summit offered a chance for some challenge if the weather was favourable.
Access is reasonably straight-forward, and on good roads. Follow Highway 3 west, through Coleman until you see the turn (north) toward the Mcgillivray Staging Area. This is 61 St. Take the first right onto 22 Ave and immediately take the left fork of the road onto 23 Ave. Follow this winding road for a ways and you’ll eventually see big power lines following a wide cut-line. There are big clearings here to park in, and a little bulletin board kiosk is present. Copy and paste these coordinates and Google Maps will drop a pin on the spot: 49.656034, -114.535601
The route sets off following the power lines towards the east, crossing a small bridge and a cattle guard. Shortly, the trail peels away from the power lines and proceeds northeast, steadily climbing. The views looking ahead are nothing special. Unfolding to the left as you climb are views of the summit. Looking back over your shoulder, you’ll be able to see Chinook Peak on the other side of the valley. On the day of my trip the peaks were wrapped in low cloud and light snow was falling, limiting the views but adding to the atmosphere. Eventually the trail passes a pipeline access point, then continues upward towards a clearing. The peak of this trail features a corrugated metal pipe sticking up from the ground. A short distance beyond, to the northeast, the trail descends into the adjacent valley. Standing there at the top, you get a decent view down the valley and can see adjacent Saskatoon Mountain.
By the time I reached that spot, the weather had begun to clear. It only took about 35 minutes to get that far, so I had plenty of afternoon left ahead of me. The route to the summit rose of to my left, ascending the south-east aspect of the mountain heading through trees towards the ridge. I saw some flagging from time-to-time on the trees, but eventually I lost track of those. There was also a day-old set of footprints heading up, but these stopped about halfway up to the ridge. Sections of this trail were quite steep, through deep snow, and I was very glad to have heel-lifts on my snowshoes. Eventually I gained the ridge, which had a small clearing with views to the south. Unfortunately, trees blocked the view to the north towards Crowsnest Mountain.
Here, I took a hard left turn and followed the ridge to the west and slightly south through some trees. I eventually reached a final, rather steep pitch. Off to my left I could see exposed rock. I found a spot that looked climb-able and almost made it up. I got to a point where I could see above the steep pitch up to the smooth, shallow slope heading to the summit. Unfortunately, the snow there was wind-loaded and extremely deep. Progress was difficult, and I wasn’t confident that I could safely get up and back down. I decided to turn around at that point, and made my way back down along more-or-less the same route I ascended.
This was a pretty straight-forward and fun trip. It was a little disappointing to have to turn around right below the summit, but I’m sure I’ll get a chance to try it again some time. The views from the top are apparently well worth the short climb.
My round-trip route was 6.2 km long with 448 m elevation gain. Total trip time was 2h 51m. Click on the pictures in the gallery below for full-sized images.