Mount Haig

August 3, 2019. A straightforward scramble up a peak on the continental divide.

  • Region: Castle Mountain Resort. Traditional territory of the Tsuu T’ina, Ktunaxa, and Blackfoot First Nations
  • Distance: 12.7 km round-trip
  • Total Ascent: 1400 m
  • Elevation of Objective: 2611 m
  • Total time: 5h 47m
  • Safety and Disclaimer
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Earlier in the summer I had set out to climb this peak, but the weather didn’t cooperate. I salvaged my days by exploring the trails to Haig Lake and Paradise Lake, both of which are now being marked and maintained by the Castle Ski Resort. This was fortuitous, as it turned out, because it allowed me to see that there was a better way to approach the ascent ridge of Mount Haig than what’s described in Nugara’s More Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies 3rd ed. Nugara describes ascending Haig Ridge, under the ski lifts, then descending south into Paradise Lake’s valley before once again regaining altitude on the ascent ridge. Now, however, the Paradise Lake trail allows access to the ascent ridge without any un-needed gain and loss of altitude.

I followed the Paradise Lake trail as previously described for a little over 4 km. At this point, after the trail has steeply ascended, crossed the woods and entered the grassy valley,  there’s a distinctive white boulder adjacent to the trail. The trail carries on to the right towards the lake, but I broke off to the left and headed for the eastern ridge of Mount Haig. There were a couple of faint trails that seemed to be heading the right way, and I followed one which seemed to be the most direct one. At this level the ridge is fairly rounded, but it has treeless patches that make it easy to know once you’ve gotten on top. Once on the ridge, I turned right and began to ascend. Route-finding wasn’t an issue here. A few rock bands along the way give a chance for hands-on scrambling. They can be taken head-on for a challenge or you can traverse left to find an easier spot.

To the north, over the edge of the ridge, there are initially views down into Paradise Lake’s valley.  Later, the main ascent ridge crosses the axis of Haig Ridge and there are views down into Haig Lake’s valley. To the south, there are  nice views to the adjacent un-named outliers of Mount Haig.

I reached the summit 3h 15m from the trailhead. There’s a cairn with a register, and excellent views in all directions – Haig is one of the tallest peaks in the area. To the east Victoria Peak, Mount Gladstone and Castle Peak are visible beyond Barnaby Ridge. To the west, the peak of Tombstone Mountain is visible, most of the mountain being obscured by intervening ridges. To the north, Gravenstafel Ridge is immediately adjacent, with Mount St. Elois and Mount Syncline a short distance beyond. Farther north are the peaks of the Crowsnest Pass. To the distant southeast I could even make out peaks in Waterton and Glacier National Parks.

Rather than descending by the same route, I decided to do a loop as suggested by Nugara. This involves following Haig’s northwest ridge to where a subsidiary splits off to form a col with Gravenstafel Ridge, then descending from the low-point on the col into the valley with Haig Lake. From there, the Haig Lake trail can be followed back to the parking area. The main challenge is the descent to the col, which involves down-climbing with some brief exposure on debris-strewn rock. Looking down at the col from the summit, I also made note of some cliff bands to avoid on the descent from the col that wouldn’t be visible from above.

Click on the pictures in the gallery below to access full-sized images.

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Route overview looking west.
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Route overview from above, up is south.
The white boulder marking the point of departure from the main Paradise Lake trail. From here I went ahead and left, up to to the ridge.
The view of Mount Haig from the valley bottom. The ascent is along the ridge on the left.
Up on the ridge, looking towards the summit.
Looking south at one of Haig’s outliers.
An example of the rock bands along the ridge.
Looking over the ridge to the south. Rainy Ridge in the background on the left. One of Haig’s unnamed outliers is across the valley.
Colourful rock along the way.
Looking over the ridge to the north, down to Paradise Lake.
The final rock band to climb before the summit has a distinctive white colour. It presents more of a barrier than the other rock bands since there are no major weaknesses to be found, even after traversing left. It’s not too hard to climb though, and there’s no exposure.
The summit, as seen from an adjacent rocky pinnacle.
The summit. There were two cairns, but the one on the left is on the actual highest point and contains the summit register. Incidentally, not all the big rocks up here are absolutely stable. One shifted pretty suddenly under me, luckily not in a way that sent me over the edge.
Summit panorama encompassing east-south-west. The nearby ridges are unnamed outliers. Rainy Ridge is in the left mid-ground. Tombstone’s summit is peeking over the intervening ridge to the right. In the far background on the left are Gladstone, Victoria, Castle, Drywood and Loaf. Center-left in the distance are Waterton’s Mount Blakiston and Glacier’s Mount Cleveland.
Summit panorama looking west to north. Pyramid-shaped Gravenstafel Ridge is on the right. Behind it is Mount Syncline. Left of Syncline is Mount St. Elois. In the far background the taller peaks of the Crowsnest Pass are visible.
Looking east across the summit. Barnaby Ridge is right across the valley. Gladstone, Victoria and Castle Peak are in the background.
A look at the descent route to the col. I made note of the dark cliffs, so I planned to cross to where the col begins to ascend onto Gravenstafel before starting my descent.
Looking down the sheer cliffs to Haig Lake. Haig Ridge is on the right. This isn’t the same as the ascent ridge to Mount Haig (see the route maps above). There’s an official trail to the top of Haig Ridge, which I imagine would give great views of Mount Haig, Haig Lake, Paradise Lake and Gravenstafel Ridge.
Chinstrap deployed as the wind tries to take my hat.
Looking back after partial descent.
Haig Lake was looking great that day. I kept stopping to take pictures.
Approaching the area of steeper descent and exposure. You can see there’s a faint trail. I resisted the urge to take pictures between here and the col. There wasn’t anything too tricky, but the terrain was rubble-strewn and there was definite exposure, especially on the left. At one point I looked at what I was about to step on and saw daylight. Probing a bit with my pole I saw that there were several flat rocks loosely laying across a gap between two pillars. So – this isn’t a “difficult” scramble, but be careful.
A look back up at the final part of the descent to the col.
Haig Lake and the summit, as I was descending from the col.
After descending from the col I made my way toward the northern limb of the Haig Lake trail. After only minor bushwhacking I was on track and walking back to my car.

8 thoughts on “Mount Haig

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