*The net elevation change is only 880m, but the ridge walk (and then the return ridge walk) add to the total ascent for the day. Alternate descent routes could knock about 150m off the total
Now that we’re firmly in shoulder season I figured it was a good time to visit Ruby Ridge. It is one of Nugara’s peaks in More Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies 3rd ed. Based on Nugara’s description and Bob Spirko’s trip report I figured I’d be on relatively safe terrain in the event conditions were unfriendly. The mountain itself is not tall, and the terrain via the usual route isn’t too inspiring. What Ruby Ridge has going for it is location: it sits next to Waterton’s two tallest mountains and offers views south towards Cameron Lake and the peaks of Glacier National Park beyond.
I was lucky enough to experience a temperature inversion on the day of my climb. An inversion is a phenomenon wherein the usual temperature gradient is inverted: instead of the air getting colder as you ascend, it gets warmer. The cold air is stuck down low and clouds form at lower altitudes near the interface between the hot and cold air. If you’re up on a mountain you’re treated to warm temperatures and striking views of the tops of clouds. The inversion made for a memorable day on Ruby Ridge.
Access is via the Lineham trailhead along the Akamina Parkway in Waterton. The large, clearly signed parking area is 9 km up the Parkway from the Waterton townsite. I followed the Lineham Falls trail for about 1.8 km to where the trail intersected the broad, open ridge line coming down from the right. The initial ascent was a slog on open grassy slopes which eventually changed to scree. Rocky outcrops eventually came into view and I headed towards those so I could have more supportive footing. After an initial very steep ascent the grade levelled off a bit. There was no route-finding involved. I just continued climbing until I saw a couple of high-points of yellow rock to the left and a line of grey rock bands to the right. The summit is more to the right at this point, so I headed for the grey rock and was soon at the summit. It took about 1h 55m to this point.
The star attraction of this scramble is Ruby Ridge’s neighbour – Aahkoinimailsták (Mount Blakiston). The mountain’s stark southeast aspect is in full view with diminutive Ruby Lake sitting in the valley below. To the west, Mount Lineham’s east face looks very impressive, and it is possible to look into the hidden valley of the three Lineham Lakes sitting above the headwall of Lineham Falls. Cameron Lake is visible down the valley to the south.
This point is the true summit of Ruby Ridge, but the slightly lower summit to the east is only about 1.5 km away and the trip makes for a fun ridge walk. Up to this point there is no real scrambling along the route, but the trip to the east summit involves down-climbing three rock bands to a col. The rock bands do not represent a major hazard provided you can pick out a good route to down-climb. I ended up doing a little bit of hands-on scrambling on my descent. In general trending left on the descent made for easier terrain. The third rock band was the trickiest. There’s nothing particularly exposed, luckily. From the col I ascended the easy slopes back up a little over 100 m to the eastern summit. It took less than an hour from the western summit. The views aren’t dramatically different from there but it’s a worthwhile ridge walk. On the day of my trip I had a better view of the low clouds caused by the inversion from the east summit.
For the return trip, some people descend south from the col and find their way by various routes down to the road or the trailhead. I just retraced my steps – I felt like doing a little scrambling and the climb back up the rock bands to the true summit was enjoyable. I also wanted to spend more time admiring Lineham and Blakiston rather than putting them to my back by descending southeast from the col. After getting back to the western summit I visited two rocky high points a short way to the west before descending back to the Lineham Falls trail.
Click on the pictures in the gallery below to access full-resolution images.