canada general hiking trip reports

North-nearly-over Ridge

Grandmothers are very handy for enabling quality adventuring time with Alex. So handy, that we took advantage of one more opportunity, and had a go at running Northover Ridge with Al and Lincoln.

This year the southern side of the lake trail had re-opened, with the flood damage largely repaired.

We did a slightly better job of picking a route around Hidden Lake this time (compared to last year), and flew up the trail above it to the scree beneath Mount Sarrail.

Sadly wildflower season was basically over by this time though, so we missed out on the gorgeous splashes of colour. There are some advantages to going slightly later in the season though – especially with the amount of snow that still remained on the ridge!

We ran around Aster Lake to the south – which was much drier than the northern shores, hurrah.

As we hiked up towards Warrior Mountain, I tried to take a photo of Aster Lake. Somehow I managed to turn on this weird postcard mode – I have no idea how it happened, or where the setting for it is, or even how I managed to turn it back to normal photo mode really.

But from there on, it was just scree, scree, scree, scree…

Scree, scree, tarns and scree.

Scree, scree, scree, people, tarns and scree.

Until finally we hit the ridge. Where it was quite cold and windy! Actually, mostly windy.

But still breathtakingly beautiful of course.

We trotted along, stopping for photo breaks, and to throw snowballs.

It was around this point where we had an epic battle with a wizard. We distracted his dragon while Al and Lincoln ran off to the end of the ridge. But Alex and I were unable to defeat him, and thus made a strategic retreat, luring his attentions away so that the others could successfully make it down via Three Isle Lake.

We turned back the way we had come, which had the advantage for Al and Lincoln of a car coming around to pick them up at the end, and for us of seeing what it’s like to descend on the anti-clockwise loop. A completely different trail! Well, obviously not literally a completely different trail, but a very different feel.

Back to the car, another awesome day in the mountains where we weren’t defeated by any wizards. Legs are a bit sore though, and feeling quite hungry.

Distance: 35km (For going clockwise around the loop, getting nearly all the way to the end of the ridge before turning back)
Elevation gain: 1850m

canada general hiking trail running trip reports

The amazing Northover Ridge

First of all, a taster of what lies ahead:

We’d all been talking about running Northover Ridge for a while. The plan had always been to do it in a day, and finally we had chosen the day. Many folks were invited, but in the end it was just the four of us who made it. Debate began about how long it might take us, what gear we should take, and how early we should leave Canmore.

We settled on a 6am departure from Canmore, which crept a little later, and after the one hour drive down to Kananaskis Lakes, and getting gear together, it was 7.50am before we set off. We were parked at the northern carpark at Upper Kananaskis Lake. Part of the southern section of the lake was closed, so the plan was to run out and back via the north shore of Upper Kananaskis Lake.

After running for a while, we hit the turn-off to Hidden Lake, and were instantly slowed to a crawl, as we clambered over, under, and through the snarl of fallen trees along the eastern shore of the lake. The trail was easy enough to follow though, just not easy going.

It was up and away once we reached the south of the lake, as the trail climbed steeply through the forest and out onto the open scree slopes of Mount Sarrail.

The Kananaskis Lakes shimmered in the distance behind us, and white fluffy clouds made the sky seem even bluer. We met a couple of groups on their way down from the Aster Lake campground, but by and large had the trail to ourselves, as we continued to climb up to Aster Lake.

Eventually we popped over an edge and into the Aster Lake basin. Sadly, the lake was not wildly picturesque, but instead a dingy brown colour. I am in the process of drafting a letter of complaint to Parks Canada about the poor state of their lakes.

We had a brief snack stop at the lake, but then pushed onwards and upwards, around the south shore of the lake, and up the scree between Warrior Mountain and Mount Northover.

The clouds were getting a little cloudier at this point, and the breeze a little windier.

I marched along with a little trepidation, as I eyed off the clouds and the wind suspiciously, hoping neither would conspire to prevent us from being able to hike the ridge. We wouldn’t be at the half-way point of the day until we were well and truly along the ridge, so I struggled with my internal monologue, trying to find sensible justifications for continuing on no matter what the weather was doing.

We re-grouped as we drew closer to the scree slope we would climb to gain the ridge. In the photo below you can see a couple of black dots further along the trail – we were to overtake them half way up the scree slope; they were overnight hikers travelling with enormous heavy packs. The path to the top of the ridge lay in the grey slope directly above them, although to get to the path up, you first had to traverse almost all the way to the snow.

Looking back down the scree slope, towards Northover Tarns and Warrior Mountain

And then we were on the ridge! And it was wonderful! There was even a glacier!

But wonders never cease, as we then got to hike along the ridge for a few more kilometres… it was largely wide enough that we could have easily been running, but we were too busy admiring the views. And trying not to be blown off.

Then, sadly, it was all over. There had only been a couple of narrow points, nothing that was too tricky, although I’d probably not take anyone up there who wasn’t happy with heights and exposure.

And so, we dropped down, and said our final farewells to British Columbia (as the ridge follows the provincial lines).

An awful scree slope took us back down into Alberta. Doing the trail clockwise definitely seems like the best option.

Before we dropped down to Three Isle Lake, we spent some time frolicking in a meadow full of wildflowers.

Looking back to our path travelled across the river plain

Three Isle Lake

We kept going by Three Isle Lake, and lost a lot more altitude as we followed the trail down by the flood-ravaged Three Isle Creek.

From here on, there were quite a few places where the trail had been re-routed due to flood damage.

But, we started running again!

Although we eventually lost motivation over the last couple of kilometres of rough trail, and settled back into a steady plod. All of a sudden, we were at the car! And there were cupcakes, and stashed food of all sorts.

I stood waist-deep in the lake eating my cupcake. Jacket on top, but naught but underpants, socks and sneakers on my bottom half, as I stood in the water, soaking my legs for 10 minutes, to ensure they’d be feeling wonderful again tomorrow (it works wonders!). All were in awe of my trend-setting fashionista ways. Meanwhile, Kim actually jumped in for the full submersion experience.

Overall, highly recommended, five stars, would run again!

Distance: 35km
Elevation gain: 1,610m
Time: About 10 hours