Yesterday, I headed up Moose Mountain in Kananaskis to check out the fire lookout located on its summit. Not knowing what to expect as for ground conditions, I brought my bike and my snowshoes, hoping that I’d get a little bit of both in. When I arrived at the end of the Moose Mountain road, I couldn’t believe the clear skies ahead of my hike, even though I noticed some low cloud cover creeping up the mountain. Eager to start my trip, I headed through the gated area and down the ‘fire road’ on my bike, enjoying the good biking conditions. As I went a little farther, I realized ‘this isn’t the road’ after the way ended at a sulfur gas transfer station, down a steep hill. Cursing the time wasted, I looked at my Fire Lookouts hiking book and realized there were two gates in the area, but only one of them (the one I didn’t take) was the trailhead. After I returned to the car, I found the other gate and began my hike. I stowed the bike as the trail was alot more snowy than the last one I had been on. However in the past hour, a thick fog began covering the mountain. I tied up my snowshoes to my pack and continued on.
After about 3k, the snow deepened and I continued on with snowshoes. It was crusty snow, making for some quick work as I proceeded through the forest. The snow and ice on the trees was quite neat to see. Going up the ridge was somewhat challenging despite the switchbacks, as much of the snow had hardened due to the wind and cold. The south facing slopes were quite snowbound, but fun nevertheless. As I reached the final ridge before the summit block, I was impressed at how castle-like the summit and lookout looked. Perched high atop a rocky enclave was the fire lookout, quite a sight as it disappeared and reappeared in the clouds. I kept forgetting that Moose Mountain is 2400 some odd metres above sea-level.
Ascending to the lookout was a bit challenging as snow had filled in most of the winding trail to the top. I was glad I had the snowshoes, because I probably could have used crampons in this area due to the hard packed snow. Most times the spiky bottoms on my MSRs gripped the ground fairly well as I scrambled up the side of the summit. After reaching the top (not before slipping between some snow and a large rock 10m from the top — ouch), I couldn’t help but think of being on an airplane. I know higher mountains must be spectacular with the views above the clouds, but I felt I was treated to a neat view anyway. The cloud cover was predominately lower toward the east, covering up the foothills and prairies beyond. Occasionally, it would open to the west, and I was treated to a few mountains, but none that I could recognize. The lookout was interesting as well, surrounded by hand constructed wind-breaking walls of flat rock.
After about 30 minutes eating lunch and almost getting covered in snow when a bunch of it dropped from the antenna, I hoofed it down the mountain and back to the car. Murphy’s law did prevail though, as the mountain started to clear on my way back. Only one hitch to the return trip, after I had got back to the car. Lets just say, I was having flashbacks to a previous time with other ‘peakbaggers’. Thankfully, noone was waiting around for me this time.