On Thursday, with a bit of a late start, I ventured back to the Livingstone area of Kananaskis
Country to reattempt my trek from Hailstone Butte to Sentinel Peak. I had first tried this trip a couple of weeks ago. This time, I was successful — but not without a bit of difficulty! By far, the most challenging part of the trip was the wind. I’ve never encountered wind as I had experienced throughout this hike. For the majority of the trip (while high on the
mountains), I had to walk with my body slanted at an angle to prevent from being blown over. In most places, I stayed well clear of the edges, often adopting a line just below the ridge to avoid the obvious danger of being blown about. The 10 or so kilometres of exposure to the wind made for a tiring day. In the return trip, I decided to avoid the ridge all-together, choosing to come back via the PetroCanada road. After I got back, I checked the weather conditions and the sustained wind in K-Country was 55km/h, with gusts of 101 km/h, and a -17 windchill (this was at Nakiska, about 80 kms north). No wonder I was flyin around everywhere.
As for the hiking route, this time I started at Gillean Daffern’s descent route, just south of the
"Hump" along Johnson Creek road. It was a perfect place to start, I avoided all the snowy cornices that had blocked my way last time. Once I gained the ridge, it was pretty straight forward walking and climbing the elevation to the top of Hailstone Butte. Once atop, I noticed a snow cloud to the west — and given the wind, expected it to hit soon (which it did). As I approached the lookout, the snow and wind were at full force. I continued along, struggling to take pictures as my hands were getting cold every time I took my mitts off. Despite the wind, I did enjoy the ridge walk along Hailstone! Once near the end of the ridge, I descended to the valley bottom near the fire road connecting to Sentinel Pass. I was immediately reminded of a trip on the bikes from 2005. As I descended to the valley, the snow gradually got deeper and deeper, with some sections well over my waist. The snow was very powdery though, allowing for me to push through. I even saw a white ptarmigan nestled in the snow.
The way to Sentinel Peak was a relatively short, as I skirted around the southwest side of an
adjoining ridge. The sky began to clear, but the strong wind remained as I began the short trek to the top of Sentinel Peak. As I continued along, I realized that I hadn’t stopped for more than 15 minutes or so in the whole day due to the wind and I was feeling quite drained. Because my camelbak had frozen and I didn’t want to risk opening my pack in the heavy wind and a lack of shelter, not to mention the quickly setting sun, I seemed to continue on without much to eat or drink during the whole day. By the time I had reached Sentinel Peak, I had already had a few leg cramps — which were a first for me while hiking. When I got to the top, I took a few pictures sheltered behind a rock pile, trying to seek some relief from the wind. After only a minute or two, I headed
back down to the valley bottom, with a quick trip to the tree-line for some immediate reprieve. I had had enough of the wind! I guess the trail descriptions are pretty accurate saying "Mach 2" wind conditions on most days.
The way back was uneventful other than deep snow along the fire road. I trudged the last 7
kilometres along the road way thinking about the similarities to yet another trip I had done with Kris, way back in 2003. (I had lots of time for reminiscing!) The hike had excellent views, but at over 18 kms of travel, I’d advise going on a calm(er) day if you can help it. See lots of photos on my flickr site.