After a couple of previous tries, Murray and I headed to the top of Blackrock Mountain in the Ghost
River Wilderness area of North Kananaskis Country on Sunday. Blackrock mountain is home to one of the higher historical fire lookouts in Alberta. With a replacement lookout at Mockingbird Hill, this lookout was retired around the 1950s due to its harsh weather and difficult traverse for resupply. While hiking to the top, we wondered why they would have even considered sustaining a lookout in such a blustery and relatively remote location!
Getting to Blackrock takes about an hour drive from Calgary, including navigating a 15 km dirt road
off of Forestry Trunk Road 940, northwest of Cochrane. Thankfully, I’ve seen the dirt road improve over the past couple of years and its a relatively fast trip. If you bring a 4X4, you can cut off 4 more kms of hiking along the riverbed. If not, getting to the top requires 9 kms of hiking one way. After the 4 kms on the river bed, look for the bend in the old river (where you have a full view of Blackrock Mountain), the trail-head is marked with a small sign. From there, the climb to the top involves heading through forest switchbacks and narrow trail until you reach the tree-line. Once above the tree-line, the trail heads through a break in the cliffs, while you continue on toward the flat ridge top
which eventually leads to the summit climb. Near the top, there is short bit of scrambling
. Overall, we took six hours, choosing to snack and layer up / layer down fairly often when required.
It was fairly cool in Airdrie (-5 C ) when we left and I was expecting it to be fairly chilly in the
mountains. However, I wouldn’t expect it to be as cold as it was when we neared the final summit climb — with winds at 30-40kms an hour adding to the wind chill. Because of the cold, we had donned several layers of
lothing and our ski masks. Even with long-johns, my legs were very cold and any exposed skin was even worse. However, despite the cold on the top, the relatively clear skies made for some incredible views of the front range and the foothills. One of the higher peaks, Mount Alymer (Banff) was full with snow and frequently covered in storms. Quite a contrast to the clear skies we enjoyed. Of course, the prominent Devils Head (or Thumb) was impressive from a view at our proximity to it. From the summit, you could see some of the cool rock formations that circle that particular mountain. Sadly, the summit canister was damaged, with the register nowhere to be found.