Distance: 17 km (return)
Elevation Gain: 1100 m
How To Get There: Head west on Hwy 1 and take the turnoff for Hwy 40 K country trail. Take the first left after the Wasootch sign on the right hand side after the Barrier lake information center. Take the trail behind the dark green trail sign (the ridge hike is not listed on the sign).
Southern Alberta has been absolutely blessed with sunny spring weather this year so far! So on Sunday morning, I decided to make the long drive from Edmonton (after visiting my brother) to the trailhead for Wasootch Ridge. And I am so glad I did! Hiking conditions were absolutely perfect with nothing but blue skies the whole day.
This was the second time I would be hiking solo but I didn't have any reason to be worried. I was not the only one who wanted to take advantage of a warm spring day. When I reached the trailhead at 10:30 am, the parking lot was already almost full! After gathering my gear (and making the painful mistake of forgetting my sunscreen) I started up the trail.
Immediately, it takes your breath away…and not in the "wow, so pretty" kind of way. It's basically a straight up hike for the first 2 km.
There are a few curves in the trail and one or two flatter spots but no switchbacks so prepare yourself for a grueling start to the day. The grind upwards is completely worth it once you make your way to the start of the ridge. Immediately you are greeted with the south view of the valley and Wasootch Creek.
As you continue to make your way up the ridge, the north side comes into view and suddenly you are given a panoramic view of the entire mountainous landscape with Mount Lorette in the backdrop behind you.
Once you get yourself to the top of the ridge, you are rewarded with about 6 km (give or take, depending how far you go) of amazing scenery. As you make your way towards the summit, there are a few dips and peaks so it's not a straight walk the entire way.
Every now and again you will be descending back down into the trees and then back up above the tree line.
After a few more kilometers, the dips and peaks remain but the trees disperse as you slowly make your way up past the tree line permanently.
Finally, you reach a cairn on the top of a ridge hill. This is where a lot of people decide to turn back as the next 3 km is more of a scramble.
I decided to keep going to see how far I could get. Almost right away the ridge gets much more narrow and much more rocky. I reached a rock fin that seemed a bit too narrow to climb over, so I decided to try and skirt to the right of the ridge and come back up the other side. However, about half way down the side of the ridge, I realized there were a few other hikers on top and I didn't want to risk a rock falling down on me, especially because I didn't have a helmet. So I scrambled back up and followed the hikers over the fin. It was very narrow but there were a few small spruce trees protruding out that I was able to grasp onto.
At this point, I had begun to develop a blister on my ankle so I realized that I wouldn't be able to go much further. After another 200 meters or so, I spotted a group of three hikers eating their lunch up on a large boulder hill. There was even a large branch sticking out on top so I took this as a sign that this is where I should stop and eat my lunch.
After scrambling up the boulders and finding my own spot to sit, I was once again blown away by the beautiful view. I sat so that I was facing the Porcupine Ridge to the north and began eating my lunch of corn nuts, trail mix and cliff bars.
There was a brief moment where I considered going on to the summit but I knew it would be a mistake. The very top of Wasootch Ridge would have to wait for another day. So I turned back and began the long trek home.
At this point, the sun was even higher and there was barely a breeze. It warmed the pines around me and made the air smell absolutely amazing.
Though there are still some snowy patches along the ridge, especially as you make your way up to the cairn, the warm weather has melted most of it away, making Wasootch Ridge a fantastic shoulder season hike. It's like a dream as you walk along the ridge with views of the mountains on either side of you. I absolutely loved it. I wouldn't really recommend this hike for a beginner or for people who want to bring their children along as it is a bit of a workout and there is some technical elements to it (by the time I was making my way down the last descent, my legs were shaking).
But if you're looking to get some experience with scrambling, I would definitely start with this ridge! The views alone make it worth the effort!EndFragment