When I heard there was a major winter storm coming down through Calgary and the Rockies to the west on Sunday, November 9th I decided that as much as I didn't feel like getting up early on Saturday the 8th - I should probably try to make it a priority before the deep freeze. One last warm fall hike / scramble in 2014!
After emailing with Ben and Steven we settled on Evangeline Peak in the Ya Ha Tinda region of the front ranges, just west of Sundre, Alberta. I'd never been to this area, while Ben and Steven made a few excursions there in 2013. Sundre is an easy enough drive from Calgary (~1.5 hours) but that's only about half way, time-wise. After picking up Steven and Ben we drove another hour to the parking lot near the Big Horn Campground. This campground is free to stay at - somewhat rare nowadays.
[A nice sunrise just before arriving at the Big Horn Campground and the end of the road.]
[An outlier of Labyrinth Mtn and sunrise]
[The sign at the trailhead - can be read clearer on the Parks Canada web site]
After gearing up we started our prairie walk along Big Horn Creek in temps that were warmer than expected. The Ya Ha Tinda area is quite different from other front range areas, such as the Ghost, because there is a range of mountains surrounding a tall-grass prairie / valley instead of a simple transition from prairie to mountains. There are a confusing number of trails around the Big Horn Falls area, but using the map I've provided and common sense should help find the right mountain! ;) We followed horse trails past a turnoff to "Poplar Ridge" (Steven wryly commented that it didn't say "Popular Ridge"...) before finally plunging into the bush when the GPS showed we were on the lower east flank of Evangeline.
[Gearing up - as you can see, there's no snow! It's hard to know just how warm it'll get in conditions like this but you have to play it safe.]
[A very different Rockies view - and very scenic.]
[Big Horn Falls is an ice climb later in the season. ++]
We used a combination of logged areas, animal trails and bushwhacking to ascend to tree line. The bush wasn't bad at all and we were very surprised by the complete lack of snow and even wind as we got higher. Eventually we cracked tree line and hiked easily to the summit from there, on large scree slopes. As we ascended, I couldn't help but look over to our right at what we thought was Poplar Ridge. I mentioned that the traverse from Evangeline to Poplar (Rum Ridge Peak) looked doable and we should go back that way. Ben and Steven agreed.
[Evangeline is at the center, Rum Ridge to the right - it's a fairly long, but easy, approach.]
[Sunrise on Warden Rock]
[Wapiti in the background - this is a moderate scramble but you have to go about 55km from the parking lot at Bighorn all the way around the back side before that route goes...]
[We followed the trail up an obvious cut line before heading to our left up a clearing on the lower east flank of our mountain.]
[This looks interesting! A sign labeled, 'Poplar Ridge" points to to right (east) well before our mountain. Maybe a route down?]
[Turning off the cut line into a cut block on the lower east side of Evangeline.]
[The bushwhack was pretty tame compared to others we've done this season]
[What a gorgeous day! The summit is an easy hike above and the ridge trending left looks doable from here...]
[Looking back - we've gained quite a bit of height already to tree line.]
[An easy hike to the summit from here]
[Coming up to the summit with the ranch and Banff to the west. ++]
The summit views were very nice (the views were nice all the way from tree line actually) but a cold wind was finally present at the apex of Evangeline so we didn't waste any time before dropping down the south ridge towards Rum Ridge Peak.
[Looking east and south off the summit of Evangeline. ++]
[Panorama looking south and west includes from L to R, Labyrinth, Dormer, Barrier, Gable and Warden Rock. ++]
[Gable, Warden Rock and Wapiti across Ya Ha Tinda Ranch. The access 'gap' to BNP is between Warden Rock and Wapiti Mountain. ++]
[A pano looking west and north to Banff and David Thompson Country from the summit. Many of these peaks are unnamed. ++]
[Part of our traverse to Rum Ridge Peak]
[Gorgeous views west over Ya Ha Tinda Ranch - no wonder horses love it here!]