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, 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.]
[Warden Rock in early morning lighting. We would finally scramble this striking peak in March of 2015.]
[An outlier of Labyrinth Mountain at sunrise.]
[The sign at the trailhead, which can be read more clearly 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 Wilderness because there is a range of mountains surrounding a tall-grass prairie / valley instead of a simple transition from prairie directly 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.]
[Big Horn Falls is an ice climb later in the season. ++]
[Striking grasslands scenery looking west towards Warden Rock and Wapiti Mountain (C). ++]
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.]
[Warden Rock at left and Wapiti at center. Wapiti 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, or decide on a difficult variation from this side. /sites/default/files/images/scrambles/evangeline/redo/evangeline-014.jpg++]
[Looking north of Wapiti towards Tomahawk Mountain.]
[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?]
[Looking back from 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 right 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. Poplar at right.]
[Interesting landscape on the lower summit slopes.]
[Ben on the easy, but very pleasant, summit slope.]
[Coming up to the summit.
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 - or Poplar Peak.
[Looking back down our ascent ridge at center and towards the south (L), west (C) and north (R) including peaks such as Poplar, Eagle, Labyrinth, Dormer, Barrier, Warden Rock, Wapiti, Well Site, Tomahawk, Forbidden, Condor and Scalp. ++]
[Looking east and south over the prairies off the summit of Evangeline. ++]
[A pano looking west (L) and north (R) to Banff and David Thompson Country from the summit. From L to R, Tomahawk, Condor, Peters, Forbidden, Scalp. Many of the summits in this area are surprisingly tall at almost 3,000m. ++]
[Panorama looking south and west includes from L to R, Dormer, Melanin, Barrier, Gable, Warden Rock, Tyrrell, Wapiti, Well Site, Tomahawk, Condor and Peters. ++]
[Part of our traverse to Rum Ridge Peak.]
[Gorgeous views west over Ya Ha Tinda Ranch - no wonder horses love it here!]