Wietse, Dave and I were approaching the trail head for Southfork Mountain and Barnaby Ridge when we noticed dark clouds and rain on the windshield. Since nobody felt like hiking or scrambling in the rain, we started searching our minds for easier objectives that could be done in the rain and wouldn't involve driving too terribly far. I remembered a "back pocket" easy family outing that I'd been planning recently up McGillivray Ridge and Ma Butte. Since the sun looked to be shining over the Crowsnest Pass area, we agreed to try it. By some minor miracle, Dave hadn't yet been up these obscure, meaningless bumps - his words, not mine - but I agree.
After driving to the trailhead that Bob Spirko used along highway 40 from Coleman (gravel road), we immediately spotted the access road that he used. Be forewarned - there's almost certainly much shorter ways you can do this trip - I'll show some possibilities on the map but beware that I don't know 100% if these would go - but likely they would.
[The red line is our route, starting and finishing at the red marker. The two purple lines would be shorter and would almost certainly work as well - maybe with light bushwhacking in sections.]
We marched up the road and then up the cutline that Bob mentions, taking a brief detour south into the trees along a good trail before coming up on the south end of McGillivray Ridge on a wide hydro-line access road. We followed the road as long as it was feasible before hiking easily north up the ridge on an obvious track. We started out following the track as it lead just east (right) of the ridge crest, but soon ended up scrambling up steep grassy slopes on our left, to the crest of the ridge which we continued following north on a mix of black rocks and boulders.
[We parked near an obvious road running into the trees along hwy 40 - there was a 4x4 truck parked along this road about 200m into the trees.]
[A clearcut with the power line right-of-way obvious at left, which we grunted up on a faint track.]
[The cutline is quite overgrown in places so when we spotted a good trail to our left heading up in the forest next to it, we took it! NOTE: Complete lack of rain here.]
[On the good trail in the forest - not much undergrowth.]
[We gained height quickly and due to a higher starting point than many of the peaks in the area, we quickly got higher than a bunch of them. This is looking back down the cutline.]
[Following an obvious road up the ridge, looking south (L) and ahead (R). ++]
[Continuing up the road, past the repeater station that Bob mentions. ++]
[The road is a quick way to gain height.]
[Great views towards Crowsnest Mountain from the south end of the ridge already. Ready to leave the road and hike up the ridge (R). ++]
[We're off the main road and continuing along the ridge, this is looking back over the repeater station at the far south end of the ridge. ++]
[Still a faint track as we hike under the crest of the ridge on the east side, looking towards Center and Caudron peaks in the far distance. ++]
[Before we run into too many cliffs above us, we take a 90 degree turn uphill to the left and gain the actual ridge crest.]
[Looking back along the south end of McGillivray towards the town of Coleman as we gain the ridge crest. ++]
[Great scenery as we continue up the ridge - Ma Butte showing up at left now. ++]
[Looking back again - Saskatoon Mountain and Wedge Mountain at center. We're already much higher than either of those two minor summits.]
[Hiking along the south ridge of McGillivray - the summit now visible in the distance and Ma Butte at left. The terrain from here to just under the summit is slow going and wouldn't be fun if wet or icy. ++]
The rocks / slabs along the ridge to just below the grassy summit were fun for about 5 minutes and then they were just a PITA. We decided pretty quickly that we would be trying an alternate descent rather than repeat this section - especially if it started raining. We could see alternate routes down the east face of the ridge that looked to be quick and straightforward. The view of Ma Butte from the ridge was a bit intimidating, but we knew from Bob's report that it was easy on the north end. We summitted the ridge around 2 hours after leaving the car, with decent views of the Livingstone Range to the east and the High Rock Ranges to the west.
After a brief summit break we decided to try to beat any incoming weather and headed off towards Ma Butte to the west of McGillivray Ridge.
[Hiking to the summit of McGillivray Ridge.]
[Summit panorama looking back along the ridge (L) and towards Ma Butte (R) with Wedge Mountain in between and Crowsnest Mountain in the distance. ++]
[The weather is pretty darn good for anyone on Thrift Peak (L) or Thunder Mountain (R). ++]
[Starting our descent towards Ma Butte. ++]