Canada - Grizzly Peak No.2 to Highwood Ridge

Date walked: 29/06/2015

Time taken: 4 hours

Distance: 9.6km

Ascent: 948m

The weather today was set for rain, rain and more rain followed by heavy thunderstorms in the afternoon, if I was going to get a hike in today it would have to be something that stayed below the cloud layers and allowed me to 'bail out' back to ground level should the thunderstorms arrive early. I increased my chance of success by rising at 05:30 and after a cuppa and the usual rigmarole of getting ready I was out of the house around 06:00 heading for highwood pass.

After a 1.5 hour journey, the latter half of which is spent on the wonderfully scenic highway 40, I turned into the well signed 'Highwood Pass' car park adjacent to the road 70 km south of the TransCanada highway. I began the process of 'booting up' having the place to myself until a large RV pulled into the car park and a flustered looking woman got out with her equally flustered looking husband. The two were from New Zealand and were just a little lost, I got my more detailed maps out to show them exactly where they were and to explain how to get where they wanted to go, whilst doing so a ranger stopped by and asked if we intended hiking. When I said yes he enquired about bear spray and was comforted by my posession of both spray and bangers before telling me there was a large 'blonde' grizzly in the meadow between me and my target peak, he confirmed that the couple from NZ weren't hiking then gave them the 'hard word' when they said they were "just doing some short hikes" but didn't have bear spray.

So, after waving off the couple in the right direction, eventually I was able to get away from the highest paved pass in Canada at around 08:00, so much for my early start. The trail begins along the 'Highwood Pass Meadows' interpretive trail that runs north from the corner of the car park, a glance back shows the kind of sky that stuck with me the whole day. Image

After a short time on the interpretive trail I turn off where a sign reminds me to stick to the narrow single track to avoid braiding, the trail heads west into a lush meltwater channel where ground squirrels ensure I know this is their territory by squeaking at me throughout the short grassy section.

At a large rock in the meadow the trail turns left into the forest where a nice single track twists and turns and climbs and descends again over the lower north end of Highwood Ridge. There are a number of trails leading off to the left, all of which would eventually lead to Highwood Ridge if followed; one of which will be my descent trail later in the day. There is quite a lot of wet marshy area in the forest but it remains passable with some diversions before I break out into an open meadow on the north side of Grizzly Ridge.

My first thought is to check the area for that blonde Grizzly the ranger warned me about, there was no sign of it so I carried on through the meadow on a trail that has clearly been newly trodden since the 2013 floods. After ascending scree beside a snow run off I stopped to look back over the route so far. The grey lump on the far left is Mt Pocaterra and the green in front of it is Pocaterra Ridge, one of my favourite hikes for the wonderful views it provides. Image

Another lightly wooded area is next along the narrow trail that is easy to follow along the muddy ground, a shower of rain passes through with massive droplets but few of them, I leave the waterproofs in my bag and keep on up the slow curving ascent.

After the trees the ground is once again cut through by landslides which eradicate the narrow pathway in a number of places but it can still be seen heading into and then up, a small waterfall which it crosses to and fro on good rock stepping stones.

At the top of the falls is a small tarn from which the falls originate, it is dead still this morning and provides a nice reflection of the southern end of Pocaterra ridge as the trail continues west on easy level ground.

The route then climbs a little through another light stand of trees before appearing out on the avalanche slopes that feed down from Grizzly Ridge, compressed snow remains in some areas which continues to feed the small tarn some distance below.

A key to the route here is the split in the trail beside a couple of large rocks in the meadows south of Pocaterra, right takes you to Pocaterra Ridge, Cirque, and mountain as well as Little Highwood Pass. Left is where I am heading toward Mt Tyrwhitt, Grizzly Col and ridge and Paradise Pass.

from the 'Y' junction the trail turns southwest around the avalanche slopes of Grizzly Ridge and begins the ascent proper toward Grizzly Col.

The trail climbs to a small plateau where a few wildflowers cling to life in a landscape heavily scarred by rockfall and water run off, another band of rain blows through but it is light and untroubling.

from the small plateau a narrow trail winds along the scree slopes providing a gentle ascent toward the col. There is little life here where almost constant rockfall prevents even the most determined plant from taking hold.

On reaching the col I can now see a huge range of the beautiful 'Highwood' area, Pocaterra ridge is still visible as is little highwood pass, to the left is Grizzly Peak and straight over is the origin of Storm Creek trapped between the enormous vertical wall of the great divide and the steep slopes of Grizzly RidgeImage

Starting out along the ridge ascent and looking back at the seemingly vertical wall of Mt Tyrwhitt it is difficult to imagine the ascent of that leviathan. I can see the initial trails but higher up they disappear into sheer rock bands, it's so tempting I'm going to have to come back here and have a go I think.

Once I make the ridge I am now flirting with 9000 feet (2743 m) as I take a moment to grab a breath and look over the remainder of the traverse. Grizzly Peak is ahead along the ridge then falling away to the right of the summit are 'The Pinnacles' which make the traverse to Highwood Ridge the most enjoyable part of the hike

From the ridge I also get my first view over the edge into Paradise Valley that sits between Grizzly Ridge and Highwood Ridge, the vast green carpet draped across the lower slopes shows how the name came about and helps explain the number of bears in the area too.

moving forward, the ridge comprises broken and continually mobile rock which is easy enough to traverse along the flat top of the ridge but becomes much more of an issue on the pinnacles later.

The ridge is really easy going now and wonderfully enjoyable, the views in all directions are stunning but the weather today is doing it's best to curtail any chance of decent images as yet another light shower blows through.

Toward the summit the route has some nice rugged dark rock pinnacles which provide another photo opportunity and an excuse for me to crouch between them as the rain gets a little heavier, but once again the waterproofs stay bagged as it blows through in a short time.

On the back of those black rocks facing north was a huge patch of orange and yellow lichen as bright as any I've ever seen, I'm not sure if the dull day or the lack of colourful competition up here makes it seem brighter but it really was eye catching.

As I swing around the north end of the ridge the view to the south along Paradis Valley is spectacular even on a grey day like today, I scanned the area for a grizzly but think I may be too high up to see them from here anyway.

Just a few steps from the summit now without even noticing the little additional ascent it takes to reach here, the small broken peak is a mouthwatering prospect as the views just keep opening up.

From the summit cairn to the southwest is the long grassy slopes of Grizzly Ridge turning to bare broken rock as it climbs beyond 9000 feet, in the dip is Grizzly Col and that narrow ascent trail through the scree slopes and beyond that Mt Tyrwhitt and the massive bulwark of the continental divide.

Your's truly defying the weather to remain in the T-shirt at 9090 feet (2770 m) It is actually really warm even with the rain showers, I think this makes my tallest summit so far this year...though it is early days yet.

The route down to the pinnacles looks more challenging as I expected, the brittle rock is incredibly mobile and trying to take in the views whilst walking just makes things more dodgy.

To the north I can now see over Pocaterra Ridge to the full frame of Mount Pocaterra and along highway 40 to Gap Mountain and the huge pointed summit of Elpoca Mountain guarding the entrance to the Elbow Valley.

I didn't spend much time on the summit at all as the thought of the thunderstorms this afternoon kept me moving toward highwood ridge via the pinnacles. The initial descent is steep and fragile but I'm better prepared today with the scrambling boots on and I'm determined to stay up on the narrowest part of the ridge for as long as possible.

Staying on the narrows isn't some kind of macho thing, it's more of a lazy thing. To get to highwood pass I will be losing a lot of ascent already made (around 400m) I don't want to lose any more than is absolutely necessary as it will just add to the ascent at the far end.

At a couple of points along the ridge there are chimneys to ascend if I want to stay high but to go around them is a huge loss of height and a small trail where people have done so looks a long way off. I stick to the tops and climb the chimneys on both occasions. At the top of the second the rain really hits hard and I have to get the waterproof jacket out for the first time, I crouch between a couple of pinnacles and have a bite to eat while it passes.

The traverse continues up and down the pointed tops with enough excitement to make it interesting and I am soon almost dead centre between the two ridges looking south along Paradise Valley

Anyone thinking of undertaking this hike shouldn't underestimate the short ridge between the two tops, it would certainly class as a scramble for the entire route and though easy enough for the initiated could be a little daunting for the novice.

I have to stop and remove the jacket again as it is far too hot to wear waterproofs on the ascent even though from the dip in the ridge there is only about 260 m to the top of Highwood Ridge.

for the final ascent the ridge is mercifully wider and soil sits within crevices giving some stability to the rocks, there are even a few plants clinging to the slopes and it is an easy stroll back up onto the ridge, it would have been a different story had I circumnavigated the pinnacles which would have taken me much lower down.

A very tidy cairn sits precariously on the top of Highwood Ridge summit just 3.5km from Grizzly Peak. From here there is a great view across highway 40 into Ptarmigan Cirque nestled between Mt Rae and Mt Arethusa and even with inclement weather the view along highway 40 is wonderful.

To the south lies Highwood Ridge, the lush green Paradise Valley, Grizzly Ridge then the great divide and beyond that the usual layer upon layer of mountains reaching back into British Columbia.

My descent route looks like a walk in the park compared to the 3.5km of pinnacles I've just scrambled across, there is a very steep section early on but after that it's all easy going.

Directly east is Arethusa Cirque which makes a large gaping void between the main massif of Mt Arethusa and Little Arethusa to the left of shot. I've not made the hike to either of these as yet so I guess that's something else for the ever expanding list.

Looking directly west with yours truly putting in another summit appearance, the sky is still laden with showers which splatter past every once in a while but with the exception of the really heavy downpour halfway along the pinnacles it has been a good dodging day.

I took time on Highwood summit to have a bite to eat and drink as the escape route was now available should the thunder and lightning hit. After taking in the scenery for a while I made the easy final descent from rocks to the grassy slopes that would lead down to the car park.

I'm accompanied on the walk out by a lovely view along highway 40 down to Gap Mountain for the entire length of the north facing slope, clouds are getting thicker and darker but the rain stays away from here all the way back to the car park.

There's even a little colour on this sheltered side of the hill, something that has been missing from most of this hike. I think the floods of 2013 reshaped the landscape here quite significantly and it will need a little more time before the colour returns to all areas.

Down in the forest the trail out is well trodden and runs beside a small ridge for much of the way maintaining interest right through to the main trail (which I walked in on) where a left turn takes me back to the car park in almost no time at all.

Another really enjoyable hike that builds my knowledge of the area and opens up several more opportunities to explore, it's a shame the weather was so poor for photography today but it's a route I would consider doing again so perhaps I'll return on a brighter day.

Click to mark this as a great report. Register or Login
free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).

Comments: 8

Canada - Mt Smutwood and the three bears

Date walked: 22/06/2015
Distance: 18.9km
Ascent: 1007m
Comments: 10
Views: 248

Canada - Moose Mountain

Date walked: 16/06/2015
Distance: 15.3km
Ascent: 618m
Comments: 4
Views: 165

Canada - Picklejar Lakes +

Date walked: 15/06/2015
Distance: 13.2km
Ascent: 667m
Comments: 8
Views: 197

Canada - Grizzly Peak No.1

Date walked: 09/06/2015
Distance: 7.7km
Ascent: 882m
Comments: 6
Views: 238

Canada - MrsW & a Porcupine on the Plain of Six Glaciers

Date walked: 05/06/2015
Distance: 15.9km
Ascent: 395m
Comments: 13
Views: 347

Canada - Opal Ridge South (with bonus grizzly sighting)

Date walked: 19/05/2015
Distance: 8.9km
Ascent: 1019m
Comments: 11
Views: 381

Canada - Black Rock Mountain (South Ghost Wilderness)

Date walked: 12/05/2015
Distance: 11.2km
Ascent: 923m
Comments: 9
Views: 303

Diary Only - West Bragg again

This post is not published on the Walkhighlands forum
Date walked: 07/05/2015
Distance: 11.5km
Ascent: 352m
Views: 36

Diary Only - Devils Gap

This post is not published on the Walkhighlands forum
Date walked: 05/05/2015
Distance: 15.4km
Ascent: 298m
Views: 38


User avatar
Location: Cochrane- Alberta - Canada
Occupation: Management Consultant - Semi Retired
Interests: Photography, Walking, Kayaking, Golf, Mountain Biking
Activity: Mountain Walker
Pub: Sutton Arms
Mountain: Mt Rainier - USA
Place: Loch Muick
Gear: Quality footwear
Member: None
Camera: Canon 5D
Ideal day out: Getting up high and seeing the world
Ambition: Get fit - lose weight

Munros: 18
Corbetts: 5
Grahams: 3
Sub 2000: 6


Filter reports



Trips: 25
Distance: 288.6 km
Ascent: 15311m


Trips: 9
Distance: 83.8 km
Ascent: 3432m


Trips: 9
Distance: 92.1 km
Ascent: 5308m


Trips: 43
Distance: 476 km
Ascent: 22860m


Trips: 41
Distance: 596.35 km
Ascent: 26477m
Munros: 19
Corbetts: 5
Grahams: 3
Sub2000s: 6


Trips: 2
Distance: 13.4 km
Ascent: 675m


Trips: 8
Distance: 46.3 km
Ascent: 622m

Joined: Jan 25, 2011
Last visited: Jul 05, 2015
Total posts: 4069 | Search posts

Walking can be dangerous and is done entirely at your own risk. Information on the forum and in walk reports is provided by individual users. It is each walker's responsibility to check information and navigate using a map and compass.