Canada - Tackling the G8 Summit

Date walked: 07/04/2015

Time taken: 4 hours

Distance: 6.9km

Ascent: 947m

Exactly 7 days ago I set out to reach the top of the G8 summit in Kananaskis, the washed out creek at the trailhead meant I turned off too early and instead ascended Mt Kananaskis (we've all made mistakes....as the Dalek said climbing off the dustbin). Anyway I returned to the scene of the crime today to correct that error.

The G8 Summit takes it's name from the meeting of the G8 that was held at Kananaskis Village in june 2002, before then it was peak 336454 a simple grid reference (hardly inspirational). It always seems so odd to me that each individual peak doesn't have a name never mind one that towers above the scenery in such an obvious location...how on earth did it get to 2002 before a name was given, just so many of them I guess. It is alleged that snipers were sited here for the duration of the meeting...let's hope it was a warm sunny june for their sake....

Parking for the hike is in the same spot as last week 200 metres north of the turning for Kananaskis Village on Highway 40, normally the roadside cess would be the place to park but it is still recovering from the floods so staying off it seemed sensible (though from the tyre tracks in the mud I guess not everyone feels the same)

As I start out into the adjacent forest I take a look back at the giant frame of Mt Kidd which dominates the skyline over Kananaskis Village, the beautiful blue sky and fluffy white clouds add to my contentment as I wander off into the washed out wasteland beyond the forest perimeter.
The forest here was flattened by thousands of tons of rock washed down in the flood of June 2013, this also washed out the trailhead and caused my error a week ago when I crossed the washout after seeing a trail over there, I then followed it to Mt Kananaskis (though ultimately it was a great hike/scramble and a really enjoyable day) This time I have my map and directly ahead is the G8 Summit.

A short walk on easy going along the washout brings me to an area that would make a fine parking lot for this hike, the creek is now more visible on the right and as it turns east I find a well trodden trail on the left bank, now I'm set. This is the last sighting of the G8 summit now until you exit the tree line below the clear ridge seen here.
Almost a mirror of last weeks hike, the trail meanders alongside the creek, slowly rising as the canyon deepens to a sheer sided drop off which affords lovely views south along highway 40.

The open section is short lived and my final view before entering the forest is of Mt Kananaskis towering over the fir trees on the south side of the creek.

Once in the forest it is a steep grind to the top of the first hump then a short more gentle ascent allows me to gain my breath before another steep climb brings me to an open ledge where turning around to take in the mountain filled horizon is a fantastic excuse for another breather, even the ugliness of Nakiska Ski area can't entirely spoil the view.

From this point the going changes to a more challenging steep, boulder strewn ascent that would have been much easier last week when the snow wasn't present. There's probably a trail under there somewhere but there is little chance of going wrong at this stage, it's simply a matter of going upward!

Some of the ascent on the rocky ridge is concerning, those side hill traverses with loose rock and trees and a nice little snow covering are asking for trouble but they are short lived and usually bring me out a level higher where another viewpoint awaits.

There's no need to wait for a viewpoint to come, just stopping anywhere along the ridge ascent and turning around (carefully) will give stunning views over the Kananaskis Valley

It's a good grind on the initial ridge ascent but you climb quickly in near vertical lumps and don't feel the strain as much as those long drawn out slopes such as Ha Ling Peak. I eventually top out on the last of those large lumps and turn south again to take in that wonderful vista. Most noticeable from this angle are the jagged pinnacles and summit of Mt Kananaskis just across the creek.

From here I can at least see the target hill though it is surprisingly distant at this point and there is clearly a good amount of ascent to be made yet.

For the majority of the remaining ridge it was possible to stay just left of the centre line and avoid a lot of ups and downs as I head toward the large buttress that signals the end of the ridge and the start of the summit ascent.

That buttress turned out to be a lot further away than my eyes told me it was but it was very easy going along the ridge and really enjoyable to just gaze around at the beautiful surroundings. It wasn't so enjoyable when I saw how much ascent was still remaining at this point.

Passing the buttress and looking back I see a good sized snowstorm engulfing the summit of Mt Kidd and decide to get a step on in order to make my summit before it gets here.

The final ascent is a killer for tired legs but the wonderful views keep me plodding as I bear right toward the edge of the ridge which I will then follow to the top. The ground is snow covered boulders and scree meaning there's plenty of scrabbling about to be done.

As I make it to the edge of the final ascent ridge the views open up toward the east and another string of mountains fills the void beyond. I can now see along the ridge that leads to Mt Kananaskis and I begin to doubt the circular route I was thinking of when I sat on top of Mt Kananaskis last week, there are a couple of very sheer looking rock walls there, but perhaps it will look different when the snow has gone.

Below and to the south that snowstorm has broken free of Mt Kidd but in dong so has turned to the south east and is slowly moving away, so I can slow down again at make the final push in a less hurried fashion.

There is a wicked wind blowing across the slope and it is much colder here than just a few hundred feet lower, the upside of that is that the scree is frosted to the ground and it is easier to manoeuvre with only a few moving rocks in the final stages.

As I near the top of the ridge where a narrow easy scramble awaits the wind is lifting snow and ice, (with some chunks the size of a shovel head) and throwing them against the rocks, the small ice crystals whip against my face and sting my cold cheeks as a pull my hood around the side to prevent it.

I didn't hang around there long at all before making into the notch in the rocks on the eastern side and setting myself up for the easy scramble up the narrowing ledge, though not helped by the wind and snow it's a straightforward ascent that shouldn't pose much of a problem for anyone with a reasonable head for heights.

The short flat ridge to the summit is narrow and snow covered and the wind is howling up the western side of the mountain and booming over the ridge in huge waves carrying snow and ice along the way, it is however, absolutely stunning.

The first part of the ridge has a small cornice and I poke around with my poles testing the conditions as I pick my way past it conscious of the fact that this is fresh snow in a melting cycle. After this is a narrow section with a massive drop off on one side but the ground is good and I stayed close to the rocky edge on the traverse

The last short section to the summit cairn did have me taking a very cautious approach simply because I couldn't find solid ground under it, a small cornice forced me to shuffle onto a steep down slope before I trudged knee deep on a point of snow that I assumed must have land under it somewhere.

I went past the summit and dropped my poles to take a few shots, the first of which caught one of those nasty ice blocks as it whipped up behind the cairn and flew over the ridge, that would have been an unwanted visitor up the side of my head as I made that traverse.

I pinned my little camera to the rocks by making my own small cairn and made the dash for the summit shot on the 10 second timer, the snow still whipped around and my hands were beginning to freeze as I messed around with the camera.

I dug out the summit register which sits in a waterproof plastic tube buried inside the cairn and I used the pencil provided inside to add my usual entry before resealing it and returning it to the cairn with it's weight of rocks on top.

A little way down the north ridge toward the lower northern summit you might be forgiven for thinking it was 15 degrees and t-shirt weather, the valleys clear of snow and the blue water of Barrier Lake in the distance combined with bright blue skies and sunshine is enough to mislead anyone.

Just turning around and looking back along the access ridge shows what is really happening up here as spindrift whips up from every section and tries hard to wipe out my footprints made just a few moments ago.

With my back to the wind looking to the north east I make a 12 shot panorama taking in Prairie Mountain, Barrier Lake, Mt Baldy, Midnight Peak, the 4 summits of Mt Bryant, Wasootch Peak, Porcupine Ridge, Wasootch Ridge, Mt McDougall and Mt Kananaskis...what an absolutely beautiful array of mountains climbing slowly from the prairies and growing ever taller as they reach to the west.

Directly north over the lower north summit of the G8 is Mt Lorette and to the west the prickly Skogan Peak, behind that is Pigeon Mountain and the Bow Valley corridor and to the far left of shot Mt Collembola.
Armageddon is still blowing behind me and my fingers are genuinely freezing after messing around with the camera for so long. My poles are beginning to get buried and it's time to get out of here, I'll have my lunch break where it's a little warmer.

I retraced my footsteps across the summit ridge traverse and found the easy scramble a little more taxing in reverse but made it down without issue, I let the slope of the mountain hurry me back down to where the warm air was sitting (around 7500 feet) before I sat down on a nice little outcrop for a rest and a bite to eat.

After sitting in the sunshine for a while I retraced my steps along the ridge and down through the forest to the truck, with only one small fall along the way and absolutely no other people around as usual.

This is definitely one I could see myself doing again with extensions in one direction or another, this really is a cracker of a hike and a great one to do so early in the season.

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Location: Cochrane- Alberta - Canada
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