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Pig's Back
Kananaskis, Alberta
August 6, 2017

Although low in stature, Pig’s Back has a couple of things going for it. First, the summit ridge extends into the Commonwealth Creek Valley to offer surprisingly good views. Even haze from a forest fire didn’t keep us from enjoying the sights at the top. And second, Pig’s Back can be hiked in a loop.

Following the usual route, Zora, Dinah and I hiked up the logging road to a Y intersection. We went left but would later return on the main trail running alongside Commonwealth Creek. After crossing the creek, we followed the trail to a cutblock and turned right onto another trail. Being in trees, there was little to see until we came to Commonwealth Lake. And what a sight that was! Lacking even the slightest ripple anywhere, the entire surface acted as a huge mirror, so perfect that Dinah and I became disoriented and thought we were gazing down into a valley before realizing it was a flawless reflection on the lake.

We continued up the trail, still in trees until it disappeared at the edge of a scree slope below the majestic east cliffs of Pig’s Back. Following the scree below the cliffs was the least favourite part of the trip. The side-sloping dragged on and we were glad to reach the col that connects Commonwealth Peak to Pig’s Back. From the col it’s a short hike to the summit. But there’s no point in stopping there. Most of the ridge is broad and flat and inviting. We ventured to the far end where I took a panorama.

After lunch we returned to the col and dropped down the west side to a basin. At the end of the basin, we started down a trail alongside a dry creek. When we reached a gushing side stream, we knew from the instructions in Kananaskis Country Trail Guide to traverse right and look for a trail in scree. However, the broad drainage is covered in trees and bushes. Not wanting to miss the trail by ending up below it, we angled up a bit. When we reached a scree bank on the other side, we descended and hit the trail at a 90° angle. After traversing for a time, it suddenly leaves the scree and drops down. That’s where the trail became interesting. Steep, bushy and sometimes vanishing completely, it’s a wonder we stayed on track. But we quickly followed it to the bottom. Strangely, we found flagging there, the least helpful place for it.

We appeared at the edge of a valley that is expansive, bushy and utterly flat. Commonwealth Creek runs down the valley. The creek is lined with dense willows here, but we headed west to a thin spot. Bushwhacking was gnarly but brief, and we stepped across two narrow streams without getting our feet wet. We made our way to the main trail at the foot of an avalanche slope.

We followed the trail back to the logging road. Here our pace slowed as we stopped long and often to pick tiny but prolific strawberries lining the road. It was a sweet finish after climbing a ridge with an odd name, Pig’s Back.

KML and GPX Tracks


A juvenile grizzly gorges on roadside berries


The trailhead just off of Mt. Shark Road


Walking up the road


Left to right are Commonwealth Ridge, Commonwealth Peak, Pig's Back, Pig's Tail and Mount Birdwood


After walking upstream a short distance from the trail we crossed the creek using logs


At a cutblock, we turned right and looked for the trail to Commonwealth Lake


The trail is actually an old logging road


A smoky haze dulled our views


Pig's Back is reflected in Commonwealth Lake


Commonwealth Peak


We reached the far end of the lake


The lake from the far end


The east cliffs of Pig's Back came into view


We followed a faint trail


The trail ends at the bottom of a scree slope


Looking back at the lake


Heading to the col between Commonwealth Peak and Pig's Back


We came across this pika near the col

Just before the col we started up the ridge


Commonwealth Peak looms behind us


Heading to the summit


On the summit


Zora stands on a high point


Relaxing on the summit ridge


Smutwood Peak rises to a point above Smuts Pass


Huge fissures line the ridge


Looking down at the valley: on our return, we crossed Commonwealth Creek where bushwhacking was brief


Heading to the col


Looking back at the summit


We followed a trail down the west side of the col


We made our way down to a basin


We headed to the drainage just right of Zora


At the end of the basin, we found a trail left of a dry creek. Mount Smuts and The Fist appear across the valley.


Ahead is a flowing side stream where we traversed right


We don't appear to be crossing a drainage but we soon came to a scree bank
on the other side


On the trail on the other side of the drainage


After leaving the scree, the trail plummets to the valley


From the bottom of the trail, we headed west, crossed the creek and appeared at the bottom of the avalanche slope on the other side


Looking back at Pig's back, the wooded slope we descended, and the wall of brush we had to go through


On the main trail leading back to the trailhead


Commonwealth Creek


Waterfall


82 J/14 Spray Lakes Reservoir

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