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"Yarrow Ridge"
Castle Wilderness, Alberta
October 16, 2010

We set out to climb Mount Yarrow but when our plans went awry, we resigned ourselves to doing its east ridge, what I call “Yarrow Ridge.” We expected this ridge to be uninspiring, but instead we were met with a few pleasant surprises.

We considered Yarrow Ridge only after we realized we couldn't reach the southwest slopes of Mount Yarrow. First, a gate on the access road stopped us from driving to the start point. We had anticipated this and were prepared to walk up the road to the trailhead. But we couldn't do that because of a “No Trespassing” sign. So we changed our objective to Yarrow Ridge.

We parked at the end of a gravel road, as close to Mount Yarrow as we could. From there we could hike down a cutline before leaving it to ascend the northeast slopes of the ridge.

We hadn't gone far along the cutline when we noticed a cougar only 50 m away, crossing in front of us. It pattered by so fluidly it seemed to glide. The big cat glanced at us and then disappeared into the bushes before I could reach for my camera. After getting over our excitement – it was our first time seeing a cougar on foot – we moved on.

We continued up the cutline until we found a break in the trees on our right. A meadow led to the base of the ridge. As we drew near, the ridge appeared more interesting and challenging than I expected. The grade steepened, forcing us right where we found kinder slopes. Then we reached the ridge crest.

Now following the edge of a cliff, we saw spectacular rock in a variety of textures and colours. We were dazzled all the way to the false summit. After that, the ridge comprised of hills. Watching us from the first hill was a buck with an impressive rack. We saw two more deer when we reached the highest point along the grassy portion of the ridge. Perhaps the deer hoped to find sanctuary on the ridge, for from the valley below, we could hear the gunshots of hunters.

It took us less than two hours to reach the high point. It was too early to turn back, so we continued along the ridge, although cliffs below Yarrow prevented us from getting far.

We turned around and followed the ridge back for a way. We had come up the north side but decided to descend the south side where we were treated to more spectacular rock.

When we got back to our car, a hunter came up to us. Despite our reservations about hunting, we quickly warmed to him. He was unaffected and amiable, even offered us a beer. He and his friends had been hunting in the valley without success, a fact that disturbed him not at all. He was happy to just get some exercise. He said he was surprised to see two people high on the ridgeline below Mount Yarrow. Those two people, of course, were us.

KML and GPX Tracks


View of the ridge from our starting point


Ascending the grassy slopes


An easy grade until we hit the rocks (mouse over to look back)


Following an animal track up the slope


Gentle slopes on the north side


On the ridge


From here to the false summit we saw lots of colourful rock


Far-ranging views to the east


Impressive rock face


Another impressive face


Under the gaze of a buck (mouse over) we headed to the grassy high point on the right


Mount Yarrow and Spread Eagle Mountain


More colourful rock


We continued along the ridge


Continuing up the ridge


Looking back


We'll soon turn back


We turned back here


Lakeview Ridge


Dropping down the south slopes


Looking back


We headed down a scree slope


Gnarly rock above us (mouse over to pull back)


82 G/1 Sage Creek and 82 H/4 Waterton Lakes

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