McGillivray Ridge and Ma Butte
Crowsnest Pass
June 26, 2010

The same weekend that saw the G20 and G8 Summits at Toronto and Huntsville respectively, also saw Dinah and I on summits at Crowsnest Pass. Unlike the government summits, however, our summits were serene. More than just bagging two peaks, ascending McGillivray Ridge and Ma Butte was an enjoyable ridge walk with far-ranging views.

The route for McGillivray is described in Hiking in the Historic Crowsnest Pass, but we extended the trip to include the slightly higher Ma Butte. Our only difficulty was finding the trailhead: it fell short of the book's driving distance on Hwy. 40 and didn't stand out along the forested roadside. Fortunately I had set a waypoint using Google Earth.

After the trailhead the route plays out as described. We dragged ourselves up the steep powerline to a road and followed the road to where it folds back to a repeater station. We plodded up McGillivray Ridge only to encounter another, more primitive road etched into the side. We took it until it faded into the hillside, forcing us to clamber to the ridge crest.

On the ridge we discovered a large cairn where we had an unobstructed view of our objectives. We followed the ridge, first rocky and then becoming grassy, until we reached our first summit. The book says McGillivray's highest point is a 3.2 km hike but we reached it only after hiking 4.9 km.

From the top we could see familiar peaks all around us, but now we turned west towards an unfamiliar one: Ma Butte. Only a gentle rolling ridge separated us. That and a 160 m elevation loss to the col.

Ma Butte presents a vertical rock face to the east but when we hiked up and around the right side, we found we could easily scramble to the summit. We were all of nine metres higher than McGillivray Ridge, but we had front row seats to Crowsnest Mountain and the Seven Sisters.

After leaving Ma Butte, we returned the same way except we skirted well below McGillivray's summit: no need for a second visit. As we hiked back, Dinah wondered why we hadn't encountered other hikers. I waved a hand at Turtle Mountain; that's where I would expect to see them, but I was glad to have solitude on McGillivray Ridge.

Download kml track


When we made a pit stop at Chain Lakes, I spotted this thirteen-lined
ground squirrel feeding on dandelions.


The trailhead seen from the road


Starting up the powerline


Looking back


On the road. (Not seen is a drainage left of me; we used it as a shortcut on the way back, saving
us from hiking this bend in the road.)


The road winds left to the repeater station but we pushed on to the slope ahead.


Behind us: Mount Coulthard, Andy Good Peak and the repeater (mouse over)


On the primitive road (mouse over to look ahead)


Crowsnest Mountain and Seven Sisters


We head to McGillivray summit (just left of me)


Ma Butte appears as a long, gray ridge.


Hiking along McGillivray Ridge


Panorama from the summit of McGillivray Ridge


Next stop: Ma Butte


Ma Butte


Partway up Ma Butte. McGillivray summit left.


Summit ahead


I'm dwarfed by the immense rock face.


We look for a way up.


Scrambling up a gully


Dinah follows.


On the summit


Crowsnest Mountain


Seven Sisters


Heading back


Striking landscape


Making our way back to McGillivray Ridge in the distance


View from the top of Ma Butte


Crowsnest 82 G/10 and Blairmore 82 G/9

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