"Iron Lakes Ridge"
For years I've been interested in the unnamed peak that overlooks Iron Lakes in Kananaskis. I was attracted to its open slopes and thought it would provide a good viewpoint for the lakes. The generous map contours suggested an easy trip, especially if done as a loop like I planned. But the map belied the true nature of the terrain, and Iron Lakes Ridge, as I came to call it, put up more resistance than I expected. But that and the surprisingly varied scenery made a worthwhile trip.
Sonny agreed to join Dinah and me on this little adventure. We set off down the Iron Lakes trail. And I do mean down. After passing Bear Pond we dropped 120 m to a meadow, a grassy corridor bordered by forest. We hiked to the west end of the meadow and ducked into the trees. After a brief bushwhack and a stream-hop, we came to the open slopes at the end of the southeast ridge. We started up the ridge.
Because of cliffs and trees high on the end of the ridge, we traversed low before heading to the crest. Here the ridge was open to the sky for a time and then the trees closed in. Just before the summit, the ridge threw in some steep rocks among the trees so we had to search a bit for a way up.
After the summit the ridge stretches almost flat for 500 m. Being treeless we could see all around us, including the plateau on the east side that was our next destination, part of our descent route. Because of the broad map contours, I had expected an easy hike down a side ridge to the plateau, but a wall of tight, little evergreens had something to say about that.
We continued north along the summit ridge and looked for a break in the trees where we could get to the side ridge. But when we found a break we didn't like what we saw. The slope dropped sharply, so sharp we couldn't see over the edge from where we were, but obviously the steep, snow-covered grassy slope wouldn't hold our boots well. And if that wasn't enough to give us pause, we could see cliffs beyond that. The three of us stood there pondering if we should even bother going to the edge to take a closer look. Then we suddenly realized we were standing on a sheep trail half hidden in snow, a trail that headed where we wished to go!
The trail not only angled easily down the grassy slope, it also neatly cut through the cliffs. Then all that was between us and the plateau was a short cliff band that Sonny scrambled down, and Dinah and I walked around. After crossing a saddle that connects the plateau to Iron Lakes Ridge, we stopped for lunch.
After lunch on the plateau, we returned to the saddle and picked up a trail that traversed grassy slopes and led to the treed west ridge. After some light bushwhacking, we hit a creek and soon found the Iron Lakes trail. We followed it a short distance to the meadow. From there we faced the climb back up to Bear Pond. From the pond, we turned to take a parting look at the ridge we had enjoyed ascending just hours ago, and then made our way back to the parking lot.
Iron Lakes Ridge seen from Little Iron Lake (taken earlier this year)
Iron Lakes Ridge from Bear Pond (mouse over for a close-up). We ascended the ridge but on
the descent we took in the knob right, actually a plateau that barely rises above the saddle.
A ptarmigan sits on the trail to Iron Lakes (mouse over for a close-up)
Descending the trail to the meadow
Heading to the ridge from the meadow (mouse over to look back)
Starting up the ridge
Traversing the slopes on a sheep track
Almost at the end of the trail
After the trail ends, we made our way up to the ridge (click for a larger image)
On the ridge: left on the skyline is Johnson Creek Ridge. Behind us is Bear Pond (mouse over).
Heading to a false summit
Another false summit
The grade steepens near the top of Iron Lakes Ridge
You guessed it: the true summit
On top of Iron Lakes Ridge
On the south skyline: Saddle Mountain, Sheep Mountain, and Mount Livingstone.
Windy Peak is in there too. (Click for a larger image)
Heading to the north end of the summit ridge. Left are Iron Creek Mountain and Sentinel Peak
(mouse over for a closer look)
Following a sheep track down the east slopes
The trail cuts through a cliff band
We'll soon leave the trail and make our way to the plateau
After getting by a short cliff band, the way to the plateau is clear (click for a larger image)
Looking back from the plateau (click for a larger image)
Lunch on the plateau
Iron Lakes below (mouse over for a closer look)
From the saddle we followed a trail and then continued along the ridge ahead
Looking back at the plateau (click for a larger image)
Descending through the trees
Back at the meadow, we faced a 120-metre hike back up the ridge ahead us. Before crossing
the meadow, we planted a pole so that the trail to Iron Lakes is easy to find.
J/1 Langford Creek
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