Undoubtedly the fastest and easiest approach to Saddle Mountain is from the north via Windy Peak (see Sonny Bou's trip report). Having done Windy Peak a couple of times, Dinah Kruze and I had no wish to revisit it. We decided to reach the mountain from the east, a trip that would be longer and involve more routefinding. However, it would include the two-kilometre stretch of ridge south of the mountain, an area that proved to be scenic.
After driving down Chimney Rock Road we turned onto Saddle Mountain Road. The logical trailhead was at the end where there is a 4x4 road. However, a sign there indicated "No Access." It wasn't clear if it meant no trespassing or no vehicles were allowed, but we drove back down Saddle Mountain Road 300 m and parked at an unsigned 4x4 road where we started. (Perforce, we would end up hiking on the "No Access" road anyway.)
Basically, our route would be L-shaped. We hiked west up the road until we reached the end of a ridge running east to west. This ridge intersects the south-north ridge that leads to Saddle Mountain.
After two and a half hours of hiking on roads and light bushwhacking we finally reached open slopes. From there routefinding was largely a matter of following a ridge to the mountain. Four hours after starting out, we reached the south summit and 15 minutes later we were standing on the north peak. My GPS showed the north peak was only a metre higher.
Rather than go back the same way, with all its ups and down, we hiked down an open slope from the south summit to a drainage and followed it back to the 4x4 road. With its twists and turns and bushwhacking it was not an easy return trip but we reached the car three hours after leaving Saddle Mountain.
About a kilometre before reaching the car, we saw a small mammal scurry in front of us. In the dim light of dusk we could see it was brown and about the size of a pika. It wasn't fast nor did it try hard to hide. I was able to get within a metre of it and take some photos. Back home after an Internet search, I realized it was a pocket gopher. These tiny creatures are abundant but rarely seen. They spend their lives digging tunnels but occasionally they go above ground at night. They create the piles of black soil that we see on grassy areas.
Although we had no trouble accessing the cattle land, I read an account where a person was asked to turn back. Also, Gerry Richardson, Event Coordinator Calgary Outdoor Club, emailed me a caveat.
Saddle Mountain seen from Saddle Mountain Road
We're well into our trip but Saddle Mountain is still far away.
On a high point on the ridge, we went right but we should have gone left to reach open
After much bushwhacking we reach the open slopes (mouse over for the reverse view).
We continue following the ridge.
Unnamed peaks to the south
We skirted on the right side of the point ahead. Saddle Mountain on the right.
We'll drop down to the black ridge on the right.
Dinah makes her way down the slope.
We'll follow a natural black road that leads to the high point on the right.
Saddle Mountain on the left
Looking back at the point we bypassed below the cliffs.
Bright lichen (mouse over to back up)
We had to drop down and go left of the next point (mouse over for a close up).
We decided not to scramble up the cliff band because of snow and we had no helmets.
It only took a few minutes to go around and get on top of the cliff band.
We head to the south peak (far left).
Coming to the boulder on the false summit of the south peak
From the false summit looking back along the open ridge we traversed.
We make our way to the south peak. North peak is on the right.
Looking back at the south peak from the saddle.
It's an easy scramble on the left side to the north peak.
On the north peak.
We follow the open slope down.
Looking back at Saddle Mountain
We follow a good animal track. Saddle Mountain in the background.
Negotiating the drainage back to the 4X4 road
82 J/1 Langford Creek
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