|  Home |  Canada Trips |  US Trips |  Hiking |  Snowshoeing |  MAP |  About

Mount Mann (West Approach)
Kananaskis, Alberta
April 17, 2021

Distance: 9.9 km
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 502 m

New adventures are scarce during the shoulder season, so when I saw a west route for Mount Mann in the spring, I zeroed in on it. This route wasn't feasible when the valley west of Mann was uninterrupted timberland, but recent logging has since stripped the area of trees leaving two vast cutblocks separated by a band of forest. I noticed the cutblocks when we hiked up Stony Ridge a few weeks ago (no trip report). They weren't there in 2012 when we did Stony. The usual route for Mount Mann, which Dinah and I did in 2004, approaches the mountain from the east.

The plan was to reach the west cutblock, cross the band of trees to the east cutblock and then ascend the north ridge of Mount Mann. But I had two questions. Where do we access the west cutblock? Where was the best place to cross the woods that separates the cutblocks? Google Earth was no help as it still displayed a forested valley.

After driving down Highway 541, we had an answer to the first question. 1.6 km east of Highwood Junction we found a “skid trail,” a temporary trail used by logging equipment to remove logs from a timber stand. That's where Dinah and I, along with Zora, Christine, Glenda and Teresa, started our hike.

We found ample parking for our five cars on the roadside. We gathered our gear and started down the skid trail, picking our way through the “slash,” debris from fallen trees. It was probably left on the trail to reduce erosion. 300 m from the highway, we forded Highwood River. Unlike the river crossing for the east approach, this was like crossing a creek. It was short and only ankle-deep. 70 m after the river, we came to a frozen stream. We walked across it and continued up the trail to the edge of the west cutblock.

After climbing a rise in the west cutblock, we solved the question of where to cross the band of forest. We spied a thin spot in the trees. Beyond it, we could see the east cutblock. But when we reached the spot, we realized this was no easy passage: the trees hid a deep drainage. We climbed over some logs at the edge only to realize the deadfall intensified as we descended. But four of us got through it, crossed a frozen creek and climbed up the other side. Meanwhile, Dinah and Glenda fared better when they ventured downstream and found an easier crossing, one with gentler slopes and no deadfall.

From the edge of the east cutblock, we sauntered to the north end where we could start up the north ridge. We hiked through a thin forest, went over a rise and soon gained the ridge crest. We followed the undulating ridge. Most of it was treed and snow-covered, but glades gave way to dry meadows. On the top of Mount Mann, we found a small cairn, a pink summit register and views open to the east. We stopped for lunch before heading back.

For our return, we didn't cross the miserable drainage. While hiking up the east cutblock we noticed a skid trail. We followed the trail, crossed a frozen swamp and reached the west cutblock. We soon joined our ascent route and followed it back.

We all enjoyed the trip, and I think the west approach for Mount Mann has some advantages. The route is shorter than the east approach, and the river crossing is easier. I expect some enterprising party will build a makeshift bridge as the gap is small and logs are plentiful. The cutblocks are unsightly, but the open sky is a welcomed delight when much of the hiking around here is done in trees. The skid trails are muddy, however, so it's best to do this trip in dry conditions.

KML and GPX Tracks

Mount Mann and the cutblocks seen from Stony Ridge

The skid trail seen from the highway

Crossing Highwood River

Heading to the second crossing

The stream was frozen over

We continued up the skid trail, keeping to the sides to avoid the slash in the middle

The trail leads to the west cutblock

Entering the west cutblock

The snow-capped peaks of Mounts Strachan, Muir and McPhail appear behind Glenda

We angled up the slope on our right

Behind us is Junction Hill. The small ridge in the centre is Stony Ridge.

We decided to head to the thin spot in the trees ahead

What appeared to be a break in the trees...

...was a hidden creek with steep banks

Four of us clambered over deadfall, while Dinah and Glenda found a spot downstream that avoided this crap and wasn't as steep.

We came across the pelvis of a small animal

The creek was frozen

We regrouped on the edge of the east cutblock

We made our way to the north end

Looking back after hiking well up the cutblock. Left is the skid trail we took on our return.

Entering the trees at the edge of the cutblock

Travel through the forest was easy and pleasant

After a brief hike through the woods, we climbed to the ridge crest

Looking south from the ridge. Hell's Ridge stretches above.

We started up the ridge

We encountered snow on the ridge...

...but there were a few dry slopes

Zora and Teresa reach the cairn

Five women on Mann: Teresa, Glenda, Christine, Zora and Dinah

Zephyr Creek Hills lie east

Back at the edge of the east cutblock where we stopped to regroup

We headed to the skid trail we had seen earlier

Looking back from the start of the skid trail

Teresa and Dinah start down the trail

We kept right where we could see the east cutblock ahead

Looking back after reaching the edge of the east cutblock

Teresa stopped to treat a wound. She was the third person to receive a scratch on our trip.

We'll soon connect with our ascent route

82 J/7 Mount Head

Hikes | Canada | Home