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Yarrow Ridge
Castle Provincial Park, Alberta
October 16, 2010

Distance: 8.2 km
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 720 m

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 to view more spectacular rock. As we followed the ridge back, we searched for a feasible descent. Eventually we found a slope to go down, and we passed under fascinating geological folds before returning to the cutline.

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 followed a path a scree slope

Looking up at the jagged cliffs we hiked under

Gnarly rock above us (mouse over to zoom back)

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

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