We were both eager to start hiking season again, but the season doesn’t really start before June and in some locations July in the Rockies. So I picked up one of my favourite guidebooks for hiking (‘Where the locals hike in the Canadian Rockies’) and searched under the section ‘shoulder season hikes’ where Raspberry Ridge was listed as a good option for spring hiking. The hike was also listed as easy and good ‘first of the season’ hike if you have not kept a strict fitness regime over winter. Perfect – I thought. But what you need to have in mind reading this guidebook is that the authors are exceptionally fit, so what they find easy might not fall under the easy category for everyone… Also trying to attempt this hike in April made it a bit more challenging due to remaining snow cover.
The pull-out for the trailhead is found along highway 940, about 10 kilometres after taking of from highway 40. The hike started easy as promised by the guidebook where we followed an old dirt road. This sections was partially snow covered where the sun had not been able to reach, but the snow was mostly hard packed and we had no problem getting across. In the open terrain all snow was gone. We even saw butterflies here.
When we got our first look at Raspberry Ridge we realised it still had more snow on the ridge than we had anticipated, or hoped for, you can’t really expect the snow to be gone by April at 2360 meter above sea level. But we decided to give it a shot anyways. Hopefully we would find a spot where it was possible to get over the ridgecrest.
The first 3-4 km was easy, but the majority of the elevation gain was the last kilometer and it definitely got my heart pumping! And it was during this steep section I wished I had done more exercise over the winter months, holy smokes I thought I was going have a heart attack. 400 meters elevation gain in 850 meters. My husband, who just came back from a week of alpine skitouring, didn’t seem affected at all and had plenty of time to get some nice photos of the view and close up shots of green lichen I didn’t even notice as I was busy trying to breathe…
The last section of the trail we got to the snow cover we had observed earlier. From here we had to abandon the trail and just head for the section that looked easiest to ascend. There was some steep snowy sections and scrambling involved to get over the cornice at the ridgecrest. No photos from this section as I was busy clinging on to the rocks…This part will definitely be easier in summer when you can follow the trail.
Once we were above the ridgecrest it was a nice, but windy walk along the along the ridge to the fire lookout. There was still some significant snow cornices on the ridge so we kept a safe distance to the edge. At the fire lookout there was 5 buildings and a helipad. The fire lookout is still being used in the summer months, but guess it is not summer yet as all the windows where shut close. It was fairly windy so we just stayed long enough to have a quick look at the 360 degree view and grab some selfies before we started the descend.
After the somewhat uncomfortable ascend to get over the ridgecrest we decided to take an alternative route down that looked less demanding. Instead on walking back the ridgecrest to descend where we came up we started the descent from the lookout. This might not have been the best option as it ended up involving some off trail hiking and more snow. But after checking out the statistics it was actually a shorter (but probably not a faster) route.
It was great getting out there again, but we will probably have to wait a month or so before we start doing hikes in the national parks.
Difficulty: Easy first 3.5 km, strenuous last km.
Length: 9.7 km roundtrip
Elevation gain: 617 m
Duration: 4 hours 40 minutes (probably faster without the snow later in the season)
Did you know – this was actually the first hike we have done in K-Country / Rocky Mountains where we haven’t met a single person on the trail! Thanks for reading, comment are much appreciated! I would like to hear what you think – have you started hiking season yet, or maybe you do hiking year round?