2 July 2017
With Nicolas, Stefanie & Wen
This is one of my favourite ridge walks in one of the most scenic areas of the Rockies – Highwood Pass in Kananaskis. We picked Pocaterra Ridge for our “Canada Day” hike (though a day late) and it surely didn’t disappoint! Given that it was a long weekend, we had braced ourselves for hordes of people all out and about to enjoy themselves in beautiful sunny weather with clear blue skies. To our surprise, we only ran into perhaps 3 or 4 other groups and had the ridge mostly to ourselves.
The advantage of coming here with two cars is clear: it’s an 11 km one-way trip along the ridge, so a car drop will save you the boring walk back along the highway (an alternative is to bring a bike). We started from the Highwood Pass parking lot at the southern end of the ridge, leaving one car at the Little Highwood Pass parking lot for the ride back at the end of our trip. This was a good choice as the sun was in our backs for a good part of the day, thus illuminating the ridge in front of us.
I love the approach through pretty Pocaterra valley, which is quite lush and green at the beginning and then gradually becomes more rocky higher up. It was exactly as I remembered it from previous visits when I climbed up Mount Tyrwhitt and Mount Pocaterra, but this year there was still quite some snow lingering in places, making parts of the trail muddy and wet.
Once we left the valley, the trail to the south and highest summit of Pocaterra Ridge was quite steep. There was a group of bighorn sheep near here that conveniently posed for a photo shoot and provided a welcome break during our grunt up the slope.
After an extended summit lunch, we leisurely hiked along the ridge northward, enjoying fabulous views in all directions. The impressive Mount Elpoca with Gap Mountain to its side really stand out in the north; looking east are well-known scrambles of the Highwood Range that include Mount Arethusa, Storm Mountain, Mount Rae and Mist Mountain. I really like water features as part of the landscape and it was nice be able to see two lakes flanking the ridge: Elbow Lake to the east and a small, unnamed lake immediately west of Pocaterra Ridge.
There were about four or five high points along the ridge, which explains the 800+ m total elevation gain. The initial descent off the summit had a few steep and rubbly sections, but virtually no exposure or scrambly parts. The remainder of the ridge was a very comfortable and pleasant hike mostly on open grassy slopes.
With the exception of some route finding issues at the very end where parts of the trail have been washed out and a creek crossing is necessary (or a log walk), the entire route was straightforward and easy to follow. You could probably do the whole ridge in 3-4 hours, but on a beautiful day like today, we just couldn’t help but stop frequently to admire the gorgeous views and take a ton of photos. Pocaterra Ridge was an extremely scenic outing that in my opinion combines the best of many features the Rockies have to offer.
DISCLAIMER: Use at your own risk for general guidance only! Do not follow this GPX track blindly but use your own judgement in assessing terrain and choosing the safest route.