⚠️ Hiking and scrambling are inherently dangerous activities. Please read my Disclaimer. ⚠️
After enjoying the views from Southfork Mountain (2362m), Jeff and I set off towards the summit of Barnaby Ridge (2471m) which is situated ~3.75 km to the south. Even though it was a warm afternoon, we were buffeted by gusts which drew intensity from being forced through the narrow valleys and corridors of the surrounding landscape. As we gained the first highpoint on the ridge, known locally as “The Amoeba”, the effects of compression lessened and we could comfortably enjoy the experience. The same could also be said for the summit of Barnaby Ridge, which was almost completely calm even though directly beneath it, fierce gusts that had funnelled through the valley to the south of Mount Haig, tore across the ridge. More of an annoyance than anything, the wind did not detract from what was otherwise, a highly enjoyable ridge walk that featured great views and a dazzling variety of colourful argillite.
One additional element of excitement was our brief, but uneventful encounter with a large black bear near the bottom of the descent drainage. Jeff and I had just finished bushwhacking and had started down an old logging road when our habit of regularly yelling, “Coming through!” (and sometimes “Oilers suck!”) had the desired effect of alerting a nearby bruin to our presence. In what amounted to a flash, the bear crossed the road less than 100m from us and scampered back into the forest, pausing briefly several times to see if we were pursuing it. We kept yelling and it kept running. We took the safeties off of our bear spray just in case it decided to become curious but it wanted nothing to do with us. I also took out my camera but was too late to get a picture. Though not our first encounter with a bear it reinforced to us that most wild animals just want to be left alone and have little to do with humans. Bears appreciate lots of advanced warning which on a windy day can be hard to give, but when they get it, they will generally move on long before we might even see them.
From Southfork Mountain we hiked south for ~3.75km to the summit of Barnaby Ridge. Outside of a brief but mild scramble up the lower section of “The Amoeba”, the entire ridge walk was an easy hike. We descended the drainage located directly beneath Barnaby Ridge and bushwhacked until we reached an old logging road that led us back to the main road. We followed this for ~1.3km until we came to the Castle Mountain Ski Resort. From here, we walked another ~4.5km along Highway 774 back to our vehicle.
The round trip distance to bag both Southfork Mountain and Barnaby Ridge was 22.3km with total elevation gains of 1754m. The entire trip took us 8 hours and 15 minutes, including the 30 minutes that we wasted trying to find the South Fork Lakes trailhead. The traverse from Southfork Mountain to Barnaby Ridge involved a gradual loss of ~62m to the base of ‘The Amoeba” and then an ascent of ~128m to its summit. From “The Amoeba” to the summit of Barnaby Ridge there was an initial elevation loss of ~164m followed by a ~64m gain then another loss of ~37m, until finally, a gain of ~165m. It took us just over 35 minutes to reach “The Amoeba” from Southfork Mountain and surprisingly, only 50 minutes to get from “The Amoeba” to the summit of Barnaby Ridge.
Looking south along the ridge from Southfork Mountain. “The Amoeba” is in the foreground and the summit of Barnaby Ridge is in the distance.
The low angle of the afternoon sun accentuated the colourful rock. The summit of Southfork Mountain is in the background.
The hike along the ridge was easy but the wind forced us at times to stay off of the crest.
The lower section of “The Amoeba” involved an easy scramble up a short section of rock.
Argillite rock is what gives many mountains in the Castle Wilderness and Waterton Lakes their spectacular colours.
Jeff makes his way up “The Amoeba”. Castle Mountain Ski Resort is in the background.
Looking back at Southfork Mountain from “The Amoeba”. Syncline Mountain is on the left. Mount Darrah, Mount McGladrey, and Mount Coulthard are in the distant centre. Crowsnest Mountain and Poker Peak can also be seen in the distance on the right.
The top of “The Amoeba” offered some spectacular views and a tiny cairn. We didn’t linger too long because we weren’t sure how long it would take us to reach the summit of Barnaby Ridge which was ~2.1 km away. (Photo by Jeff Lang)
A more comprehensive view from “The Amoeba” to the summit of Barnaby Ridge (centre of the three bumps). We were surprised that it only took us 50 minutes to cover all of the elevation gains and losses.
Looking east from the highpoint between “The Amoeba” and Barnaby Ridge. From left to right: Table Mountain, The Whistler Fire Lookout, Whistler Mountain, ‘Table Top‘, ‘Eagle Peak’, Mount Gladstone, Victoria Peak, Pincher Ridge, Castle Peak and Windsor Mountain.
Jeff enjoys the scenic but windy ridge walk.
The final stretch to the summit of Barnaby Ridge. The wind in this section was fairly intense but as we gained elevation it diminished considerably.
The official summit of Barnaby Ridge is on the right.
Arriving at our second summit of the day.
Looking slightly southeast from the summit at a pretty tarn beneath the continuation of Barnaby Ridge. West Castle (centre) is one of two peaks on Lys Ridge.
Lys Ridge is in the centre and is an amazing ridge walk! The continuation of Barnaby Ridge is in the foreground. La Coulotte Peak is on the far right.
Looking back at “The Amoeba” and the summit of Southfork Mountain. This was a really fun traverse.
An awesome pano taken by Jeff from the summit of Barnaby Ridge. (Photo by Jeff Lang)
I decided to take 10 minutes and hike over to the bump just to the west of the summit.
It provided the perfect vantage point to capture the stunning colours of Barnaby Ridge.
Pretty much the same picture as above except this one shows Jeff on the summit (right).
Jeff on the summit of Barnaby Ridge (2471m).
Unlike the summit of Southfork, the wind on top of Barnaby was surprisingly calm and I was able to have my picture taken while actually standing upright. It was also nice to not have my face feel like it was injected with Novacane.
Just to the east of the summit someone had built another cairn out of green argillite.
We descended directly beneath the summit of Barnaby Ridge. For the first ~200m, the angle of the slope combined with the soft scree made for a quick egress. Here Jeff lets the strong head winds naturally arrest his speed as he runs down the scree. Kinda looks like the beginning of “Little House on the Prairie” 😉
More Castle colours.
Our progress slowed considerably once the scree ended. We stayed to the right side of the drainage all the way down.
Jeff downclimbs a short section of rock.
In many places the drainage still had water flowing through it.
Jeff (lower left) side slopes up to an animal trail that I had found next to the tree line.
Recent snow had surpressed much of the vegetation so bushwhacking the final section to the logging road was not as bad as it could have been. The logging road started on the left side of the drainage just before the trees. It was shortly after reaching the logging road that we encountered the black bear. We had just finished yelling when it dashed across our path and scampered through the trees, stopping to look back at us several times and then hurrying off again each time we yelled. I wish I would have been able to snap a picture before he disappeared into the trees. I did however, find a nice Bear Grylls knife lying near to where the bruin had crossed our path. Who knew that Bear Grylls actually taught real bears how to survive in the wilderness? 😉 I feel bad though that the bear lost his knife but he shouldn’t have been running with it anyways.
The logging road led us back to the main road which we then followed ~1.3km to Castle Mountain Ski Resort.
I’m super happy that the provincial government has announced plans to finally protect the Castle!
Jeff looks back at “The Amoeba” (left) and the summit of Barnaby Ridge (right).
We could see our entire route along the ridge as we made the ~4.5 km trip back to our vehicle. If I were to do this again I would stash some bikes at a friend’s cabin at Castle Mountain or park a second vehicle in the lot to avoid the walk back along the highway.
Finally back at my 4Runner after 8 hours and 15 minutes and 22.3 km. I know I almost always say this, but I loved this trip! It was the perfect way to spend a fall day.