Our trip from Clubs Peak to Spades Peak involved an enjoyable bike ride along an ATV trail that is carved into the western slope of Hastings Ridge. The trail, which leads all the way to the summit, is quite scenic at times as it works its way through the remnants of a forest that was burned in the 2003 Lost Creek Fire. Perhaps the trail itself is a byproduct of the fire, created by firefighters in their attempt to put it out? Regardless, it’s easy to follow though some caution is needed because there is an ever-present danger from falling trees, particularly on a windy day – which is pretty much every day in the Pass! 😉 Had we not had our bikes, I would have been tempted to gain the ridge crest and follow it either to or from Spades Peak as this would have provided some nice views, though I’m sure it would also involve navigating through sections of deadfall.
The views from Spades Peak are great, with the only drawback being a partially obstructed landscape to the west. Otherwise, it’s possible to see quite far to the north, east, and south. My favourite view was of nearby Hearts Peak and Hillcrest Mountain which were accentuated by the morning sun. I would definitely recommend a visit to both of these peaks if you are short on time but are still looking to get out. I would also recommend investigating the Adanac Strip Mine (Canada spelled backwards). It offers some great views to the west and we really enjoyed our ride through the Mars-like landscape that was once an open pit mine – so much so that we did it twice! My only regret is that we didn’t have time to include Hearts Peak as part of the trip. In fact, if the conditions are right and you have more than one vehicle along with some bikes, it would be possible to knock off Maverick Hill, Poker Peak, Clubs Peak, Spades Peak, and Hearts Peak all in one go. Now that would be a winning hand!
To reach the ATV trail from Clubs Peak, we followed the north road from its junction with the main road for ~300m until we came to an obvious fork. Here the road begins to descend to the northwest while the ATV trail starts on the right. We followed the trail along the side of Hastings Ridge for ~1.9km until we arrived at the base of Spades Peak. While it is possible to follow the trail all the way to the summit, we avoided the long switchbacks by pushing our bikes up the lower slope until we regained the road. We ditched the bikes at the second switchback and followed a small gully to rejoin the trail beneath the summit. For interest’s sake only, we left the trail at the fourth switchback and followed the rocky ridge to the summit. By avoiding the switchbacks we saved approximately ~450m in additional distance thus making it only a ~550m trip from the base to summit with a total elevation gain of ~110m.
We descended Spades Peak the same way, except we rode our bikes down the lower section of the trail, utilizing the first switchback. We then followed our route back to Clubs Peak and with time still on our hands, decided to investigate what was left of the Adanac Strip Mine that is located immediately to the south of Clubs Peak. After reaching the ‘summit’, we enjoyed a bike ride through a Mars-like landscape before heading back to our vehicle. This excursion added an extra ~3km onto our trip but was well worth it.
A topo of this section of Hastings Ridge shows Spades Peak as the highest point. Nearby Hearts Peak shares the same elevation of 2027m, making Spades and Hearts the two highest points on the entire ridge.
This was a quick trip that came in at 3 hours and 32 minutes, though we could have easily chopped off more time if we had to. Our total distance travelled was ~13km with total elevation gains of 588m. The bumps on the above graph from left to right represent Clubs Peak, Spades Peak, and the highpoint of the Adanac Strip Mine.
Jeff arrives back at our bikes from the summit of Clubs Peak. To save some distance, we had parked our bikes at the junction of the main road that led to Clubs Peak and a side road that led north towards Spades Peak.
After following the north road for ~300m we came to this obvious fork. The ATV trail that leads to Spades Peak starts on the right. The little ATV track shown on the far left is a shortcut back to the north road which eliminates the hairpin bend. We would use this on our way back.
What a gorgeous morning for a bike n’ hike!
The view back shortly after venturing down the trail.
Looking west towards the Flathead Range. Unfortunately, they were obscured by cloud cover but on a clear day, this would be a great view.
Jeff nicknamed this trail, “Leaning Tree Trail” because of the all the dead trees that had been blown down by the wind. It looked like someone had recently tried to clear many of them with a chainsaw, but I think that this will be an ongoing effort as there are so many more that are ready to fall over. In fact, we heard several ominous creaks as we rode along – so I would caution anyone who uses this trail to be aware of this potential hazard.
The number of fallen trees meant that we had to occasionally dismount from our bikes. This situation was made worse because one of my hiking poles is broken and no longer completely collapses. This caused it to stick further out of my pack and I ended up almost clotheslining myself a couple of times. In fact, anyone with common sense would’ve taken it out and held onto it, but not me. Nope, not me… 😉
Even with all of the leaning trees this was still a fun trail to ride!
Spades Peak from the aptly nicknamed, “Leaning Tree Trail”.
Looking up at the summit of Spades Peak. The trail leads to the summit via a number of long switchbacks.
However, to avoid the added distance of the first switchback, we pushed our bikes up the lower slopes until we regained the trail.
Shortly after regaining the trail, we left our bikes at the second switchback and followed a small gully up to the next section.
Looking back at Clubs Peak from the slopes of Spades Peak. The trail can be seen etched on the side of ridge. If I didn’t have a bike, I would’ve been tempted to hike the ridge crest either to or from Spades Peak.
The final switchback before the summit. Purely for the sake of enjoyment, we left the trail and followed the rocky crest to the summit.
The rocks along the crest are an interesting type of conglomerate – perhaps basal Blairmore conglomerate? (Photo by Jeff Lang)
The summit of Spades Peak (2027m).
Looking south as Jeff arrives on the summit.
My GPS readings on the summit. Unlike Clubs Peak, my readings were only 7m less than the elevation indicated on the map.
Snow begins to fall as I look to the west. On a clear day, Spades Peak would provide some great views of the Flathead Range.
The Ironstone Fire Lookout sits on the summit of Willoughby Ridge.
A telephoto of Hearts Peak which can be reached by continuing to hike north along Hastings Ridge or by following an ATV trail that runs to the west of Hillcrest Mountain. I’m told by my friend, Brad, that the short trip from the ATV trail to the summit is full of deadfall, so he recommends gaining the ridge further to the south. Edit: I returned in March of 2017 and completed Hearts Peak as a snowshoe using the ATV trail. I did not encounter any deadfall thanks to the thick covering of snow.
The view to the south was also obscured by cloud – which is too bad because on a clear day, it would provide some nice views as well. On the left is Clubs Peak and behind it is the high point of the Adanac Mine. In the centre is Cherry Hill (speaking of deadfall…).
A small memorial sits on the summit.
Jeff once again channels his inner squirrel…
…while I chose to go more casual primate.
Jeff descends from the summit.
If you want to enjoy a fun ride, then I’d recommend taking your bike all the way to the summit. We enjoyed our brief ride down the lower section of the mountain.
Hillcrest Mountain is in the background as Jeff emerges from the initial switchback.
Gazing back towards Spades Peak from the trail. A rainbow can be seen on the left.
Zooming in to try and spot the pot of gold.
There were some nice mud holes to ride through!
After rejoining the main road, we decided to follow it over to the base of Clubs Peak. This is the view from the road up to the summit. As I mentioned in the Clubs Peak report, these are probably the easiest little summits to reach in southern Alberta. I used to think Poker was the easiest (though it makes a great snowshoe), but Clubs is even easier.
We began to follow the road south up to the Adanac Strip Mine. Part way up, I got sidetracked by an old mountain bike jump that I saw through the trees, so we pushed our bikes up the slope to take a closer look. From here we ended up doing a bit of bushwhacking with our bikes until we found an old switchback that would take us to the top of the mine.
Getting ready to do a triple backflip. 😉 (Photo by Jeff Lang)
Jeff pushes his bike past a fenced off section on the north side of the mine. There must be some unseen hazards located inside.
The western slopes of Clubs Peak are also scarred from mining.
On a clear day, the views to the west would be excellent.
We found the remnants of the strip mine on the western slopes.
The highest point on the Adanac Strip Mine that we reached.
My GPS readings at the highest point.
Jeff descends into the open pit.
Mountain biking on Mars! To see a poor quality photo of this mine (because we all want that), go to page 35 of this 1951 Alberta Government Report on the Geology of the Carbondale River. According to this report, the lighter coloured rock is basal Blairmore conglomerate.
I found a coal seam next to the trail – which would make sense since we were inside a coal mine. 😉 It could also be black shale…
We enjoyed the ride so much that we turned around and did it again! That and we didn’t want to hike the bikes up to the top of the road… 😉
Leaving via the northern entrance to the mine.
On the road and enjoying an easy cruise back to our vehicle.
Arriving back at my 4Runner with time to spare. In the background is mighty Poker Peak.
Surprisingly, given the amount of mud we rode through, the bikes weren’t as dirty as I’d thought they’d be.
Heading home along the Adanac Road. What a beautiful part of the world we live in! Though these peaks are hardly noteworthy, they do provide for some fun adventuring. If you have time, energy, some bikes, and a couple of vehicles, I’d recommend combining the peaks on Adanac Ridge and Hastings Ridge and going for a “Full House”! You just have to pretend that Maverick Hill is really called ‘Diamonds Peak’. 😉 In fact, if you wanted an even longer but scenic day of biking, you could complete Maverick, Poker, Clubs, Spades, and Hearts and then from Hearts, follow the trail all the way to the Lyons Creek Road and then out to Blairmore. Personally, I’m think I’m going to try and tag Hearts this winter as a snowshoe. Edit: done!
Postscript: If I were to try for a “Full House” all in one day, here’s how I would do it:
- Ideally there would be 2 vehicles and bikes. I would park one vehicle either at the trailhead for Hearts Peak / Hillcrest Mountain – or for a longer day – in Blairmore;
- I’d then drive the 2nd vehicle up the Adanac Road and drop the bikes off at the base of Poker Peak;
- Then I would keep driving for a couple of kilometres until I came to the Maverick Hill starting point. Here is where I would park and start hiking;
- I would tag Maverick Hill then hike the ridge to tag Poker. I’d drop down from Poker and get on my bike and ride to Clubs Peak (easiest peak in the world) and tag it. I’d then ride to Spades Peak, tag the summit, and return back the same way, except I’d keep going and follow the Adanac Road all the way down to the Hearts Peak trailhead. I would then bike the trail to Hearts and tag it using something similar to our snowshoe route;
- If I parked the 2nd vehicle at the Hearts / Hillcrest trailhead, then I would just return the same way. However, if I had parked it in Blairmore, I’d keep following the trail until I reached Lyons Creek Road, which I would then follow into town. This would be a very long ride, but it is an option.
If I only had one vehicle and a bike, I’d do everything the same way except I’d have to ride back up the Adanac Road and then coast down to my parking spot at Maverick Hill.
Anyway, this could be a really fun day! Happy trails!