Instead of barking about how long winter seems to be this year, or howling that it has been almost a month since I was last in the mountains, I decided that it would be best to fetch my snowshoes and head out for a walk. *crickets chirping* Okay, okay, that was not great but I couldn’t resist… I’ll just let that intro roll over and play dead. 😉
“The Dog” is the local name for a small peak situated at the southern end of the Livingstone Range in the Crowsnest Pass. Last weekend, I drove out to snowshoe it by myself, but as I was gearing up at my parking spot, I realized that I had forgotten to pack my boots! Dog gone it! So I had to settle for a quick recon trip to the top of a small hillock that offered good views of both “The Dog” and Morin Peak. With my tail between my legs, I returned to Lethbridge and made plans to come back the following weekend.
Hoping to take advantage of fresh snowfall during the intervening week, I returned on Saturday morning ready for another off leash attempt. This time, the only thing that threatened to collar me was the bitter wind that I encountered on the open ridge before the summit. Though it didn’t prevent me from retrieving my usual souvenir summit rock, it did force me to abandon my secondary goal of revisiting the South Peak of the Livingstone. Nevertheless, “The Dog” ended up throwing me a bone in the midst of what seems like the dog days of winter.
How do I know that “The Dog” is the local name for this mountain? All thanks to my friend, Brad, who took a picture of this handy panorama at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre several years ago. Now as to why it’s called, “The Dog”, that’s another question, though I’m sure it’s an interesting story that could be sniffed out and dug up…
My rendition of the previous picture from my unintended recon trip the weekend before. This is the view of both Morin Peak and “The Dog” from the top of the small hillock that can be seen in the foreground of the Interpretive Centre picture.
To get to “The Dog”, I drove west from Lethbridge on Highway 3 until I arrived in the small hamlet of Frank in the Crowsnest Pass. Just before the bridge over Gold Creek (and the A&W), I turned onto the road that leads to the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre. I drove for 1.15km until I came to a fork, where the main road follows a hairpin curve up to the Interpretive Centre, and a gravel road continues straight ahead. In the winter, this road is not drivable and so my starting point was the cattle guard where it joins the main road at the hairpin curve. I should note that the route I used, passes through two separate grazing leases, neither of which requires contact with the leaseholder prior to accessing.
From my vehicle, I walked 1.6km along the road until I came to another fork. Here I turned left and followed the road for ~100m until I came to a cutline. I then left the road and followed the cutline for ~420m before I crossed a barbed wire fence and bushwhacked my way through light forest and then across open slopes for 400m to top of a small knob that I had mistakenly thought to be a part of the slopes located beneath the ridge. I really should have continued on the cutline for another ~170m or so until I came to an ATV track that would have allowed me to avoid the knob (see the above map where a small clearing is visible off of the cutline. The ATV trail heads NE from this clearing and then cuts to the NW to reach the slopes above the knob). Fortunately however, I only had to lose ~35m in elevation from the knob to reach the actual slopes that I needed to be on. From here, I ascended open and sometimes steeply forested slopes for ~500m until I reached the ridge that led to the summit. The entire ridge walk to the summit ended up being a scenic, but windy, ~1.2km.
From the summit, I had intended to keep going and revisit the South Peak of the Livingstone, but the bitter and intense wind caused me to reconsider this. Instead, I returned the same way that I had ascended.
This topo map shows why I don’t trust the elevation reading of 2074m given by my GPS on the summit. The truth lies somewhere between 2000m and 2040m. For the record, I cleared and recalibrated my GPS before I left and cleaned up the tracks when I imported them onto my computer. I think it might be time to invest in a newer model as it’s given me a dog’s breakfast of data over the last number of months.
My total roundtrip distance was ~9.8km, with the elevation gain from my vehicle to the summit coming in at 705m – but again, take the elevation gain with a grain of salt. It took me 4 hours and 8 minutes to complete this trip.
Looking down the road towards “The Dog” shortly after starting (the summit is not visible). My route would follow the skyline ridge to the right of centre. What looks like open slopes between the trees in the foreground on the right, is actually the small knob that I mistakenly ascended – though in the end, it didn’t put me in the doghouse.
The view back after travelling about a kilometre or so down the road. Turtle Mountain is in the background. This part of the road is on leased public land, but the leaseholder does not require contact prior to accessing. This was the first of two separate grazing leases that I had to cross on this trip.
From my vehicle, I snowshoed down the road for ~1.6km until I came to a fork. Here, I turned left and followed the snowmobile tracks.
Only ~100m from the fork, the road crosses a cutline. This is where I left the road and followed the cutline to the northeast (right turn – again, following the snowmobile tracks).
After snowshoeing along the cutline for ~420m, I left it and crossed the fence on my left. Deep snow drifts allowed me to easily step over it. I probably should have stuck to the cutline for another ~170m or so, as on my way down, I discovered an ATV trail that led up from the cutline (I think it starts in the clearing that can be seen through the trees in the centre, just to the left of the cutline). This would have allowed me to avoid the elevation loss from the small knob that I was about to ascend… FYI, another way to ascend “The Dog”, would be to follow the cutline to the top of the ridge in the centre of the picture and then follow it to the north.
After leaving the cutline, I entered onto another grazing lease that also did not require me to contact the leaseholder. I encountered some light bushwhacking as I snowshoed my way to the northwest and towards more open slopes.
From my starting point, I thought that these slopes led directly to the ridge, but they turned out to be part of a small knob. I would be forced to lose ~35m in elevation before reaching the actual slopes that led to the ridge.
My slight navigational error did provide me with some stellar views though! From left to right: Hillcrest Mountain, Turtle Mountain, and Bluff Mountain. Sometimes barking up the wrong tree works out in the end.
Cats on “The Dog?!” What’s this world coming too? 😉 This momma cougar had at least 2 cubs with her.
From the top of the knob, I could see the actual slopes that led up to the ridge.
To reach them, I had to bushwhack my way down to what looked like a dry creek bed.
Back on track and heading up towards the ridge.
Looking back at the knob that I could have avoided by sticking to the cutline for just a while longer. In retrospect, I guess you could aptly describe it as the ‘Shih Tzu’ of the mountain.
Before reaching the ridge, the open slopes gave way to forest. This was steeper (and deeper) than it looks!
I snowshoed through ~200m of forest before finally coming to the ridge.
There was enough snow on the ridge that I didn’t have to remove my snowshoes – and when I tried, I post-holed. The summit itself is not visible.
Looking west at Bluff Mountain.
The view back from part way up the ridge. Until now, I had been sheltered from the wind, however, there was little reprieve from its rabid bite once I was on the ridge.
The final section of ridge before the summit (not visible).
The view behind me as I neared the summit.
“The Dog’s” summit comes into view on the right.
In lieu of a fire hydrant, a small cairn sits on the summit (somewhere between 2000m and 2040m in elevation). I did however, refrain from marking it. 😉
I usually carry three different cameras with me and this is a good thing, because this was the only pano that I was able to take with this particular camera before it froze up in the wind.
The view to the southwest from the summit. From left to right: Turtle Mountain, Willoughby Ridge, Mount Coulthard, Mount McLaren, Chinook Peak, Sentry Mountain, and in the foreground, the south end of Bluff Mountain.
The view west at Bluff Mountain. It might not look like much, but Bluff is a fun scramble. In the distance to the right of centre are “Pa Butte”, Crowsnest Moutain, and the Seven Sisters. On the far right is McGillivray Ridge.
Looking northwest at Grassy Mountain (centre) which is now the home of an active coal mining operation. In the distant centre immediately behind Grassy Mountain is, “Vicary Creek Ridge”. To the far right in the distance is Sugarloaf Mountain.
Morin Peak is on the left and the South Peak is on the right. I had originally considered continuing on to re-summit the South Peak, but the insanity of the wind caused me to ‘paws’ and rethink this plan…
The view to the southeast was reminiscent of a hairless dog. The ridge in the immediate foreground is the alternate way to the reach the summit from the cutline. Also in the foreground, but to the left are Robertson Peak and Tallon Peak and in the centre is the Piitaistakis Eagle Watch Site which is located on Two Mine Ridge. Behind them is Burmis Mountain. Ninastako (Chief Mountain), Prairie Bluff Mountain, Victoria Peak, Mount Gladstone, and Table Mountain can be seen in the distance.
The view south. Byron Hill is on the left and Maverick Hill , Poker Peak, and Spades Peak are in the centre. Hillcrest Mountain and Turtle Mountain are on the right. Tucked in between Hillcrest and Turtle is Hearts Peak.
Grrrrr! Woof! Woof!
I retreated from the summit and into a patch of trees located to the east.
The temperature outside of the wind was a pleasant -7c. Here is where I would take shelter so that I could eat a quick lunch and chase a few squirrels.
After leaving the summit and retracing my steps, I came across this large cairn that was located further down the ridge. I must have missed it on my way up, though I’m not sure why someone would build such a big cairn in this location, unless it has something to do with the medicine wheels and dream beds found on Robertson Peak… or this is where Fido is buried and that’s why the mountain is called, “The Dog”.
Descending the ridge.
Most of my tracks had already been covered by spindrift.
I thought I’d show the point where I had to cross another fence between the knob and slopes beneath the ridge. I think the ATV trail that led back to the cutline followed this fence – or at least close to it. However, as I had already broken a trail, I decided not to make a new one.
Like a knob, I decided to regain my elevation back up the knob.
One last look back at the ridge from the knob. Boy, was I glad to be out of the wind.
Arriving back at the cutline to much fanfare.
After ~9.8km and 4 hours and 8 minutes, I arrived back at my 4Runner. It’s too bad that the wind made things so miserable on the summit, because otherwise it would’ve been an excellent trip. Nevertheless, even though I wasn’t a ‘hot dog’, it was still fun to be ‘top dog’ on this particular morning. 😉