Mount Backus 2, 31 December 2020

Mount Backus (1815 m) as viewed from “Carbondale Ridge”. This was my second trip to this interesting foothill located on the edge of the Castle. We ended up combining it with an ascent of nearby, “Screwdriver Ridge”, for an enjoyable snowshoe loop.

⚠️ Hiking and scrambling are inherently dangerous activities. Please read my Disclaimer⚠️

After a quick trip up of 1 hour and 8 minutes to the top of “Screwdriver Ridge”, we had plenty of time to spare and decided to explore the south ridge on descent. As we made our way down, we began to wonder about a backdoor route up nearby, Mount Backus – the back of Backus if you will. 😂  After making it onto the road, we decided to give Backus a shot and ended up finding a great trail that took us onto the connecting ridge. Initially, we thought about ascending the open slopes beneath the summit, but the elevation loss and gain required to reach them was more than we wanted to experience. I mean, I love snowshoeing, but not that much!

From the ridge, we continued to the base of the mountain and began to slog our way through deep snow and up steep slopes. The final ~100 m beneath the summit was quite steep and though we could have chosen a more favourable angle through the trees, we decided to get it over and done with, and so we tackled it head-on.

When I was last here in 2014, it was quite cloudy and so it was great to take in the missing views. As it was windy, we didn’t linger long and we descended the way we came, with me ‘power sliding’ down some of the steeper sections and not necessarily by design. 😂 While it seemed like a long trip up, we made it down and back at the trail in ~20 minutes. Wow!

I highly doubt anyone will want to try this route, but it did make for a nice loop and added one more summit onto 2020. Happy New Year everyone!

Be sure to read Andrew’s trip report!

To get to “Screwdriver Ridge” and Mount Backus, we drove west from Pincher Creek on Highway 507 to the hamlet of Beaver Mines. At the T-intersection on the edge of town, we turned right (north) and continued on Highway 507 for ~1.1 km until we came to Township Road 6-2A. We then turned left (west) and followed the gravel road for ~3.8 km until we came to a locked seasonal gate. Here, we parked on the side of the road as this was our starting point.

From the gate we hiked along the road for ~1.3 km until we came to a cutline and could see the open slopes of “Screwdriver Ridge” on our right. Please note: that for the first ~900 m after starting from the gate, the land on either side of the road is private. The accessible public grazing lease does not start until you cross over the cattle guard ~900 m from the gate. While “Blue Mountain” is especially tempting to try from this section, don’t do it.

From the road, it was a straightforward ~2 km trip (270 m elevation gain) through the trees and up the slope to the summit. We had to cross a fence which we did by easily belly-crawling under it. Fences are important and so I always try to find a spot to cross where I don’t have to touch it to prevent damaging it – or me. An alternate for “Screwdriver” begins through the gate at the cattle guard on the road, this way the fence doesn’t have to be crossed. From the summit, we descended the south ridge for ~2.4 km to reach the road near the gas plant. Note that we had to cross a fence to reach the road.

The trail to reach the west ridge of Mount Backus begins behind the gas plant and we followed it for  ~1 km to the top of the small ridge. We then made our way east and towards Mount Backus along the ridge. After a few hundred metres, we reached the mountain and the ~1.2 km (211 m elevation gain) snowshoe to the summit of Backus was steep from this point on, especially near the top. However, we made it down from the summit and back to the trail ~ 20 minutes, so there is this advantage to our route.

Once back at the gas plant, it was an easy ~3 km hike back to our vehicles along the road.

Our total roundtrip distance was 14.8 km with total elevation gains of 807 m.  Our total time came in at 5 hours and 13 minutes. For reference, it took us ~5.9 km of hiking to reach the summit of Mount Backus from “Screwdriver Ridge”.

Andrew leads the way as we descend from “Screwdriver Ridge”.

An interesting section of dark and hard-packed rock.

To reach Backus (left), we would follow the ridge over the highpoint in front of me. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

For some reason, we were reticent to put on our snowshoes. They probably would’ve helped here. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

Making my way up the little highpoint while Andrew captures the sweeping views and interesting clouds. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

Andrew follows me up the highpoint as I stop for a look back at “Screwdriver Ridge”.

Byron Hill (right) enjoys the sunlight.

Mount Backus is still a ways off from here.

Weaving in and around the trees.

Following some rabbit tracks, Unfortunately, they aren’t very good at making a usable path through the snow. If only there was a way to make walking through snow easier… 😂

After crossing a fence, we arrived back at the road.

Easy travel from here.

The trail onto the ridge starts just behind the gas plant. For reference, it was another ~2.4 km (280 m elevation gain) to reach the summit from here.

A snowmobile had made a convenient track.

We finally realized that snowshoes would make things easier. 😂 (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

Graceful as always, I mash a trail up a large drift. 😂 (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

Approximately 1 km from the road, the trail began to descend from the ridge, signalling that it was time to leave it and head towards the mountain. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

We had initially contemplated using the open slopes beneath the summit; however, the elevation loss and gain to reach them was wholly unappealing. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

Following the ridge towards the mountain. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

Andrew channels his ‘inner Brad’ and leads the way up.

It wasn’t long before the grade increased. Three cheers for heel lifts. 😁

Checking out an interesting section of rock. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

My turn to channel my ‘inner Brad’. 😂

A quick glance back.

Andrew leads us up the steepest section just before the top. I totally power-slid down this on the way back.

The view back to the ridge and our route up. Hmmmm, I think that ridge should be called, “Castle Falls Hill” as it could be a neat little snowshoe. Hey, before you give me grief, remember that Ginger Hill (just behind it) is a named summit. 😂 (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

Finally on the top and heading towards the summit.

Following a beaten snowshoe path.

My second time on the summit of Mount Backus (1815 m). The last time I was here, was in April 2014, though Jeff and I had originally made a comical attempt in February of that same year.

The summit survey pin.

The last time I was here, it was quite cloudy so it was good to have some views this time.

A wide angle to the southeast.

Looking south at “Beaver Mines Ridge” (foreground). Even from here, this little ridge looks completely unremarkable – until you get on it and realize that it offers some surprisingly good views.

The view to the southwest with Carbondale Hill and “Carbondale Ridge” on the right.

A telephoto to the southwest of Syncline Mountain.

Gazing to the northwest at Hillcrest Mountain (right of centre) and Turtle Mountain (right).

The view slightly further to the north with Bluff Mountain in the distance on the right. Byron Hill (centre) and Ginger Hill (far left) are in the foreground.

The view north and towards “Screwdriver Ridge” (foreground) with Burmis Mountain behind it. Unfortunately, the Livingstone Range is beclouded, as it would look good from here.

Ah, good ol’ “Blue Mountain”.

Andrew checks out the continuation of the ridge to the east. Unfortunately, it sits on private land and require permission to access.

A colourful rock and a guy with a rocks in his head! 😂😂 (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

It was also Andrew’s second time on the summit.

Happy New Year and all the best in 2021! (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

Andrew leads the way back.

Following our tracks back.

This would end up being a very quick descent.

Checking out the rocks again.

Andrew keeps up the pace…

And ~20 minutes after leaving the summit, we were back on the ridge.

A look back shows the clearing in the trees where we came across the interesting rock formation. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

The ~1 km trip back to the road was also quick.

Arriving at the gas plant.

And one more look back to Backus.

The trip from the gas plant to our vehicles was an enjoyable ~3 km walk.

The last hike of 2020 comes to an end after 5 hours and 13 minutes over 14.8 km. This was another fantastic day in the mountains with a great friend. May all of your summits in 2021 bring you gratitude, wonder, and awe. Happy New Year!

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