Forum Ridge, 22 May 2021

Forum Ridge (1833m; foreground centre) as viewed from Mount Rowe. As a late afternoon trip on an otherwise terrible weekend for weather, Forum Ridge was a highly enjoyable spring snowshoe.

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

After two days of heavy snow and facing a terrible forecast, Andrew and I took a chance on SpotWx’s prediction for a small window of good weather in Waterton. Indeed, so precise was SpotWx, that it called for clearing to begin around 3 pm and last until midnight; after which, the snow and rain would return with a vengeance for two more days – because, what else is new for the May Long? 😩 Not wanting to miss the opportunity to salvage even a small trip from the weekend, Andrew suggested Forum Ridge as a late-day destination to which I enthusiastically agreed. Arriving at an eerily empty Cameron Lake parking lot (there were only 5 cars!), we set off at 2:30 pm under a gloomy sky with our snowshoes at the ready.

Instead of taking the usual route up the cutline from the Akamina Pass trail, we took advantage of the direct access offered from Cameron Lake through a burned-out section left by the 2017 Kenow wildfire. Once on the ridge and true to SpotWX’s prediction, the sky began to clear and we could finally see the mid-May winter wonderland that surrounded us – though thick clouds would stubbornly obfuscate Forum Peak and Mount Custer for the entirety of the trip. Moreover, the combination of fresh and lingering winter snow, quickly removed any thought of continuing on to Forum Peak. No matter, the ridge itself was a great destination.

To take full advantage of the ever-clearing sky, we undertook a leisurely descent, even stopping to build an awkward-looking “Forumy The Snowman” 😁. For a trip that was put together as a last minute Hail Mary, this excursion went above and beyond our expectations. Weirdly, this was my first snowshoe of 2021 and my hope is that it will be my last for at least another six months. However, this is southwestern Alberta and the possibility of using snowshoes in September is an ever-present reality. 😳

Be sure to read Andrew’s excellent trip report! [link coming]

Forum Ridge is aptly described by Andrew in, Snowshoeing in the Canadian Rockies (2nd edition), and by Alan Kane in, Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies (3rd edition)so I will simply add, that instead of starting at the Akamina Pass trailhead, we started off in the Cameron Lake parking lot and followed the lake trail west for ~450 m before leaving it for the ridge. The 2017 Kenow wildfire opened this section up and firm snow among the trees made for an easy ascent onto the ridge, where we gained the cutline described by Nugara and Kane.

Once on the ridge, the route is incredibly straightforward and if the conditions are right, leads into a great scramble up Forum Peak. Unfortunately, the amount of snow made that impossible and we decided to return the way we came, though another potential option was to descend to Forum Lake and then back along the Akamina Trail.

Our total roundtrip distance was 8.1 km with a total elevation gain of 654 m. Our roundtrip time was just over 3.5 hours.

Spring… ‘er make that winter, has arrived in Waterton. 😉 That poor cub must be totally confused by all the new white stuff.

Standing at the boat launch on Cameron Lake with Forum Ridge on the right. Only the base of Forum Peak can be seen in the centre while Mount Custer (far left) is completely hidden.

After following the trail around Cameron Lake for ~450, we begin the easy ascent.

Firm snow meant that snowshoes were not yet required.

Arriving at the cutline that leads onto the ridge. Backcountry skiers had already taken advantage of the fresh powder.

The cutline serves as the Park boundary.

What’s this? Blue sky? SpotWx’s prediction was… spot on. 😁

Enjoyable travel along the ridge.

The ridge narrows as it closes in on Forum Peak.

Even though it’s mid-May, it looks more like mid-January.

Gaining some elevation and with it, some better-than-expected views.

Getting to the point where snowshoes became a necessity. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

We could see that a lone wolf had made tracks alongside those impressive cornices. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

Even though the upper section was cloudy, the temperature was ideal with little to no wind.

Arriving at the base of Forum Peak. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

Gazing down at Forum Lake.

We would make it as far as the trees in front of me before calling it quits. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

Happy to have found the sweet spot in an otherwise terrible long weekend forecast. Great trip suggestion Andrew! 😁

Looking back at a beclouded Forum Peak.

Andrew leads our return.

A pano to the northeast highlighting the entirety of Cameron Lake.

A pano to the north with Forum Lake visible through the trees in the centre.

A telephoto of Festubert Mountain (centre).

Looking across to Mount Rowe (foreground centre) and behind it, Mount Lineham.

Still no sign of Forum Peak…

A gorgeous pano that highlights an increasingly blue sky. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

The clouds finally lift from Buchanan Ridge (left of centre) and Mount Carthew (centre).

Another look at Mount Rowe and Mount Lineham. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

A blast of snow from the day before, hangs precariously from a larch. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

We decided to build a snowman while waiting to see if the clouds would lift from Forum Peak. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

Andrew and our new friend.

I use the long-forgotten, ‘Scottish Tongue Technique’ to craft the details of its face. 😂 (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

Waving goodbye to ‘Forumy The Snowman’. 😂

This had turned into a fantastic late-afternoon excursion! (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

Andrew does his best carving to emulate the ski tracks. I’d give him a 9.5 / 10 for technique. 😂

I stop to admire a lone tamarack on the lower section of ridge. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

Heading onto the cutline…

Before leaving it to follow our tracks back to the lake.

Andrew soaks in another great view of Mount Rowe.

Sunshine, blue sky, and glistening snow made for a gorgeous trip back to the lake.

Arriving at the trail alongside the lake.

It will be a few weeks before Cameron Lake is free of ice.

Of course, now that we’re off the ridge, the clouds begin to lift from Forum Peak… Mount Custer (centre) however, is still entirely beclouded.

A telephoto of Forum Peak.

One final look at Forum Ridge (right) from the parking lot. For a last minute trip that was put together as an attempt to salvage the weekend, this ended up being the ideal destination. Not only did we time the weather perfectly (thanks SpotWx!), but the recent snow made for a highly enjoyable snowshoe. Of course, the best part of the day was the great conversation and laughter that always comes from a trip with Andrew. 😁

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