⚠️ Hiking and scrambling are inherently dangerous activities. Please read my Disclaimer. ⚠️
With Environment Canada and SpotWx predicting sunny skies, Brad and I set off for an ascent of “Boot Hill” (and potentially Tombstone Mountain) via Mount Haig. While I had previously summited Haig in 2015, this would be Brad’s first visit. As neither of us had been to “Boot Hill” or Tombstone, the terrain along the connecting ridge would be new ground to explore. Moreover, on my previous trip, I used the route up from Haig Lake, so our plan to ascend Haig’s east ridge from Paradise Lake was also new for me.
To make a long story short, the forecast went completely out the window. The dense cloud that enveloped the Divide refused to budge and though we enjoyed great weather until we were ¾ of the way up Haig, the remainder of our time was spent inside a witch’s cauldron. Oppressed by marginal visibility and at times, high winds combined with rain, we nevertheless made the decision to continue our beclouded journey from Milan to Minsk, 😂 erm… I mean from Haig to “Boot Hill”, which made for some interesting moments. Once on the summit, we made the wise decision to forego Tombstone and call it a day.
Despite the fact that for the majority of the day we saw almost nothing, we still came out of it smiling. However, one thing that we were disappointed to miss, was the partial solar eclipse. In fact, Mount Haig would have been the ideal location to experience an eclipse because it’s named after Captain R.W. Haig, who was the Chief Astronomer of the joint British – American Boundary Commission that was tasked with establishing the 49th parallel in the Rockies between 1858 and 1861. (source) Oh well, no nerd cookies for us…
Anyway, I know both of us are looking forward to repeating this, or a variation of this trip, under better conditions as we definitely missed out on some stunning scenery. The sambuca was tasty though… 🤪
The routes to Mount Haig and “Boot Hill” are nicely described in Andrew Nugara’s, More Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies, 3rd edition. To get to both peaks, we drove south from the hamlet of Beaver Mines on Highway 774 until we arrived at the parking lot for the Castle Ski Resort. This was our starting point.
From the trailhead, we biked the south Haig Lake trail for ~515 metres until we came to an obvious fork. Here, we kept to the left and followed the Paradise Lake trail for ~3.2 km until we came to a small cairn on the left side of the trail. This cairn marks the point where the trail continues as a single track through the trees. It is also the spot where we left our bikes. We then followed the single track for ~660 m to the point where we left the trail to head onto the east ridge of Haig using a secondary trail marked by blue flagging tape.
Once on the ridge, it was relatively straightforward hike / scramble to reach the summit of Haig, with three prominent rock bands to negotiate along the way. From the point where we gained the ridge to the summit of Haig it was ~2.4 km combined with a 700 m elevation gain. For reference, from the trailhead at Castle Ski Resort, it took us exactly 3.5 hours to reach the summit of Haig.
From the summit we then descended Haig’s easy south ridge (~247 m elevation loss) to the col with the first high point on the way to “Boot Hill”. From here we hiked to the top of the high point and then began our descent to the col with “Boot Hill”. This entailed down-climbing several rock steps over the ~950 m (167 m elevation loss) distance to the col.
The hike from the col to the summit of “Boot Hill” was also straightforward (unless of course, you are in a cloud) with a total elevation gain of 264 m over ~1 km. For reference it was a ~3.3 km hike from the summit of Haig to the summit of “Boot Hill” which took us 1 hour and 50 minutes. In total, it took us 5 hours and 20 minutes over a distance of ~11 km from the South Haig Lake trailhead.
After experiencing no views whatsoever, we then returned the same way, except after arriving at the base of Mount Haig, we proceeded to hike up Haig for a hundred metres or so, until we could see an obvious traverse route across Haig’s southeast slope. We then followed the traverse for ~1 km until we were back on Haig’s east ridge.
After descending to our starting point on the east ridge, we kept walking past the first trail we used, to a second, more gradual trail off the ridge. Once back on the Paradise Lake trail, we returned the way we came.
Our total roundtrip distance was 20 km with total elevations gains of 1784 m. Our total roundtrip time was 9 hours even.
Starting off at Castle Mountain Ski Resort. Neither Brad or I have e-bikes, so we ended up pushing our bikes for several sections along the trail.
Approximately 515 m from the trailhead, we came to a junction where we kept to the left.
We had fantastic weather to start the day.
Pushing our bikes up the steepest section of trail. In hindsight, we probably should have left our bikes at the top of the dip in background.
Mount Haig appears through the trees.
Approximately 3.2 km from the trailhead, we came to a junction where the trail to Paradise Lake continues to the left. This is where we left our bikes.
Enjoying the easy hike.
We eventually came to a fork in the trail where we would keep to the right.
The upper section of Haig sports some snow.
Nearing Paradise Lake. The trail that we used later in the day to get off the east ridge, is marked by flagging tape (not shown) and sits in a direct line from the two boulders on the left.
Closer to the lake, Brad eyes the second trail leading onto the ridge.
Checking out Paradise Lake. We didn’t need to come here, but because I’d never hiked to the actual lake before, I wanted to see it up close. Its nice, but I’m not sure where the name comes from… 🤔 (Photo by Brad Wolcott)
Paradise Lake and Mount Haig.
A closer look at the lake. I’m still not getting any Paradise vibes from it…
Heading back along the trail to the start of the second trail onto the ridge.
Heading towards some flagging tape that we could see from the main trail.
Starting up the trail.
This trail wasn’t as gradual as the one we used at the end of the day, but it wasn’t too bad.
After a short hike, we arrived onto the east ridge of Haig.
Looking over at a beclouded “Middle Kootenay Mountain”.
On my 2015 trip, I used the route from Haig Lake. Now that I’ve tried this route, I’d have to say that I prefer this one simply because I hate the scree-covered dirt section beneath the Haig / Gravenstafel col.
Bypassing our first obstacle.
Approaching the first in a series of rock bands.
By this point, we should have been able to see “Boot Hill” – or at least the connecting ridge – off to the left. Unfortunately, despite a forecast calling for sunny skies, it never cleared.
Approaching the rock bands…
And our first taste of the weather to come.
We would find weaknesses to climber’s left on each successive band. It could just be me, but I see three or four ‘characters’ looking back at us from this formation.
Brad scrambles some awkwardly angled rock.
Heading climber’s left to find a way through the tallest band.
Looking down at the route I used to get on top. Brad would find and use a different route.
Brad makes his way up from the top of the tallest band.
The final boss, I mean band.
The view from on top of the last band. (Photo by Brad Wolcott)
I arrive on top. (Photo by Brad Wolcott)
From here, it’s a straightforward hike to the summit.
Entering the clouds…
And nearing the summit ridge.
The summit is barely visible even though it’s only a few metres away. To complicate things, the rock became icy.
Brad wisely stays far away from the edge.
The summit of Mount Haig (2618 m).
Popsicle anyone? 😂
Or perhaps a Snow Cone?
Brad’s first time on Haig. It’s too bad that we couldn’t see anything.
My second time on Haig. If you want to see what it should look like, check out my 2015 trip report.
Leaving the summit for the connecting ridge with “Boot Hill”.