As an active member of the Chinook Outdoor Club in Lethbridge, I was intrigued when I first heard of the Alberta Centennial Mountain Expedition and was keen on leading our club on one of the climbs. I chose Mt. Haig, which towers 3,900' above the Castle Mountain. Ski resort base area. I had memories of almost being blown off the peak many years ago, but fortunately we were blessed with much better conditions for the Centennial climb.
After parking in the ski area parking lot, we headed out just after 9 and hiked up the ski out trail located on the south side of the ski area (located on Mt. Gravenstafel). Although the huckleberries were almost finished, we did treat ourselves to a few along the way. After about an hour, I could see the col on the ridge connecting Mt. Gravenstafel to Mt. Haig in the distance. I picked a line & we gradually traversed up the flanks of Gravenstafel to the col. We took a break here for a snack & enjoyed the view of the extremely rugged & impressive east face of Mt. Haig, Haig Lake in the cirque at the head of the valley & several interesting peaks connected by ridges to the north. The wind had picked up and was a bit on the cool side, so we envisioned it might be quite windy on the summit.
We started up the ridge to the west above the col, encountering rocky class 3 terrain & some loose skree on the rocky steps. The terrain here was a little more challenging than what some of the group members were accustomed to, but everyone was keen & were up for the challenge. This section is cliffy on the right hand side of the ridge, but we were able to stay well away from the exposure. The top of this ridge connects to Mt. Haig's north ridge. It was still fairly cool & windy, so we took a snack break in a sheltered spot in the sun. We decided to march to the summit before having lunch.
The summit ridge is quite broad and the climbing was much easier on this ridge. Upon reaching the summit, we were pleased to find that the wind had decreased, and we were able to enjoy the views while we had our lunch. Mt. Haig is higher than all of the peaks in the area, and is 718' higher than Mt. Gravenstafel, so the views from the top are outstanding on a clear day. Due to it's close proximity to the ski area & cottages, this peak is often climbed, as evidenced by the massive summit cairn. Fortunately, I was able to place the Centennial registry canister in a space at the base of the cairn & anchor it securely.
On the way down, we carefully down-climbed through the class 3 terrain to the col. We decided to continue on down toward Haig Lake so that we could return to the ski area via the Haig Lake hiking trail. We arrived back at our vehicles at 5 p.m. True to our tradition, we stopped for food & refreshments afterwards, and everyone agreed it was a great climb.
We were honored to be able to take part in this wonderful Centennial project and wish to thank Angus & all of the organizers for their efforts & dedication, and the generous sponsors who helped to make this all possible. When we all gathered for the summit photo, we burst out in a rousing rendition of " Happy Birthday, Alberta". It was truly a richly rewarding experience. We're all very proud to be Albertans and feel fortunate to live in this great province and so close to the Rockies that we love.
Participants: Ken McDermott (co-ordinator), Lucie Linhart (assistant co-ordinator), Gaylen Armstrong, Marilyn Armstrong, Ann Caesar, Carol Thibert, Gabriele Roberts, Rhoda Trehearne, Sandy Larsen, Oli Larsen, Marion Wiebe, Jack Clack, Wilma Clack, Amy Clack, Peter Clack, William Clack, Chris Clack, and Hans Buhrmann
From Pincher Creek, drive south-west on the highway leading to Castle Mtn. Ski Area (#6->#504->#774) for ~48km. Park near the day lodge, and hike south from the south-west corner of the day lodge and gradually climb up & follow the ski out trail leading from the double black diamond runs on the south side of the area.
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