November 8, 2014
Ya-Ha-Tinda Ranch, AB
After spending last weekend at home catching up school work (and missing out a bluebird day in the mountains), Ben and I were keen to get out. Weather forecast for this Remembrance Day long weekend was kind of a mix, with the first day (Saturday) seeing some typical Rockies’ shoulder season weather and the last day (Tuesday), a potential high pressure bluebird, but extremely cold day. In between there’d be a major snow storm hitting pretty much everywhere. It didn’t take us long to make a decision to do two separate day-trips. Vern would join us on Saturday’s trip and we finalized our objective on the unofficially named Evangeline Peak by Ya-Ha-Tinda Ranch, just to the east of Banff Park boundary. This is a somewhat obscured corner in the Rockies for scramblers but Ben and I had done two trips in this area last year (Wapiti Mountain and Otuskwan Peak).
Evangeline Peak falls in the category of “front range, technically easy but not very short”, and our reference was Dave Salahab’s brief trip report on bivouac.com. It’s the highest summit on a long chained-ridge that runs from James Pass (near the Ranch) northwards to Clearwater River, and certainly deserves more attention. The gravel road leading into Ya-Ha-Tinda area was in a better shape than what I remembered from a year before, and we made to the trail-head by Bighorn Campground just before Alpenglow time. Right at the start we were treated with awesome morning views, with the giant Wapiti Mountain stealing the show.
Our day started by following an obvious ATV road leading uphill paralleling Bighorn Creek on the east side – wide and open but has quite a few unsigned branches. We took a wrong turn at one point and lost the trail. But on the upside the “wrong branch” led us to an impressive waterfall. After snapping a few pictures we cut sharply eastwards on easy grassland, and re-joined the trail not far up. Following the trail up we soon arrived at a Bighorn Creek’s tributary. We crossed it and picked up another trail on the opposite side. This trail led us zig-zagging through a few clear-cuts before merging to a (much wider) horizontal cut-line. Here we left the trail and for the next 2 km or so we’d bushwhack straight up the forested slope. Except for dead-falls the bush was very tolerable and we made progress quickly.
Things really started to open up just before hitting the first bump at treeline. We made a call to side-hill around it rather than gaining/losing height and it worked out nicely. From now on it’s simply putting one foot in front of another and eventually we’d arrive at the summit. The slope was very foreshortened though and we knew we had to get higher than the peaks immediately to our left or right. Weather was much better than expected and we were treated with lots of sunshine and not much wind. Wind did pick up once we made to the top though.
Earlier in the day we already decided to extend our day by traversing to the summit at about 4 km to our south-east. Rum Ridge Peak is not much lower than Evangeline in terms of height, but a lot more fun and offered some nice hands-on scrambling.