December 14, 2014
Ya-Ha-Tinda Ranch, AB
Over the past year or two Ben and I have visited Ya-Ha-Tinda area a few times and Maze Peak was always in the discussion. It’s perhaps the most popular scramble in this area judging by the number of trip reports we could find. It’s a half-day outing with virtually no approach. It offers some hands-on scramble but no real consequence in case of a mistake. It’s located in the easternmost range of the Rockies and rarely gets significant amount of snow. Combing these factors it sounds like a perfect winter objective especially when condition doesn’t allow for bigger stuffs. Apparently Vern was thinking the same way so we all agreed to give it a shot in this past Sunday.
Apart from ascending this mountain we also planned to watch (and photograph) meteor showers around midnight. I myself did not own those fancy camera gears so you should check Vern and Ben’s trip report for the star pictures. We did see tens of shooting stars including 2 really bright ones. But I went to bed early due to the coldness.. There was apparently a temperature inversion going on and the morning was even colder… Nonetheless we managed to wake up by 8:30 am and drove to the “trail-head”. I give the quotation mark because there’s really no such thing of “trail-head” and we basically just parked at the same place where Bob Spirko and Sonny Bou parked.
The first stage of this ascent was simply “going upwards”.. Right-away we entered the forest but just as expected, bushwhacking was nearly non-existent. In short time we arrived at a semi-opening area. There’s nothing rocket science but with all the fresh snow and the frozen ground this section was quite slippery. The terrain was quite steep for the next while until we crested the (treed) ridge immediately in front of us.
The next section was more-or-less following this ridge up curving towards climber’s left. Near the treeline there’s some optional scrambling if sticking to the ridge crest. We bypassed a step on climber’s left side but could have gone straight up. We also discovered a big hole that looked awfully like a bear’s den… Thankfully we didn’t wake anything up on this day. This long ridge section eventually brought us to a subsidiary bump directly west of the summit-push.
From here we’d lose about 50 m elevation to the connecting saddle with a little bit of hands-on scrambling. Up towards the summit we stuck mostly on the direct ridge crest but occasionally we had to detour either to left or right. We had to deal with a few moderate scrambling steps but nothing too tricky. Near the summit we also had to bypass a down-climb on the south (right) side due to the down-sloping snow covered slabs. The view was surprisingly good from the top but that could due to the fact we had perfect weather.
On the descent we basically just retraced our footprints. The place where we felt slippery in the morning was still slippery and hard on our knees but other than that the descent went uneventful. Our round trip time was 4.5 hours and it certainly felt like a short day.
Overall Maze Peak turned out much better than expected. It’s a short and very enjoyable outing. It does not have awkward bushwhacking nor long approach nor exposure and I’d recommend it as a winter scramble (or summer scramble) to anyone who loves the mountains.