Mesa Butte

February 16, 2014

1698m

Kananaskis – Highway 549, AB

With the avalanche hazard rated at high/high/considerable, the questionable weather forecast, the howling wind and the fact we just ski’d Spoon Needle which was a tiring day, Vern and I were looking for something easy and short on the second day of this Family Day long weekend. We picked Mount McNab, probably one of the shortest objectives in the foothills. However, the weather had something else to say. Instead of ‘some flurries’, we got dumped by a snow storm as driving up the Sheep River road. It came so heavily that within an hour we’d get stuck… My small car hadn’t even armed with winter tires and I felt very uncomfortable driving up the road. Vern didn’t bring his truck neither so we turned around. However, not wanting to just drive home I did a quick check at my map, there we go, the ‘mighty’ Mesa Butte (aka. Square Butte)… We turned north at Turner Valley and then turned left at Millarville onto Highway 549. It’s my first time and Vern’s first time driving on this road.

Mesa Butte hiking route

Mesa Butte hiking route

Weather was indeed better in this area and with spirit we started the ascent. Checking my GPS the summit was only 1.6 km away… Oh well. There’s a well defined trail leading to the top but it’s not easy to find in winter if this is your first time up here. We didn’t even bother to look for a trail but aimed pretty much straight towards the summit. After the initial steep hill the snow got deeper and we strapped the snowshoes on. There’s a small outlier in front and we contoured around on its climber’s left side. Once hitting the ridge crest we joined the packed trail and ditched snowshoes there. From there it’s an easy hike to the top. The views were much better than anticipated since it’s a rather isolated summit. My GPS suggested the true summit lying further in the trees so we decided to go further along the ridge to check it out. After discovering it’s all gentle downhill in the bush we figured it’s good enough.

At the parking lot. We aimed at the gentle slope straight ahead

At the parking lot. We aimed at the gentle slope straight ahead

The 'Alberta styled' forest

The ‘Alberta styled’ forest

Oh yeah that's the mighty Mesa Butte...

Oh yeah that’s the mighty Mesa Butte…

Some great views of the foothills though

Some great views of the foothills though

The west was still soaked badly.

The west was still soaked badly.

Easy snowshoeing terrain

Easy snowshoeing terrain

Higher up we joined this trail

Higher up we joined this trail

Up this broad ridge

Up this broad ridge

The summit ahead

The summit ahead

Hiking up the packed trail

Hiking up the packed trail

Gorgeous view of the Prairie

Gorgeous view of the Prairie

Vern taking in the views

Vern taking in the views

Me on the summit

Me on the summit

Bluerock Mountain

Bluerock Mountain

Junction Mountain

Junction Mountain

Coming down we returned the same way taking advantage of the snowshoe tracks. Our round trip time was 1 hours 20 minutes and obviously that’s too short for a day, so we decided to get Mt. McNab a second shot hoping the weather could improve.

Comments
  1. Grant says:

    Hello Steven,

    I took my son and my daughter to Mesa (separate trips) this past year. The second time, we heard gunshots – loud! Upon retracing our steps back from the summit, we noticed 3 shooters on the trail. If we wanted to go back to our car the way we came, it meant going right through them as they were shooting…no thanks! We took another route back to our car where we saw park personnel in his Kananaskis pickup truck. Apparently, this is normal for this area and, “as long as they aren’t shooting across the path or at you, they’re okay”. Gulp! Won’t be going back there!

    Granticulus

    • Steven Song says:

      Grant,

      Wow that’s kinda pretty scary. I’ve never heard of anybody shooting but did meet hunters one time. In Grande Cache I’ve seen gun shot holes on Mt. Hamell’s trailhead sign. Next time if I happen to be on Highway 549 I’ll probably do Mount Barwell. Should be just following a road up but a lot longer than Mesa Butte.

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