February 16, 2014
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.
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.
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.