April 29, 2012
Kananaskis Country (South), AB
Mt. Burke is a prominent peak, but easy ascent in Livingstone Range in the front range of Kananaskis. The weather forecast predicted chances of afternoon rain so mom and I had to give it a morning shot. We slept at Cataract Creek trail head and woke up at 6am. It was still winter in the morning though, and we got all windows iced up. As usual, we had breakfast and packed up and started the marching. Seeing the upper slope, we decided to leave crampons in the car. It’s almost May and in the front range, so we kept the bear spray in our backpack.
We had to walk an extra 1 km because the last part of the road was closed. The trail-head was located just before getting into Cataract Creek campground. We followed Salter Creek and stayed on the east (left) side from here. We were supposed to walk 2.5 km along the creek bed. However, since it was my first time in this area, I went uphill after following the creek for only 0.5 km (blame the fact I did not own a GPS in 2012)… We followed a faint trail steeply uphill for a short section, then it started to drop down. This “trail” was a bit weird as it had no switchback but lots of deadfalls. I soon realized that it wasn’t a trail, instead it’s a cut-line. I knew we were on the wrong route, but according to the map, the broad treed ridge leads to nowhere except Mt. Burke, so if we kept going uphill, we would break treeline anyway, so we went up the cut line. The cut line eventually crosses the proper trail about 40 minutes up.
Lingering snow patches started to appear at this elevation, and we could see fresh tracks. Not bear tracks though, they were human’s. It looked like a solo scrambler had been up this mountain recently. The cut-line soon disappeared after crossing the main trail, so we were forced to follow this lone hiker’s footprints. The higher we went up, the more snow we had to deal with. At about 100m below treeline, the trail disappeared due to the snow. Thankfully that guy had made the trail for us, so we didn’t need to do any post-holing. The “holes” he made were sometimes waist deep… Eventually we broke out of the trees, with NO wind. It’s quite unusual to have calm day in this area. I still remember how did I battle against the howling wind on Coffin Mountain not far away from Mt. Burke. Other people’s trip reports also mention the crazy wind in Livingstone Range. The ridge narrowed down considerably at one point and mom stopped there.
The rest of the ascent was nothing more than an “easy scramble” by Kane’s standard and the summit was soon attained. A shelter/lookout provided a good place to hide in case the wind was howling. I also went to the edge to check the impressive east face. It’s a shear drop so don’t get too close if the wind is strong.
On the way down, more blue colors showed up in the sky, so I took more photos. At treeline, we decided to stay left (southwest) to avoid the snow. This wasn’t a good call because we were not following the ridge down. We soon realized our mistake and started to traverse towards right. We had to do some bushwhacks for half an hour to regain the trail. We decided to follow the trail down instead of the cut line. The trail swings more towards left and drops down to Salter Creek. Too bad there were still lots of snow on the creek bed, and as a result, the hike back wasn’t pleasant.
It was still early in the day, so we decided to do another ascent.