Opal Ridge

February 9, 2013

2600m

Kananaskis – Highway 40, AB

Ben and I missed the good weather day (Saturday) on the weekend of February 2-3. The forecast was pretty similar for both days but it turned out that Sunday was way worse. This weekend I asked Ben to have both days free so we wouldn’t miss anything out. We would be joined by Mike from Edmonton and Andrea from Calgary. However, the forecast was getting worse and worse. Flurries on Saturday indicated we should do something less ambitious, and after throwing back and forth a few objectives, we decided to do Opal Ridge. Obviously there were some confusions regarding this peak. I was mentioning the true summit of Opal Ridge (which is just the commonly known “Opal South” by many people). Obviously Andrea thought I was planning on the Kane scramble – Opal North…

To give us more flexibility, I said we should start our day by 8 am… This was very unnecessary for a summit as small as this one, but it turned out we made a GOOD call. The parking lot was right by the Fortress ski area turn-off and the route appeared very dry so we didn’t bring snowshoes up.

Ascent route for Opal Ridge (south/true summit)

Ascent route for Opal Ridge (south/true summit)

The route follows the cut-line until crossing an obvious creek. We went up too soon and ended up post-holing and bushwhacking. We did correct ourselves not far up, by crossing the creek to its other side. From there on, we were treated with summer condition.. Weather was also much better than expected. The flurries ended and more and more blue colours started to show up. There were some optional moderate scramble sections up some rock bands, but I believe you can bypass all of them if you do look for the easiest line.

Interesting clouds towards Lower K-Lake

Interesting clouds towards Lower K-Lake

Mount Inflexible

Mount Inflexible

Morning view of Mount Kidd

Morning view of Mount Kidd

Mike and Andrea hiking through a rock gate

Mike and Andrea hiking through a rock gate

Some cool rock formations started to show up higher up. We were aiming at an obvious break between some walls. The travelling was easy going, and soon we made to the ridge crest. The view was so nice and we decided to play with a cool looking boulder. We all climbed up it and enjoyed some hands-on scrambling. I highly recommend this variation. It only adds maybe 10 minutes.

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Ben playing around a boulder

Ben playing around a boulder

The summit of Opal Ridge

The summit of Opal Ridge

Sun glare over Opal Range peaks. The high one is Mt. Evan-Thomas. Behind it is Mt. Packenham

Opal Range peaks. The high one is Mt. Evan-Thomas. Behind it is Mt. Packenham

The summit was not far up, and it was mostly just a hike. Some snow offered good step-kicking. The view to the other side fully opened up. We could see the impressive Mt. Denny and Mt. Potts. They both are scrambles and I’d like to tick them off in the following summer. Some snow just made them even more attractive. Looking back, the entire Opal Ridge traverse looked to be very inviting. There would be some difficult sections so you might want to attempt the traverse in summer.

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Looking South towards Lower Kananaskis Lake

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Mount Inflexible and Mount James Walker

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Looking North towards Mount Kidd and The Wedge

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Interesting clouds and colours looking South

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The impressive Opal Range peaks.

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Panorama view of Kananaskis Valley and the highway below

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Mount Packenham

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Looking north. The full Opal Ridge Traverse

Our group shot on the summit. Photo by Ben

Our group shot on the summit. Photo by Ben

While being amazed by the views, we could see the nasty weather moving in fast, from north side. We figured that we would have another 30 min before being soaked in… Oh well, we soon started the way down. Indeed, the clouds rolled in and we got snowed. The descent went by very quickly. It was such a pleasure to get rid of the heavy stuffs after more than 2 months of snowshoeing and skiing, and to realize how fast I can travel without these extra pounds on my feet. Our round trip time was a mere 4 hours making it a half-day outing.

It was only 12:30 at noon, and despite the weather, we decided to do something else, namely Little Chester

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