Located in the Kananaskis River Valley north of Grizzly Creek in Kananaskis Provincial Park , Alberta, the Opal Ridge is an 8 km long ridge located immediately to the west of the Opal Range (a front range of the Canadian Rockies). A geological survey team found quartz crystals coated with Opal while prospecting nearby, thus, the unofficial name.
This is considered a difficult and exposed scramble route easily accessed via Hwy 40 which is wholly submerged in the pristine Kananaskis Provincial park which borders the four adjoined National Parks (Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay) of the Canadian Rockies. Kananaskis Country, as it is called, is actually considered by many locals a more wild and untamed experience compared to the national parks. This ridge traverse provides you views all day of the most sought after mountain objectives in Kananaskis, i.e., Assiniboine, Sir Douglas, Joffre, etc.
From a unique perspective, Opal Ridge has tightly folded strata towards the center. The photo above displays this phenomena. Mountain sheep graze the ridge, but that is extremely common in the Canadian Rockies, and particularly this area.
Take the Kananaskis Trail (Highway 40) exit off of the Trans-Canada Highway between Calgary and Canmore. Travel 35.7 km south on Highway 40 and park along side of the road just south of the Eau Claire Campground. Opal Ridge sits right above you to the East. There is no trail.
There are no permit requirements to enter, climb and/or park in Kananaskis Country. This is active grizzly country and bear tape was up when I did this scramble in 2004. Take bear spray. You drive by the park headquarters on the way in on Highway 40. Any recent notices will be posted on the bulletin board outside. If they are open, check in with the ranger staff, they have tons of beta and are always friendly.
When To Climb
This is a summer scramble and I don't see any attraction to tackle it in the winter. However, I did complete this traverse in April, which is early by Canadian Rocky standards. This ridge is part of the front range and sheds it's snow and ice earlier than other sections. I did take snowshoes and an ice ax and needed both.
You can camp at Eau Claire Campgound and use it as your base if you like, but you could also just make this a long day trip. You cannot camp outside of the marked specific camping areas in Kananaskis. Refer to the park web site I provided in the link section for more information.
I provided the Kananaskis Provincial Park website in the link section. This is a very thorough park website, including trail conditions or closures, wildlife notices, weather conditions, avalanche conditions, camping permits, whitewater conditions, etc. An excellent source if you are going to spend any time here and comparable to any National Park website I have used.
""You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.""