Nihahi Ridge is the last major obstacle on the front range in Kananaskis Country
, more specifically serving as the border to Elbow Sheep Wildland Provincial Park. Kananaskis Country encompasses over 4,000 square kilometers of foothills and mountains bordering Banff National Park in the central Canadian Rockies. Nihahi Ridge is a 8km extended ridge sandwiched between Mount Fullerton to the west and the Powderface Trail (gravel road) to the east.
It was officially named in 1922 after the Stoney Indian word equivalent of “rocky”.
Nihahi Ridge has two published routes, a hiking trail leading to within 1300’ of the south summit and a scramble route that ascends the south summit and traverses the entire ridge to the north summit with a challenging descent. There are no viable ski routes up the ridge. Most of the area front range mountains are in good view from the ridge including Mount Cornwall and Mount Glasgow
to the south, Mount Remus and Mount Romulus
to the southwest as well as The Wedge
and Opal Ridge
to the west. Moose Mountain is to the northeast and is the site of a popular 30km trail race to the summit that I participate in every September.
The guide book rates this route a moderate scramble, but in my opinion the route finding skills are closer to difficult status.
A party of three, who finished right before me, took 11 hours versus the 7.5 hours it took me solo. That being said, according to the guide book some continue on to Compression Ridge which makes sense to the hard core, since you are up this high and so close to the start of Compression . But I had my ride home escort me along the trail portion, 1300’ below the southern summit (start of the traverse), and did not want to abuse the privilege by making the day even longer.
The Bragg Creek and Sheep Valley area of Kananaskis Country can be accessed from Calgary via a number of roads. The simplest is to take the Trans-Canada exit for Bragg Creek, Highway 22. Travel south through Bragg Creek on Highway 22 until it dead ends into Highway 66. Turn right on Highway 66 and follow it until a dead end into the Little Elbow Campground. Park on the right at the sign for trailhead parking. Watch for cattle and deer on the road as you will be driving through open range land. Highway 66 is closed from December 1 through May 14.
There are no permit requirements to enter, climb and/or park in Kananaskis Provincial Park. The Elbow Valley Information Center
is located on your right after you turn right on Highway 66. Any recent notices will be posted on the bulletin board at that location. Kananaskis Provincial Park headquarters are located on Highway 40 east of Canmore.
This is active grizzly country, therefore, you should always have bear spray on your person. There was a dangerous bear in this area during June, 2004 and my exit trail on descent was closed unbeknownst to me at the time. I do advise checking with the park website link provided above for possible trail closures.
When To Climb
As with most scrambles in the Canadian Rockies, the driest time is from June through September. The front range can be scrambled earlier if conditions are compatible. I traversed the Nihahi Ridge in June and the ridge was in dry condition with minor snow on the descent. There are no published backcountry ski routes on Nihahi, nor would it be conducive to ski to the ridge.
The closest camp site would be the Little Elbow Campground
in which you start this scramble. Do not expect much of a backcountry experience, however, as many city residents use this campground as a holiday type resort. There are many backcountry sites in the area. You cannot camp outside of the marked specific camping areas in Kananaskis. Refer to the Kananaskis Provincial Park website
for more information regarding camping and/or lodging.
The Kananaskis Provincial Park website
is a very thorough park website, including trail conditions or closures, wildlife notices, weather conditions, avalanche conditions, camping permits, whitewater conditions, etc. It is an excellent source if you are going to spend any time here and comparable to any National Park website I have used. Outside of the parks web site, Canadian Avalanche Association
is also useful, particularly for winter travel. Canadian Alpine Accident Reports
are also extremely useful.
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