ApproachThis is a 3100’+/- ascent day although your altimeter will register considerably more due to loss and regain of the many peaks along the ridge.
Start in the Little Elbow Campground at the end of Hwy 66. If someone is dropping you off, they can drive in to the trail head itself saving a kilometer or two. Being a traverse, you will need to stash a vehicle or bike or have cabbie service (as I did) pick you up at the Prairie Creek Trailhead on Powder Face Trail (gravel road). The way I worked it was having the same party who picked me up come along for the trail portion (Nihahi Ridge Trail) and then return to the vehicle and pick me up at the end of the traverse. The returning party will have excess time on their hands however.
Hike through the Little Elbow Campground as it dead ends into the Little Elbow Trail that runs along the Little Elbow River. This portion of the trail is basically a fire road. Less than 1km from the gate, you will come across the Nihahi Ridge Trail on your right. This is a 2.2km trail that leads up to within 1300’ of the south summit of Nihahi Ridge. This trail is rated moderate and has a total return distance from the trailhead parking of 8.8kms with an elevation gain of 1250’+/-.
The south summit is an easy objective standing at about 7800', approximately the same height as the other umpteen peaks on this route until the 2nd to last and the final north summit itself standing at 8300'. Actual elevation gain from bottom to top is only 3000’+, but the accumulated elevation gain is quite extensive.
This up and down ridge will have you seeing about four false summits (I ran a mountain race in the morning at Station Flats and got dehydrated on the way up the trail, I kept pretending the ridge was over). There are some maneuvers over rock band-steps along the way, but nothing terribly difficult.
The views stand out during the entire traverse. Calgary is off to the east, Mount Cornwall and Mount Glasgow
to the south, Mount Remus and Mount Romulus
are relatively close to the southwest and The Wedge
, Opal Ridge
and Mount Joffre
are distant to the west.
The real challenge of this day is the descent.
Most beta discusses coming down the west side and taking the long hike back to the campground via the Ford Creek Trail. I chose to descend the steep north side of the north peak, allowing me to glissade (in June) down snow and rubble several thousand feet. However, there is no trail out to the Powderface Trail Road.
Therefore, set your compass before you are submerged below tree line and wilderness and head northeast to the road. When you find yourself on one final ridge that gives you any visibility before hitting the forest again, set your compass for a significant open bog with several bleached rock protrusions.
Once you make this clearing, head due east and listen for the start of Prairie Creek and follow it on out to the road using various animal trails. There was a dangerous bear in this area during June, 2004. Once I reached Ford Creek Trail for my final exit, this area was taped and signed heavily in regards to trail closure. Follow the trail to the road.
Helmet, Considerable Water, Alpine Ax and Gaiters for Descent, Bear Spray, Compass and Map