Taking advantage of some gorgeous weather, longer daylight hours, and a
flexible work schedule, I drove out to the south end of Alberta's
Kananaskis Country on the afternoon of 17 April 2013 to climb up
Hailstone Butte. Due to some recent storms, there was still an
abundance of snow in this area, and I had some doubts about how far I
could drive up Secondary Road 532 toward the Hump (the road's high point
and trailhead for Hailstone Butte) let alone hike the off-trail route.
Fortunately, a couple of graders had plowed the road earlier in the day,
and I only had to contend with some muddy ruts on my way to the Hump.
The summer route starts from the Hump and follows a draw to a col below
the east face of Hailstone Butte, but because of the abundant snow, I
tried to stay high on a ridge to the east. Snow depth varied from
ankle-deep to waist-deep, and on numerous occasions, I was lamenting not
bringing skis or snowshoes. My progress was slow but steady, and I
eventually reached the col before continuing up steeper terrain to
climber's left of the prominent cliffs just below the summit. The
crux of the trip was getting through the hard, over-hanging cornice
guarding the ridge crest. Without an ice axe or crampons, I had a
lot of difficulty getting good enough purchase and footing to propel
myself over the cornice, and spindrift blowing off the ridge directly
into my face complicated matters as well. After several minutes of
fruitless effort, I finally took my glasses off and plunged both my
hiking poles as deeply as they would go into the top of the cornice.
Using the poles for leverage, I finally succeeded in pulling myself up
and over, but the move was so awkward that I had to use my face as a point
of contact! From where I topped out on the ridge, the summit was
not far off, but I still had quite a bit of post-holing to do to get
there. One patch of snow was so deep and unsupportive that I
resorted to rolling on my back and stomach to move forward.
I stayed at
the summit for only 10 minutes before turning around and beginning my
descent. Dropping over the edge of the cornice was a lot easier
than having to climb up, and I was soon out of the wind and retracing my
footprints. With the setting sun disappearing behind Hailstone
Butte, the snow turned crusty and banged against my shins and calves with
every step making the return journey almost as aggravating as the climb
up. I eventually made it back to my car none the worse for wear
after a round-trip time of 3 hours and 19 minutes.
||Sonny's dirty car is parked in a
recently-plowed clearing at the Hump.
||The east face of Hailstone Butte looks
formidable from this vantage point.
||Sonny's route up the east face is
||To the southeast are (L to R) Saddle
Mountain, Windy Peak and Mount Livingstone.
||Icicles hang in abundance below the
||The skyscrapers of downtown Calgary
are barely visible on the horizon is this view from the col below the
east face of Hailstone Butte.
||The top of Hailstone Butte is
partially guarded on the east side by rocky cliffs.
||Spindrift blows off the south ridge of
||The lookout building is not too far
from where Sonny tops out.
||The lookout building sits on the
2363-metre summit of Hailstone Butte.
||Plateau Mountain, Mount Burke and
Sentinel Peak are visible to the north.
||In the distance to the right of
Hailstone Butte's south ridge is Isola Peak.
Sonny takes some shelter from the wind on the upper deck of the lookout