Limestone Mountain Lookout
On 5 April 2014, I invited Bob Spirko to
join me for a snowshoe ascent of Limestone Mountain Lookout as described in Mike Potter's Fire
Lookout Hikes in the Canadian Rockies. Normally, this short
hike would hardly be worth the long drive from Calgary, Alberta, but as
Dave MacDonald can attest, access to the trailhead can be tricky if
not impossible during winter and spring. As such, I was not really
counting on reaching the trailhead at all as we drove through a maze of
gas exploration roads west of Sundre, Alberta (driving access waypoints
can be downloaded here).
Most of the roads were well-maintained, but as expected, we were forced
to park well short of the normal starting point--in fact, 7 kilometres
short and 400 metres lower! Had I been aware of those statistics, I may
have considered pulling the plug before we set off up the road following
some old snowshoe tracks. Interestingly enough, the tracks we
were following stopped only a couple of kilometres up the road; the
previous snowshoers had probably come to their senses and abandoned their
trip early. In contrast, Bob and I pressed on and eventually joined
up with snowmobile tracks from a side road. Bob was having some
problems with snow balling up under his snowshoes, and considering that
snowmobile tracks were packed down enough to walk in, we soon ditched our snowshoes and
continued up the
road in just our boots. Though travel was generally easy, the
lengthy walk and lack of views were energy-sapping, and with an
increasingly overcast sky, our enthusiasm waned enough that we decided to
turn around only a few hundred metres short of the communication towers
at the normal starting point. Our return trip, though uneventful,
was no less tiresome. Bob showed little interest in returning to
Limestone Mountain on our drive home, but I was already considering
another attempt in the near future.
With Bob vacationing in Las Vegas, Nevada, I returned alone for
another go at Limestone Mountain on 13 April 2014. This time, I
brought my AT skis in hopes of speeding up my travel along the road.
I was also able to park a little further up the road and, as a result,
shaved off some distance and elevation gain for the approach. A
fresh dusting of snow in the intervening week had covered both snowshoe
and snowmobile tracks but skinning up the road was quite pleasant.
It took me about two hours to reach the communication towers at the
normal start, and from there, I grinded it out for another hour and a
half to reach the summit lookout. I removed my skins at the top,
but it likely would have been better to leave them on. Although
there were some short stretches of decent skiing on the return trip, the
thin snow coverage on the open ridge made for some tricky ski conditions.
I also had to carry my skis for the short but agonizing climb back up to
the communication towers before resuming my descent on the road.
Even returning on the road was not without some difficulty as I struggled
up a couple of gentle but long uphill sections mainly because I was too
lazy to put my skins back on. In retrospect, I probably would have
fared better with cross-country skis or a combination of cross-country
skis and snowshoes. Thankfully, I do not intend to go back and find
A couple of wild horses graze near a gas well.
Sonny has a new hood ornament for his car.
||Bob trudges up the snow-covered road.
||Bob catches his first glimpse of the
top of Limestone Mountain which is the right-hand bump in the
This is where Bob and Sonny turned around for the day. The actual
trailhead is at the antennas just above Bob's head. The summit of
Limestone Mountain is also visible at right.
||Sonny skis (or skins) up the road.
||Here is a closer look at the top of
Limestone Mountain from the same spot that Bob and Sonny had
previously turned around.
Sonny soldiers on despite some growing fatigue.
||The summit is still far away in this
view from the actual trailhead.
||Telephone poles point the way to the
top of Limestone Mountain.
||Despite being on the windswept west
side of the ridge, the road remarkably still holds a lot of snow.
||Here is the final stretch to the summit lookout.
Sonny takes a breather on a helipad near the
2252-metre summit of Limestone Mountain.
||The north ridge of Limestone Mountain
invites further exploration for those with extra energy.
||The summit's main antenna actually has
smaller antennae sticking out of it.
||The sun has set on another beautiful
Distance: ~17.2 kilometres
Round-Trip Time: 5 hours 49 minutes
Net Elevation Gain: 505 metres