From the top of Mackay's Mountain, we opted to follow Daffern's recommended "East Slope" descent route, or at least we tried to. After descending the north ridge to about tree line, we dropped down the east side of the ridge and picked up an old trail which probably has not seen human passage in quite a few years. Still, having an overgrown trail was better than having no trail at all, and we followed it down alongside an obvious drainage leading back to Evan-Thomas Creek. Unfortunately, the trail eventually peters out, and even though we were fairly close to Evan-Thomas Creek, steep cliffs prevented us from descending further. Our only option at this point was to contour northward and make a beeline for the logging road promised by Daffern at the end of the descent. This was, of course, easier said than done. The next half kilometre or so ranks highly among the worst bushwhacking I have ever endured. Crisscrossing logs and alder bushes created a formidable barrier which made travel slow and frustrating. I lost all sense of time as my focus narrowed to just scrambling over the next log or squeezing through the next set of tangled branches. After an exasperatingly long thrash, we finally hit upon a faint trail that led us to a series of marshy glades and ultimately to Daffern's logging road. We subsequently turned right on the Wedge Connector trail which took us over a bridge back to the Evan-Thomas Creek trail to complete the loop. An already long day was made even longer when we had to drive back to Calgary via Highway 1A because of a traffic jam on the Trans Canada Highway. Unfortunately, we only traded one traffic jam for another as we ended up waiting possibly just as long to get through the busy intersection with Highway 22 at Cochrane.
The Mackay Hills loop turned out to be a much longer and more arduous hike than I had anticipated, and though I feel a bit guilty for subjecting Bob, Amelie and Marko to such an epic ordeal, I am nevertheless happy to have shared their excellent company.
Be sure to check out Bob's trip
report and Marko's
photos. The view to the west includes (L to R) the Fortress,
Gusty Peak, Mount Galatea, and the Tower. Here is a more comprehensive view of Fisher Peak.
The South Peak of the Mackay Hills is visible at lower right. The view to the north includes Mount Allan and Mount
Collembola at far left, Skogan Peak and Mount Lorette at centre, and
Kananaskis Peak at far right. Sonny, Bob, Amelie and Marko pose on the summit of
Mackay's Mountain (2424 metres).
An opening along the Evan-Thomas Creek
trail grants this view of the Centre Peak (left) and the North Peak (Mackay's
The group treads carefully around a
washed out section of trail.
This section of trail is a bit wet.
Fresh snow has caused trees and bushes
to bow over onto the trail.
Where the trail has disappeared
completely, the group hikes along the creek bed.
Amelie and Bob boulder-hop across a
Amelie and Marko reach the junction
with Camp Creek trail which heads off to the right.
Parts of the Camp Creek trail appear
to be in mid-winter conditions.
From Rocky Creek Pass, Bob takes the
game trail which leads to the South Peak directly ahead.
This is the Centre Peak as seen from
the 2351-metre summit of the South Peak. To the left is the
Fisher Peak draws the most attention
to the east.
The south side of the Centre Peak
presents no significant challenges.
Everyone takes a break at the top of
the Centre Peak (2432 metres).
The north end of the rugged Opal Range
is visible to the south.
The Wedge dominates the view to the
west. At right in the foreground is Mackay's Mountain.
Marko and Amelie descend the
connecting ridge to Mackay's Mountain.
Bob, Marko and Amelie climb up the
southeast ridge of Mackay's Mountain.
The group is almost at the top.
Mount Bogart is visible between the
two summits of Mount Kidd. Also visible at right is Mount
Lougheed including its prominent 4th Peak (Wind Mountain).
Here is a closer look at Mount Allan
and the double bump of Mount Collembola.
Kananaskis Peak and Mount McDougall
round out the view to the north.
Here is another look back at Fisher
Peak and the Centre Peak (right foreground) of Mackay Hills.
Two of Gill Daffern's optional descent
routes from Mackay Hills can be seen here: the climb to the base of
the cliffs on the Wedge and the traverse across forest and gullies
Marko and Amelie start down the north end of Mackay's Mountain.
Distance: 23.6 kilometres
Round-Trip Time: 10 hours 41 minutes
Net Elevation Gain: 929 metres
The view to the west includes (L to R) the Fortress, Gusty Peak, Mount Galatea, and the Tower.
Here is a more comprehensive view of Fisher Peak. The South Peak of the Mackay Hills is visible at lower right.
The view to the north includes Mount Allan and Mount Collembola at far left, Skogan Peak and Mount Lorette at centre, and Kananaskis Peak at far right.
Sonny, Bob, Amelie and Marko pose on the summit of Mackay's Mountain (2424 metres).