Victoria Ridge
On 23 September 2017, Zosia Zgolak and I headed to Alberta's Castle Wildland Provincial Park to hike up Victoria Ridge as described in Andrew Nugara's More Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies.  When we started bicycling from the locked gate at the trailhead, we considered adding Victoria Peak to our agenda, but fresh snow quashed any notions about going up Nugara's scramble route.  Our plan then was to tag the high point of Victoria Ridge first and then maybe backtrack to the tag Victoria Peak via its easy southwest ridge.

At the edge of the last gas well along the road, we ditched our bicycles and continued on foot along the trail heading further into the valley.  Despite an abundance of fresh snow, the lengthy trail was easy to follow, and we hiked up to the broad crest of Victoria Ridge without any issues.  As we climbed higher up the ridge, low clouds rolled in and severely limited our visibility.  Although walking on the upper ridge was easy, we had to rely heavily on my GPS to keep us pointed in the right direction.  Even when we reached the high point of Victoria Ridge, I was not entirely sure that we had made it, and I wandered a little further to try and convince myself that we could climb no higher.

After snapping a quick photo at the top, we saw no point in lingering and simply hustled back down the way we came.  The clouds eventually cleared out enough for us to regain some visibility, but at this point, we decided not to risk another viewless summit and abandoned the traverse to Victoria Peak.  Instead, we picked up the approach trail and hiked back to our bicycles with little fanfare.  The disappointment of foregoing Victoria Peak was soon forgotten as we bombed down the road back to the trailhead in less than ten minutes.  The return bicycle ride alone will be worth another visit to the area in the future.

Best view of the day already, and we're not even at the trailhead yet!

Pincher Ridge and Victoria Peak are reflected in Butcher's Lake.


The worker didn't have a great opinion of the hike up Victoria Ridge! A maintenance worker chats with Zosia at the trailhead gate.
Victoria Peak is still high on my to-do list! The well-maintained gravel road provides quick and easy access up Pincher Creek valley.
Watch out for the odd hidden cow!
After ditching her bicycle, Zosia hikes along the trail which heads up Pincher Creek valley.
My, what big claws you have, Mr. Bear! The snow reveals the presence of bears in the area.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Keep your eye on the trail though--lotsa cow and horse poop here! Views begin to open up along the trail.

The trail is remarkably efficient and well-designed--not a lot of unnecessary ups and downs!

The trail eventually traverses below the unnamed high point at centre and gradually ascends to the crest of the ridge at far left.


Great tobogganing slope! Zosia follows the trail across an open slope.
It's a shame that the larches were all muted by the snow. Here is one of the first clear views of Victoria Ridge.  The actual high point is not visible though.
Piece of cake, right? Zosia gains the crest of Victoria Ridge.
It looks like she's climbing some Himalayan giant! Visibility begins to deteriorate as Zosia climbs higher up the ridge.  Some of this mist is actually smoke.
I thought it was going to clear up, but this was all just a tease! Clouds obscure the high point somewhere ahead of Zosia.
Oh can't win 'em all... Zosia and Sonny stand on the high point of Victoria Ridge (2516 metres).
Who would have thought that Victoria Ridge would be so hazardous? Zosia carefully makes her way across a field of snow-covered rubble.  The snow hides many ankle-breaking holes.
We could have easily tagged Victoria Peak, but without views, what's the point? The sun comes out again over Pincher Creek valley.
All this snow is making me excited about skiing again! Sonny emerges from the mist and makes his way down the ridge.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Mind the cows and cow patties!

Zosia cruises back to the trailhead along the access road.


A long but pleasant hike. It's a shame that we missed out on supposedly gorgeous views. Total Distance:  25.4 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  8 hours 50 minutes
Net Elevation Gain:  982 metres

GPX Data