BOU AVENUE
Clubs Peak, Spades Peak And Hearts Peak (Hastings Ridge)
On 11 May 2019, Asieh Ghodratabadi, So Nakagawa, Ali Shariat, Marta Wojnarowska, Zosia Zgolak and I tagged a number of unofficially-named high points--Clubs Peak, Spades Peak and Hearts Peak--during a traverse of Hastings Ridge in Alberta's Castle Provincial Park.  The playing cards theme for these high points is likely derived, perhaps erroneously, from nearby officially-named Maverick Hill.  The word maverick usually refers to unbranded cattle, but in this case, the reference is undoubtedly connected to the card sharp protagonists from the popular late 1950's Western television show, Maverick, or its 1994 theatrical incarnation starring Mel Gibson.  In any case, these high points make for great shoulder-season hiking objectives, and we were inspired by excellent trip reports from Bob Spirko, Matthew Clay, and most notably, Dave McMurray.

Turn south onto East Hillcrest Drive from Highway 3 about 11 kilometres west of the junction with Highway 22.  Follow East Hillcrest Drive for 2.4 kilometres before making a sharp hairpin turn to the left onto gravel Adanac Road.  Adanac Road is NOT plowed in winter and may be snowbound until late spring.  About 5.4 kilometres south of the hairpin turn is a large camping pullout which is the access point for Hearts Peak.  The provincial park boundary is another 3.4 kilometres further along the road, and an exploration road branching to the west from here allows access to Clubs Peak and Spades Peak.

Having two vehicles made it easy to set up a car shuttle for our traverse.  We first stopped at the access point for Hearts Peak and left So's car there.  The six of us then squeezed into my Honda CR-V, and I managed to drive about 3 kilometres further up Adanac Road before being stopped by a short but impassable snow patch.  We started hiking from here.

Crossing the snow patch, we continued along Adanac Road and soon reached the provincial park boundary where we turned west onto the exploration road leading to Clubs Peak.  We followed this road for another 2 kilometres (passing a junction with the road to Spades Peak at the 1.8-kilometre mark) to the base of Clubs Peak.  Had there been less snow, I probably could have driven all the way to this point.  Leaving the road here, we climbed about 90 metres up a grassy slope to reach the summit of Clubs Peak.
Driving the extra distance to the start of the traverse ain't worth the risk of getting my car stuck in the snow! The group leaves behind Sonny's car and continues walking up Adanac Road.
Easy hike so far! The group arrives at the boundary of Castle Provincial Park.  The exploration road leading to Clubs Peak heads off to the right here.
We'll save Poker Peak and nearby Maverick Hill for another day.

So walks along the exploration road leading to Clubs Peak.  At right is unofficially-named Poker Peak.

An early taste of things to come... So and Ali break trail through a snow-covered section of the exploration road leading to Clubs Peak.
Not sure if those tracks are from OHVs or snowmobiles. The group climbs up a grassy slope on the south side of Clubs Peak.
A great occasion to use my "The Ladies of Star Wars" playing cards! Marta, Asieh, Ali, Zosia and Sonny stand behind crouching So on the summit of Clubs Peak (1943 metres).
I dare ya to climb Mount Darrah! Trees partially block Clubs Peak's summit views to the west.  Right of centre is Mount Darrah.
Once Asieh, So, Ali, Marta, Zosia and I were done congratulating ourselves for bagging Clubs Peak, we dropped down the east ridge and muddled through a bit of bush and snow before intersecting the logging road leading to Spades Peak.  Although it was tempting to follow the logging road, we opted to take the more esthetic route along the ridge crest.  It is interesting to note that in 2016, McMurray and his partner rode mountain bikes along this road, and despite having to occasionally dismount to circumvent deadfall, they still found the ride to be enjoyable.  Likewise in 2017, Spirko and his partner walked the same road and did not report any significant difficulties.  In contrast, Clay in 2018 found the road to be far more miserable and favoured the ridge crest on his return from Spades Peak.  It is entirely possible that a lot more deadfall toppled onto the road during the interim between Spirko's and Clay's trips.  Of course, none of us in our group had bothered to carefully read any of these trip reports, and we were blissfully unaware of the conditions on the logging road as we grumbled our way through a short stretch of moderate bush to gain the ridge crest.

The ridge crest itself was not free from deadfall, but we could step over or around much of it at least initially.  We started running into more snow further north which hampered our progress, but everyone in our group except for me did a great job of route-finding and breaking trail.  As we got closer to Spades Peak, we left the ridge crest and descended through some more moderate bush to once again intersect the logging road.  Devoid of the deadfall and snow we encountered on the connecting ridge from Clubs Peak, the southeast slopes of Spades Peak proved to be easy to climb up, and we were soon standing atop our second high point of the day.
This is where the trip starts getting gnarly! Marta passes some dead trees as she descends the east ridge of Clubs Peak.
Maybe we should have taken the logging road... Ali, So and Marta climb over a tangle of deadfall near the beginning of the connecting ridge between Clubs Peak and Spades Peak.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

A few trees on the right apparently survived the forest fire.

Much of the annoying deadfall covering the ridge crest appears to have been toppled by a strong westerly wind.

We could have skied this!

The group continues along the ridge crest toward Spades Peak at left.  At distant right is Hillcrest Mountain.

 

Thank you everyone for breaking trail ahead of me! Unsupportive snow complicates travel along the ridge crest.
Expect some moderate bushwhacking here. The group abandons the ridge crest and makes a beeline for the open southeast slopes of Spades Peak.
Unless you're riding a bicycle, it's probably easier just to climb straight up. A logging road zigzags up the southeast slopes of Spades Peak.
Can you spot the moon? Marta and Zosia climb up the easy southeast slopes of Spades Peak.
This group has scrambling experience in spades! The group poses on the summit of Spades Peak (2018 metres).
Matt Clay's trip report suggests that the logging road may not have been any easier to hike. From the summit of Spades Peak, this is looking back at the connecting ridge to Clubs Peak (far right).  Note the logging road running the length of the ridge well below the crest.
That road would become a godsend after a long day of thrashing on the ridge tops. The view to the north includes Hearts Peak (left), Turtle Mountain (left of centre in the distance) and Hillcrest Mountain.  The group would later utilize the road that is visible to hike out.
From the top of Spades Peak, Asieh, So, Ali, Marta, Zosia and I headed northwest along the crest of Hastings Ridge toward a couple of unnamed high points preceding Hearts Peak.  This lengthy section of the ridge undulates a fair bit, and although there is still an abundance of deadfall along the way, most of it is easily avoidable.  We again ran into a lot of lingering snow patches, but in general, these seemed more supportive than what we encountered earlier in the day.  Still, it took us nearly two hours to traverse a mere 2.5 kilometres from Spades Peak to the first unnamed high point which I dub as "H1".
It's about 2.5 kilometres to the next high point... The group hikes the next section of Hastings Ridge after leaving the summit of Spades Peak.
The high points are farther away than they look! Some sections of Hastings Ridge are open and easy to hike.  In the distance at right are the two highest points of the ridge.  Both are of equal height.
I'm sure she will be doing more of this later in the summer... Marta relishes any opportunity for hands-on scrambling even though this short cliff is entirely avoidable.
Our boots were already soaking wet at this moment. It is easier to walk on the rather benign snow cornice along this section of the ridge.
Okay, the next person that comes up here needs to bring a fricking chain saw! Once again, windblown deadfall complicates travel along the ridge crest.
This is probably the best viewpoint along Hastings Ridge. Sonny joins Ali, Marta and So on the first (H1; 2026 metres) of the two highest points of Hastings Ridge.  Spades Peak can be seen in the distance at upper left.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

It took us about 2.5 hours to traverse here from Spades Peak!

Here is a comprehensive view of Hastings Ridge from the top of H1.  Both Spades Peak and Clubs Peak are visible at the far end of the ridge to the south.

 

Asieh, So, Ali, Marta, Zosia and I stayed only briefly at the top of H1 before dropping down its snow-covered northeast slope.  Some of the post-holing here was pretty bad, but at least it was short-lived.  We soon leveled out and began climbing up again, and shortly thereafter, we were atop the second unnamed high point which I dub as "H2".  Both H1 and H2 are roughly of equal height, and they are also the highest points of Hastings Ridge.
It's much easier to post-hole going down than going up! The group descends the snowy and forested northeast side of H1.
I miss skiing already! Sonny flounders a bit in some deep snow while descending from the top of H1.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

It's somewhat surprising that these two highest points of Hastings Ridge remain unnamed. Sonny takes the last few steps before reaching the second (H2; 2026 metres) of Hastings Ridge's two highest points.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Sorry, Asieh! We're not at Hearts Peak yet! Ali, So, Zosia, Marta and Asieh stand on the second (H2; 2026 metres) of the two highest points of Hastings Ridge.
Fortunately, we were able to avoid most of the snow seen here. Looking east from the top of H2, Hearts Peak (left) is barely discernible in front of Hillcrest Mountain.
From the top of H2, Asieh, So, Ali, Marta, Zosia and I continued eastward to our last high point of the day.  Other than some light bushwhacking and the odd snow patch, we encountered few difficulties in reaching the top of Hearts Peak.  By this point, all our boots were soaking wet, and we were all weary of off-trail hiking.  Dropping down the east side of Hearts Peak, we soon picked up an exploration road which would eventually lead us back to where we left So's car along Adanac Road.  The walk out was long but uneventful.

After retrieving my Honda CR-V, we took a gamble and drove to Nanton where we managed to sneak in an order for dinner at Tim Hortons just as the store was about to close.  As an added bonus, the store employees gave us a whole whack of free donuts and other goodies since they were about to dump them into the garbage anyway.  That was a great payoff for a long but very satisfying day of hiking with good friends.
Just when I was starting to get used to all the bush bashing... The group drops down a bit lower to the right to avoid most of the deadfall between H2 and Hearts Peak.
Not nearly as bad as before though. The group once again runs into some snowy and bushy terrain on the south ridge of Hearts Peak.
You gotta have heart! Miles and miles and miles of heart... Sonny, Ali, So, Asieh, Zosia and Marta celebrate on the summit of Hearts Peak (2012 metres).
Princess Leia's slave outfit...'nuff said! So really likes the Queen of Hearts from Sonny's special deck of playing cards (The Ladies of Star Wars).

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

More intriguing is the distant snowy peak behind Turtle Mountain... Here is a closer look at Turtle Mountain from the summit of Hearts Peak.

Maybe call them Pocket Rockets (double Aces)??

This is the view of H1 (left of centre) and H2 (right) from the summit of Hearts Peak.

 

Still a lot of walking ahead of us... The group prepares to drop down the southeast aspect of Hearts Peak to pick up a road that will lead out of the valley and back to So's car along Adanac Road.

Seems like I can never find a toothpick when there is something stuck between my teeth!

The dead trees on Hillcrest Mountain look like toothpicks gleaming in the late day sun.

 

A challenging but rewarding ridge walk worth saving for a nice day. Total Distance:  15.7 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  10 hours
Cumulative Elevation Gain:  893 metres

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