Grande Mountain
Kicking off our post-Christmas road trip, Zosia Zgolak and I originally had intentions of climbing Mount Hamell near Grande Cache, Alberta on 28 December 2020.  To make a long-winded story short, I had the misfortune of getting my car's rear axle stuck on an immovable rock while trying to park somewhere along the access road for Mount Hamell.  It took an exasperating two hours to finally free my car (by jacking up the rear axle and placing rocks under the nearest wheel), but by then, we were both in no shape to undertake a lengthy ascent.  As such, we retreated to our hotel in Grande Cache to change out of our sodden clothes and warm up.  When we felt suitably refreshed, Zosia and I headed out again late in the morning to try our Plan B--a supposedly straightforward hike up Grande Mountain which sits just north of the town.  A route description can be found in the Grande Cache & Area Hiking & Adventure Map brochure which is available at the town's information centre or online.

From the intersection with Shand Avenue in Grande Cache, drive north on Highway 40 for 920 metres and turn right onto a side road.  In 60 metres, keep left and drive another 140 metres to a pullout in front of the town's cemetery.  Park here.

From the cemetery, Zosia and I walked westward along a road which runs parallel to the highway.  The trailhead sign is roughly 140 metres west of the cemetery, and we turned north here to begin hiking on a snow-covered track which follows a power line climbing up the mountain.  Initially, the track was quite easy to hike as we followed numerous old footprints in the crusty snow.  As we climbed higher, the snow became deeper, and signs of previous passage slowly dwindled until we were essentially breaking trail on our own.  The post-holing was perhaps not the worst we have ever done, but it was still wearisome nonetheless.  Had we brought them along, snowshoes might have helped a bit, but our upward progress likely still would have been slow.  About two-thirds of the way up the mountain, there is a significant dip which requires losing about 70 metres of elevation.  This drop can be quite disheartening especially in conjunction with post-holing through deep snow, but in retrospect, the elevation loss and regain is not as bad as it looks.  Determined to bag the summit, we put our noses to the grindstone here and churned our way through deep snow down into the dip and up the other side.  As we approached the mountain top, travel became easier again as we trudged on windswept snow or bare ground.  The vast plateau at the top made it difficult to discern the exact location of the true summit, and short on time, we simply picked a suitable spot to snap our requisite summit photo.

Chilled by a brutally cold wind, Zosia and I did not linger on the summit for long before retreating the way we came.  Our egress was considerably easier since we now had a broken trail to follow through the deep snow.  Traversing the big dip was annoying but not nearly as painful as I had been anticipating.  The rest of the descent was long and somewhat tedious, but we had no serious problems even when darkness fell.  After an inauspicious start to our day and the exhaustion of post-holing up Grande Mountain, we were appropriately dead-tired by the time we got back to the cemetery.
I never learn...

Sonny tries to dislodge his car after getting the rear axle stuck on an immovable rock along Beaverdam Road.  Mount Hamell can be seen in the background.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Where the Canadian Death Race got its name?

Zosia starts the hike up Grande Mountain from the Grande Cache cemetery.

Can't get lost!

The trail up Grande Mountain follows this power line.

This starts to get a bit monotonous quickly...

The power line can be seen rising up the distant ridge.

Good place to take a break or turn around! Zosia pauses at a scenic viewpoint partway up Grande Mountain.
The mountain looks deceptively dry from here... Mount Hamell (right) is visible from the viewpoint.  Beaverdam Road is also visible to the left of the drainage at centre.
Where did all this snow come from??

Zosia begins to encounter deeper snow higher up the mountain.

And this is only the beginning...

The post-holing quickly becomes tedious.

About 70 metres elevation loss here.

Sonny drops down a most discouraging big dip along the route.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Not as bad as we thought it would be but bad enough!

Zosia grinds up the other side of the big dip.

The actual summit is probably somewhere near where Zosia is walking.

Zosia passes by some telecommunication structures atop Grande Mountain.

And it's bloody cold and windy up here!

The top of Grande Mountain is broad making it difficult to discern the location of the true summit.

The highest elevation my GPS recorded was 1995 metres (not here).

Zosia and Sonny pick this spot (1992 metres) for their summit photo.  At distant left is Mount Hamell.


A little better with the trail already broken. Zosia descends into the big dip on the return hike.  Visible on the horizon is Lightning Ridge.
No headlamps needed! Sonny hikes down the mountain in growing darkness.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Felt like a death race indeed! Total Distance:  10.4 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  6 hours 20 minutes
Cumulative Elevation Gain:  1002 metres

GPX Data