Running Rain Lake South Ridge
Hoping to see some yellow larches on 26
September 2020, Asieh Ghodratabadi, Shaun Luong, Ali Shariat, Zosia
Zgolak and I hiked up the officially-unnamed ridge east of Running Rain
Lake in Alberta's Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park. The hike is
described in Gillean Daffern's Kananaskis Country Trail Guide, but
we got most of our inspiration from Bob Spirko's
visit two weeks earlier. Oddly enough, Spirko refers to the
objective as Running Rain Lake South Ridge even though the bulk of the
ridge is clearly northeast of the lake, but I shall use the same
nomenclature to avoid confusion.
The unmarked trailhead is located along a wide, grassy strip on the
west side of Highway 40, 27 kilometres south of the junction with
Kananaskis Lakes Trail or 27 kilometres north of Highwood Junction.
Park anywhere on the grassy strip.
As we were gearing up at the trailhead, a truck pulled up behind us, and
the driver, a man, asked us where we were going. He and his family,
including two young boys and a dog, had planned on hiking in the Highwood
Pass area, but the crowded circus there on this day prompted him to go
elsewhere. When I described to him where we were headed, he nodded
in approval and directed his family to get ready.
Dropping immediately down to Storm Creek, Asieh, Ali and Zosia began
taking off their boots in preparation for a chilly ford. Two flimsy
logs spanning the creek did not hold much appeal to the three of them,
but the man and his family took a chance and safely crossed on the logs.
Shaun also followed suit while I simply walked through the creek in my
hip waders. I did the same through a beaver pond a short distance
beyond the creek crossing, but everyone else was able to walk across the
adjoining beaver dam without getting wet. While the man and his
family took off up the trail, everyone else in our group waited patiently
while I stashed my hip waders. Once we got going, we enjoyed a very
straightforward hike up the valley to Running Rain Lake. Fresh
snowfall had rendered some parts of the trail quite wet and muddy, and
after all the fuss with trying to stay dry at the creek crossing, my
hiking shoes ironically were soaked by the time we reached the lake.
Passing the man and his family, we carried on along the north shore
before crossing a causeway on the west side of the lake. We then
worked our way southward up a steep and snow-covered scree gully.
Before reaching the top of the gully, we traversed to climber's left into
the forest and soon gained the crest of the ridge separating the Running
Rain Lake valley from the next valley to the southeast. Just before
entering the trees, I glanced back toward the lake and spotted the man
following behind us with only his dog in tow. Heading in a
northeast direction, our group followed the crest of the ridge and
eventually reached the high point with only some minor route-finding
difficulties. The man and his dog also caught up to us on the high
point, and during our lunch break, we would learn that his name was Theo
while the dog's name was Zara. Theo's wife and kids had opted to
hike out and wait for him at the trailhead while he followed us up the
When we resumed hiking, Theo and Zara accompanied us as we dropped down
the far side of the high point. Instead of returning the way we
came, we decided to tag a subsidiary bump to the northeast and then take
a short cut down into the valley. As we reached the dip just before
the subsidiary bump, Theo opted to part ways with us since he did not
want to keep his family waiting. I pointed him roughly in the
direction that we would soon follow, and he quickly disappeared down the
slope with Zara. The rest of us quickly scrambled up to the top of
the subsidiary bump before retreating back to the dip. Our short
cut descent was initially quite steep, and we had to be careful with our
footing especially on some sections of hard-packed dirt. We ended
up funneling down a gully which worked out pretty well for us, and in
seemingly no time, we were crossing the creek in the valley bottom and
back on the main trail soon after. The hike back to the trailhead
was also quick, and after I retrieved my hip waders, we all made use of
the beaver dam and flimsy logs to get back across the watery obstacles at
the beginning. Theo's truck was gone when we returned to the
trailhead, and I presume that he and Zara had made it back safely as
As we drove back over Highwood Pass on the way home, we ran into a snow
squall, but there were still a multitude of cars parked along both sides
of the highway with numerous people milling about. Many of them
looked like they had just gotten there and were starting their hike.
I shook my head in bewilderment and felt blessed that we were able to
enjoy both good weather and relative solitude only a mere ten kilometres
away to the south.
Shaun and Zosia also cross the causeway.
The group aims for the snow-covered scree gully to the right of the
The climb up the scree gully is steep, but the rocks are mostly stable.
Here is a look back at Running Rain Lake from high up the scree gully.
The high point of Running Rain Lake South Ridge can be seen in the
distance between the larch trees.
Travel along the crest of the ridge is fairly straightforward.
The group prepares to climb up the final slope before the high point.
Zosia, Ali, Asieh, Shaun and Sonny show what they think of the hike up to
the high point of Running Rain Lake South Ridge (2313 metres).
The view to the south from the high point includes
Mount Odlum (right), Mount Loomis (left), and
Mount Bishop (far