Wrapping up a two-day stay in Sundre,
Alberta, Zosia Zgolak and I ventured out to the Ya Ha Tinda area to hike
up Mount Minos on 9 April 2021. The mountain is unofficially named
after the King of Crete from Greek mythology who forced Athenians to
sacrifice seven young males and seven virgin females each year to the
dreaded Minotaur who
dwelt in an elaborate maze known as the
Most online trip reports describe an ascent route from the north which
entails some heinous bushwhacking usually as a result of combining Mount
Minos with an ascent of nearby officially-named Labyrinth Mountain.
The exception to these are a Rocky Mountain Ramblers
report from 2015 and the 2019 reports by
Matthew Clay and
Sekera. The Ramblers and Clay/Sekera all utilized a good
approach trail to the east of Mount Minos followed by an easy climb up
the south ridge, and we would follow suit.
From the junction with Highway 22 at the west end of Sundre, drive
westward on SR 584 for 8.8 kilometres and turn left onto Range Road 63
(Coalcamp Road). Drive westward for 45 kilometres to a
T-intersection with the Forestry Trunk Road (SR 734). Turn left and
drive for 2.8 kilometres to a junction with Ya Ha Tinda Road just before
a bridge over Red Deer River. Turn right and drive 9.3 kilometres
to an unmarked turnoff for a 4x4 road on the left. Either park here
or drive down the 4x4 road for another 200 metres to a large clearing on
the river bank. In dry conditions, all roads except for the 4x4
road should be suitable for 2WD vehicles.
From our parking spot on Ya Ha Tinda Road, Zosia and I carried hip waders
and walked down the 4x4 road to Red Deer River. Oddly enough, there
is a trolley cable spanning the river here, and had I known beforehand, I
might have considered bringing a climbing harness and carabiners to
attempt a Tyrolean traverse. Instead, we donned our hip waders and
crossed the icy river without any problems. After stashing our hip
waders atop the trolley tower on the far side, we picked up a good trail
which initially heads west parallel to the river before turning south to
climb up a reclaimed road. Some sections of the road still had
significant snow coverage, but luckily, there was already a well-trodden
path for us to follow. The snow itself was also still quite
supportive, and we had no serious issues hiking along the road.
About 2.8 kilometres from the river ford, we abandoned the road to check
out an unnamed lake to the southeast of Mount Minos. The lake was
still frozen, and we hiked along the lakeshore for a short distance
before returning to the road. About 700 metres after resuming our
hike along the road, we abandoned it again to climb up a lightly forested
slope, and we eventually gained the crest of the south ridge. Other
than being buffeted by a chilly westerly wind, we had no issues following
the south ridge all the way up to the large summit plateau. The
exact high point of Mount Minos is a bit difficult to pinpoint, but we
chose a spot that was approximately in the centre of a triangle formed by
three metal stakes. After snapping a requisite photo, we took
shelter from the wind in some nearby trees and stopped for a short lunch
For our return trip, Zosia and I retraced our steps back across the
summit plateau, but at a point where we could spot the unnamed lake we
had visited earlier, we decided to take a short cut down the southeastern
slopes. We ran into a couple of cliff bands early on, but
fortunately, we were able to down-climb or circumvent them safely.
The rest of the descent was a matter of dropping down steep, forested
slopes which were mostly dry and staying out of a snow-choked drainage we
could see to skier's right. Annoying deadfall was generally
minimal, and although we inevitably ran into some snow lower down, the
post-holing was typically short-lived or not too deep. We
eventually popped out onto the reclaimed road not far from where we
initially left it to visit the lake. A straightforward hike back to
Red Deer River ensued, and the return crossing with our hip waders went
without a hitch.
Overall, our trip to Mount Minos was very pleasant from start to finish.
Thanks go out to the Rocky Mountain Ramblers and Mr. Clay/Ms. Sekera for
their useful trip reports. Zosia and I never felt like we were lost
in a labyrinth or in danger of being eaten by the Minotaur!
Here is the steep
northeast face of Mount Minos as viewed from the starting point.
Wearing hip waders,
Zosia fords Red Deer River. Note the trolley cable above her.
A good trail climbs away from the river and follows this reclaimed road
up the slope.
Despite some snow cover, the reclaimed road is fairly easy to hike on
Zosia walks on a frozen unnamed lake located southeast of Mount Minos.
Zosia climbs up the south end of Mount Minos through forest.
Zosia climbs up the crest of the south ridge.
This rock band across the ridge is easy to overcome.
The south ridge opens up nicely for an easy hike.
From the upper slopes of Mount Minos is this view of
the unnamed lake to the southeast. The ridge immediately behind the
lake is known unofficially as The Diamond.