Mount Minos

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 Labyrinth.  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 Alison 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 break.

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!

Maybe unclimbed from this side?

Here is the steep northeast face of Mount Minos as viewed from the starting point.

I'd like to come back and try a Tyrolean traverse!

Wearing hip waders, Zosia fords Red Deer River.  Note the trolley cable above her.

May come back here in the future to try the ridge ahead known unofficially as "The Diamond".

A good trail climbs away from the river and follows this reclaimed road up the slope.

Might even be worth skiing if there was more snow...

Despite some snow cover, the reclaimed road is fairly easy to hike on this day.

Probably not as nice when it's thawed out...

Zosia walks on a frozen unnamed lake located southeast of Mount Minos.

Steep but no serious bushwhacking here.

Zosia climbs up the south end of Mount Minos through forest.

We're laughing now.

Zosia climbs up the crest of the south ridge.

An opportunity for some hands-on scrambling if you wish!

This rock band across the ridge is easy to overcome.

It's still a grind but an easy one!

The south ridge opens up nicely for an easy hike.


Bloody windy here too!

The top of Mount Minos is a huge grassy plateau.  Zosia is barely visible ahead near the edge of the snow.

Close enough anyway. Sonny and Zosia stand on the approximate summit of Mount Minos (2219 metres).
I hope to climb this someday... Dormer Mountain sits to the southwest.
I hope to climb this someday too!

To the west is Barrier Mountain.

The Diamond now looks very appealing to do!

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.


Hopefully we don't get cliffed out!

Zosia takes a short cut down the southeast aspect of Mount Minos.

Might even be worthwhile to ascend this way and shave off some extra distance.

The short cut descent turns out to be quite reasonable with only minimal bushwhacking and post-holing.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Hard to believe that almost 4 years have passed since Zosia and I climbed Wildhorse Ridge.

Wildhorse Ridge can be seen in the background as Zosia descends the reclaimed road.

The trees here are creaky when the wind blows! Across the valley is the access road to Ya Ha Tinda with Labyrinth Mountain visible at far left.
Glad our hip waders didn't blow away! Zosia retrieves her hip waders from the trolley tower on the west side of the river.  The unused trolley car can be seen below.
We had to go against the current a bit on the way back which made the 2nd crossing a little harder. Zosia crosses Red Deer River for a second time.
Looks like a perfect set-up for a zip line! Here is the trolley cable support beam on the east side of the river with Mount Minos in the background.
A much better route than the north ridge approach! Total Distance:  ~13.1 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  6 hours 48 minutes
Net Elevation Gain:  692 metres

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