Odlum Knoll
On 24 September 2022, Bob Spirko invited Zosia Zgolak and me to accompany him for an exploratory hike up the west end of Odlum Ridge in Alberta's Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park.  Bob's planned route entailed an approach along a trail which follows a tributary of Storm Creek into the valley northeast of Mount Odlum.  This trail is described in Gillean Daffern's Kananaskis Country Trail Guide as an alternate exit for hikers who traverse the entire length of Odlum Ridge.  In effect, we would essentially be bypassing all the highest summits of Odlum Ridge and just visiting its western terminus.  Because the starting point is a bit difficult to pinpoint, Bob actually went out a few weeks earlier to scout out the area (thank you, Bob).  With Bob's consent, Zosia and I also invited Kevin Caron, Marta Heske, Aga Sokolowska, and Marta Wojnarowska to join us for this adventure.

Park off the pavement on the south side of Highway 40, 29.0 kilometres south of the winter gate past the turnoff to Kananaskis Lakes or 26.0 kilometres west of Highwood Junction.

Rendezvousing at the parking spot, Kevin, Marta H., Aga, Bob, Marta W., Zosia and I searched the bushes at the bottom of the embankment on the south side of the highway until we found flagging marking the start of a trail descending to Storm Creek.  While Bob brought hip waders, everyone else forded the creek in their bare feet.  I managed to cross a tangle of downed logs slightly downstream without taking off my boots, but it was probably more difficult than it was worth.  Once we regrouped on the other side, we crossed a dry wash of Storm Creek and found a cairn marking the start of Daffern's trail.  At one point, we briefly lost the trail in a small glade but found it again after a short backtrack.  From the cairn, we hiked southward for about 1.8 kilometres before abandoning the trail and rock-hopping across the tributary running along the bottom of the valley.  We then ascended steep slopes to gain a spur ridge connected to the main spine of Odlum Ridge.  We had to endure a bit of unpleasant bushwhacking at the beginning of this ascent, but the terrain became more open and easier to navigate the higher we climbed.  When we eventually gained the main spine of Odlum Ridge, we took a break before continuing westward.  Despite some undulations along the way, travel was pretty straightforward as we headed toward a rocky knob at the western terminus of Odlum Ridge.  A short cliff band guarding the rocky knob can be easily circumvented, but most of us tackled it directly for a bit of extra scrambling fun.  When we reached the top of the rocky knob, we were surprised to see two hikers already relaxing beside the large cairn.  They had started from the same place as us but had continued on the trail all the way up the valley before coming up via the col to the southwest.  We apologized for disturbing their tranquility, but they were very good-humoured about our intrusion.  We took a second break here, and since Daffern had neglected to name the rocky knob, there were some funny discussions about what to name it.  At one point, the name "Oddler"--a progression from "Odlum Junior" to "Odlum Toddler" to "Toddler with a silent T"--was a popular choice, but days later, Bob decided to go with the less-quirky but more geographically-meaningful "Odlum Knoll".  In the spirit of minimizing confusion, I have chosen to follow suit.

For our descent, Kevin, Marta H., Aga, Bob, Marta W., Zosia and I chose to follow Daffern's described alternate exit, but this turned out to be less straightforward than we had hoped.  The drop down to the col from the top of Odlum Knoll was surprisingly steep and rugged with a fair amount of forest to navigate through.  We picked up a trail at the col and followed it most of the way down into the basin to the north where it disappeared in a marshy meadow.  After skirting around the edge of the meadow, we had some difficulty finding Daffern's trail, and even after we found it, we had some trouble staying on track due to some trail braiding alongside the valley's tributary.  Ultimately, we were able to resolve our route-finding issues and hike out the valley without further grief.  An unremarkable second ford of Storm Creek capped off our adventure.

Be sure to check out Bob's trip report.
There's nothing like a chilly ford to start the day!

Aga and Kevin ford Storm Creek.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Good thing there's no water running through here!

The group crosses a dry wash of Storm Creek in search of a cairn marking the start of the access trail.

Careful with the slippery rocks here! After abandoning the access trail, Marta W. and Aga wait for Marta H. to rock-hop a creek before starting a bushwhacking ascent.
Bushwhacking is always more fun with big groups!

The bushwhack up the slope is steep but not too heinous.

Amazingly, Bob is still going strong! Bob makes better progress as the slope begins to open up.
Did I mention that there are larches here?

The group stops for a breather after gaining a spur ridge.

The Polish women just love to chit-chat!

The spur ridge connects with the main spine of Odlum Ridge which is ahead.

Luckily, the fresh snow wasn't a factor on this day.

The group encounters more larches as they climb higher up the spur ridge.  In the background is Mist Mountain.

Nice hair, Marta H.!

Kevin, Aga, Marta W., Zosia, Bob and Marta H. stand on an open bump along the main spine of Odlum Ridge.


I guess I should stop taking photos and catch up to the group!

The group continues westward along the crest of Odlum Ridge.

Looks good enough to be a separate summit!

Odlum Knoll is finally within sight (left of centre) just in front of Mount Odlum.

Peak-baggers are really push-y people!

The group makes a final push to the top of Odlum Knoll.

Can easily be circumvented to climber's left, but what fun would that be?

Marta W. scrambles up a short rock band near the top of Odlum Knoll.

Yay, we're scrambling!

Zosia follows Marta H. up the short rock band.

No trouble with this rubble!

The highest summits of Odlum Ridge can be seen far in the distance as the group ascends a rubble slope just below the top of Odlum Knoll.

What a dream team!

Sonny, Marta H., Aga, Marta W., Kevin, Zosia and Bob stand next to the cairn atop Odlum Knoll (2375 metres).


Can you spot Storelk Mountain?

In this view from the top of Odlum Knoll, the Elk Range and Continental Divide stretch far away to the northwest.

Bonus points if you can spot Mount Arethusa!

The Misty Range stretches across the northern horizon.

I'm still choked about climbing it only to have wildfire smoke obscure all the summit views.

Mount Bishop (right of centre) is the most prominent peak visible to the southeast.

A steep and not-so-straightforward descent!

The group carefully makes its way down some shattered rocks on the southwest side of Odlum Knoll.

Still not easy to follow in some spots!

A convenient trail runs down from the col separating Odlum Knoll and Mount Odlum.

I need to get a new pair of waterproof boots!

The group tries to avoid wet ground as they cross a marshy meadow below the northeast face of Mount Odlum.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Birdie num num!

This is one of about half a dozen spruce grouse trying not to be noticed on the side of the access trail.

I managed to cross the creek on a mess of logs in the background...barely!

The group fords Storm Creek again near the end of the trip.

Another fine adventure courtesy of the legendary Bob Spirko! Total Distance:  11.5 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  7 hours 19 minutes
Cumulative Elevation Gain:  784 metres

GPX Data