McGillivray Ridge And Ma Butte
On 18 July 2021, Zosia Zgolak and I hiked
McGillivray Ridge and Ma Butte located north of Crowsnest Pass in
Alberta's Livingstone Public Land Use Zone. There is already a
wealth of route information available online, but we got most of our
inspiration for this trip from an excellent 2010
report by Bob Spirko. In turn, he utilized a route description
for McGillivray Ridge from the guidebook, Hiking the Historic
Crowsnest Pass, by Jane Ross and William Tracy.
Starting from an unsigned trailhead at a bend in the Forestry Trunk Road
(Highway 40) about ten kilometres north of Coleman, Zosia and I walked
along an obvious double-track for about 200 metres before turning west to
follow a power line right-of-way running up a steep slope. The
right-of-way is initially a bit marshy and nebulous, but the route
strengthens into a good trail with increasing elevation. Toward the
top of the slope, the trail briefly leaves the right-of-way and traverses
southward before intersecting what appears to be a dirt bike trail.
Turning north, we hiked the dirt bike trail only for a short distance
before regaining the right-of-way where we turned west again. The
trail in this part of the right-of-way is more overgrown, but just when
it seemed like a miserable bushwhack was imminent, we stumbled onto a good
dirt road running alongside the right-of-way. This road leads to
some sort of telecommunications installation located at tree line at the
south end of McGillivray Ridge. Before reaching the installation,
we veered off onto a rougher road which heads north and traverses the
east side of the ridge. This rougher road eventually peters out,
and at that point, we simply scrambled up onto the ridge crest. The
remaining long hike to the high point of McGillivray Ridge is technically
easy, but it entails walking a long stretch of uneven limestone rubble
which can be tedious at times. Upon reaching the high point, we
took a lengthy break before turning our attention to Ma Butte about 1.5
kilometres to the west.From the high point of McGillivray Ridge, Zosia and I descended westward
toward Ma Butte. There is a significant intervening bump before the
low point of the connecting ridge, and we aimed a little further north and
scrambled through a rock band to avoid some extra elevation gain.
On the far side of the same bump, we traversed southward until we could
thick stands of krummholz before descending to the low point. From there, we
grinded up steep slopes below Ma Butte's summit block. Some
difficult rock bands here are easily circumvented to climber's right. At
the base of the summit block, we worked our way up and around the north
side to reach easier terrain before topping out shortly after. We took another lengthy break
on the summit of Ma Butte before commencing our return trip.
While some parties in the past have taken alternate descent routes after
tagging Ma Butte, Zosia and I elected to keep things simple and return
the way we came. We carefully retraced our steps down the summit block
and descended to the low point of the connecting ridge without any
problems. Although climbing back over McGillivray Ridge and
traversing the tedious limestone rubble a second time might seem
disheartening, it turned out to be less painful than expected. A
brisk wind kept bugs at bay and prevented us from getting baked by the
hot sun which made the long traverse across the ridge much more pleasant
and comfortable. Other than taking a short cut on the installation
road and circumventing the marshy section near the bottom, we did not
deviate much from our up-track. As a result, the remainder of our
hike out was easy and stress-free.
Zosia heads toward Ma Butte (right) with
and Seven Sisters Mountain in behind.
Zosia aims to traverse right to avoid climbing over the intervening bump
From the low point of the connecting ridge, Zosia begins climbing up Ma
The summit block of Ma Butte appears daunting.
Zosia hikes up a weakness on the north side of Ma Butte's summit block.
Zosia and Sonny sit on their butts on top of Ma Butte (2364 metres).
Zosia carefully descends the north side of Ma Butte's summit block.
The high point of McGillivray Ridge is visible in the distance.
It is best to avoid the thick stands of krummholz on the connecting
Zosia prepares to traverse McGillivray Ridge for a second time.
Zosia takes a short cut down to the dirt road on the way out.
Total Distance: 13.5 kilometres
Round-Trip Time: 8 hours 37 minutes
Elevation Gain: 1140 metres