Prospect Ridge
Between working, studying to be a chartered professional accountant, and helping her husband raise two young boys, Marta Heske has virtually no time left for recreational pursuits.  Therefore, when she contacted me in advance to let me know that she had one day available--specifically, 17 October 2021--to join Zosia Zgolak and me for a hike, I circled that date on my calendar and did some research to find a worthy hiking objective for us all.  As it turned out, I came up with two separate objectives for Marta to choose from, and she ended up selecting unofficially-named Prospect Ridge near the north end of the Opal Range in Alberta's Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park.  A fairly straightforward ascent route for Prospect Ridge is described in Gillean Daffern's Kananaskis Country Trail Guide, and she also includes an option to do a traverse via a clockwise loop.  Despite overcrowding on many trails in Kananaskis Country these days, this trip has seemingly stayed under most people's radar probably because it entails a long and somewhat problematic approach via Evan-Thomas Creek.  Joining us for this trek was Aga Sokolowska.

Starting from the Evan-Thomas trailhead (located along Highway 40, 27 kilometres south of Trans-Canada Highway), Marta, Aga, Zosia and I hiked the trail which runs southward along Evan-Thomas Creek.  The wide trail is initially easy to follow even with some sections re-routed because of the biblical floods of 2013.  Unlike my trip to Mackay Hills in 2015, we had no issues this time with bowed trees choking the trail, but the previously washed-out sections have remained unrepaired.  Although some signs of passage--mostly horses' hoof prints--are developing in these washed-out sections, route-finding can still be a little tricky especially in some of the more wide-open confluences with side creeks.  Thankfully, my GPS track from the Mackay Hills trip was helpful in keeping us pointed in the right direction, and we eventually reached the Camp Creek turnoff after more than three hours of slogging up Evan-Thomas Creek.  Keeping right at the turnoff, we climbed westward up a wide but sometimes marshy road to Rocky Creek Pass which is the jumping-off point for Mackay Hills to the north.  We stuck to the road which soon bends southward and passes an outfitter's camp replete with cut firewood, picnic tables, and even a pit toilet.  We stopped here for a much-needed lunch break before resuming our hike along the road.  Further south, the road dips slightly to cross to the east bank of Camp Creek.  According to Daffern, the road "splits into two grassy tracks" here, but with snow covering the ground, only the right-hand track was obvious to us.  As such, we followed this track until it broke out of the trees for good entering meadows near the head of the valley.  From there, we simply grinded up easy open slopes to the crest of Prospect Ridge and turned northward to reach its high point.

Marta, Aga, Zosia and I took another extended break on the high point of Prospect Ridge before continuing northward in hopes of connecting with the left-hand track that we had missed at the split.  Surprisingly, we ran into some hunters who were scouting for game ahead of the opening of hunting season the following week; they would be the only other people we would see during our hike.  One of the hunters advised us to stick close to the crest of the north ridge for our descent, and that is just what we did.  We had no problems descending the open upper part of the ridge, but near tree line, we had trouble locating any defined trails due to lingering snow cover.  Still, the forest was open enough to allow for fairly easy travel, and we simply followed the path of least resistance down the ridge until we intersected Daffern's left-hand track.  We then turned southward and followed this track back to the split to complete Daffern's suggested loop in reverse.  It is worth noting that the left-hand track was largely reclaimed which explains why we had missed it in the first place.  Back on the Camp Creek road, we settled into a long but uncomplicated march back to the trailhead.  Along the way, the lengthy retreat started to take its toll on us both physically and mentally.  Our discussions seemed to revolve around aching body parts, food cravings, and wishes for easier transportation (A bike, a bike! My kingdom for a bike!).  We even had a little contest to guess what time we would make it back to the trailhead.  Zosia turned out to be the winner, and I guess we all now owe her a back massage.  As for Marta, she will have another year to recover for her next hike with us!
An e-bike would be wonderful for this part!

The trail along Evan-Thomas Creek is initially easy to follow.

These uphill sections are gonna suck late in the day... The group descends one of several dips along the trail further up the valley.
End of days?

Many sections of the original trail were washed away during the biblical floods of 2013.

Aga is always ready to make a splash! Aga hops over a tributary of Evan-Thomas Creek.
With snow, this would be so much nicer to ski! Snow patches remain along Evan-Thomas Creek not far from the Camp Creek turnoff.
Anyone order pizza? The group stops for lunch at a horse outfitter's camp.
To be safe, take the right-hand track. After this creek crossing, the road splits in two, but the left-hand track is not so obvious.

Now we're finally getting somewhere!

Entering meadows at the head of the valley, the group prepares to ascend the right skyline ridge.


This might even be a good slope for skiing in winter... The group climbs easy slopes.  Mackay Hills are visible in the distance.

I think I've nailed all the primary colours!

The high point of Prospect Ridge is within sight.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak


Well done, ladies! Zosia, Marta and Aga take the last few steps before the top of Prospect Ridge.

Yeah baby!

Marta, Aga, Zosia and Sonny stand on the high point of Prospect Ridge (2471 metres).


Mount Denny is unofficially named. The rugged north end of the Opal Range fills the view to the southwest.

The unnamed peak at centre is on my to-do list!

Numerous familiar peaks stretch across the western horizon.


I will proabably re-climb The Wedge one of these days. Wanna join me?

To the northwest are The Wedge and the three distinct high points of Mackay Hills.


Still lots for me to explore here! Many of the peaks at the north end of the Fisher Range are unnamed.

Don't look so black to me!

Fisher Peak dominates the view to the east.  The subsidiary bump to the right is unofficially known as Black Ridge.


Evan-Thomas East, eh? Interesting...

This is looking southeast through Evan-Thomas Pass.  The rugged peak at right is officially unnamed but called Evan-Thomas East on some maps.

We're waiting while Marta flirts with some hunters!

Aga and Sonny pause at different elevations along the north ridge.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Góralu czy ci nie żal, góralu, wracaj do hal!

After chatting with some hunters, the three Polish women descend Prospect Ridge.

That's what the hunter said.

It is best to stick close to the ridge crest while descending the north end of Prospect Ridge.

The Road Not Taken...but we took both and that has made all the difference!

Zosia descends the left-hand track that was missed on the way in.

A bike, a bike! My kingdom for a bike!

The return trip is long and sometimes monotonous.

The long approach is a pain in the a**, but the views from the ridge make the suffering worthwhile. Total Distance:  29.7 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  11 hours 16 minutes
Cumulative Elevation Gain:  1117 metres

GPX Data