After lightning, thunder, rain and hail chased us off the trail on Friday, we decided to make a second attempt on Monday (weather permitting). So, when the 7 am weather forecast looked decent, we packed our lunch, loaded up the day packs and headed for the heart of Kananaskis country.
Arriving at the trailhead within a few minutes of 10 o’clock, we checked the sky (still looking good), doused ourselves liberally with bug spray (based on Friday’s experience), and headed confidently off down the trail. After all, we’d covered the first 2.5 km once before, so there was no need to consult the trail description until we were well into the Tent basin.
Looking up the Monica Brook drainage towards Commonwealth Peak
Or was there? Mrs. GeoK finally consulted the GPS once we reached about the spot where we had to turn back on Friday. Oh oh! Southern Alberta Trail Maps showed that we should have cut left a while back. That seemed odd, as we were on such a well established trail and didn’t recall seeing any trail branches to the left. But, after consulting the trail description, we decided to retrace our steps (about 500 m). Shortly before we found a faint path heading off in the right direction, we encountered a pack of adventurous seniors, out to hike tent ridge. One member of their group had done the trek before, so they invited us to follow them. We should have accepted the invitation!!
Using the Tent Ridge Horseshoe trail in the Souther Alberta Trail Maps data set, we did our best to follow a sometimes good, sometimes non-existent trail to the shoulder of the ridge to begin our ascent. Once it really faded away, we cut through the trees towards the track we’d put down while hiking up the drainage, and eventually made our way back to the well-beaten path. Finally, not 200 meters past where we turned back, we spotted some flagging on the left side of the valley and discovered an established trail up running diagonally up through the trees to the base of the shoulder up to the ridge.
The initial climb was quite straightforward, but about two-thirds of the way to the first little peak, it grew more challenging than Mrs. GeoK is generally comfortable with. Despite some trembling in the legs and a couple of tense moments, she made it to the first resting spot. The rest of the family soon followed, ‘though Youngest GeoK wasn’t very happy about the sometimes somewhat sketchy trail.
Step section, with lots of lose rock – considered a light scramble
The views were fantastic! Mr. GeoK and Oldest GeoKid shot several panorama photos and we all sat there enjoying the sights.
Looking over the Tent basin towards the second "summit" on Tent Ridge
Spray Reservoir to the northwest
We watched the group ahead of us work to scramble up the final knob to the first "summit" on the ridge. It took a good 20 minutes for all of them to make it. Then we turned our attention to the section directly in front of us. The ridge pinches in a little at this point, and after studying what little we could see for 5 or 10 minutes, we (mostly Mrs. GeoK and Youngest GeoKid) opted to turn back. Thankfully, with judicious use of footholds, handholds and (occasionally) seatholds, we made it back down into the forest at the base of the shoulder.
As we emerged into the Tent basin, we spotted the large group of hikers ascending the second "summit", which didn’t seem to give them any trouble. So, after a little discussion, we agreed that we’ll come back this way a third time (probably not this hiking season) and try from the other end of the loop. It’s apparently not quite as scenic (or, more accurately, you have to turn and look behind you to enjoy the best views), but you can hike to Tent peak and then along the ridge aways before turning back.
Between our two attempts, we covered a total of 14 km, only making it about a third of the way around the horseshoe-shaped 10 km loop. The views were outstanding, but the scramble section was definitely outside our comfort zone – at least for now.