Settled in a place with history of an interment camp and beautiful views, Mount Baldy serves as a reminder that man is so little compared to nature that seems to be age defying. The route alongside Mount Baldy has been walked by locals and those who suffered the realities of war. Although many may not realize it, the trail is one full of history and has offered peace and tranquility to many who have scrambled to the summit.
The Mount Baldy scramble is an easy scramble with a moderate crux. There is the option to bypass the crux but considerable more effort is required as you have to descend and then slog up loose rock, but there is zero exposure.
The mountain itself, once referred to as Bald Mountain by Kendall of the Eau Claire Logging Company in 1883, has been the site of some interesting history during World War II. During this period, prisoners from the local prisoner of war camp would occasionally be granted permission to ascend the peak. The POW would have to sign a document that promised that they would not take this opportunity to escape. More information on the POW camp and current history site can be found by clicking here. The site is now the location of one of two field stations operated by the University of Calgary's Biogeosciences department and the Kananaskis Forest Experimentation Station.
The peak was officially named Mount Badly in 1984. Prior to then, it was commonly referred to as Barrier Mountain because of its close proximity to Barrier Lake. The Barrier Reservoir was built in 1946, with help of prisoners from the POW camps around the area. The peak was called “Barrier Mountain” in the 1950's by the Federal Forestry Department and in the 1960's and 19070's by people working with the Kananaskis Forestry Experimental Station. Since there was already a Barrier Mountain in the Red Deer Valley, the mountain was never officially called that and became Mount Baldy. The prisoners of the POW camp called Barrier Mountain “Mount Baldy” and on September 12, 1984, David J. Carter requested that the Alberta Historic Sites Board rename the mountain to “Mount Baldy” in honour of the prisoners. When he went to visit them in Wurzburg, Germany for a prisoner of war reunion in 1996, he shared that the name had been changed to “Mount Baldy”. Many had tears in their eyes when they heard of the news.
Mount Baldy (North Peak) Trip Log
If parked on the side of the road, there are a few trails visible that lead into the forest. They all start near the stream. Once you enter the forest there appears to be trails going in all directions. You want to head roughly left and the trails will slowly merge into one.
As soon as you start the trail starts, it goes uphill. Loose rock litters the ground beneath your feet. The trees are fairly thin at this point so don't forget to look over your shoulder and take in the view.
The rocky ground beneath your feet continues on and occasionally turns to slab. The crux is fairly soon after the tree line as well, looking ahead it looks like the slab you are on ends. This is the down climb. To avoid it, roughly 150 meters before it looks to drop ahead, you have the opportunity to walk off and descend to your right. You can slug up some scree to avoid the crux but you do lose some elevation.
Once at the crux, you have a good idea of the exposure involved. I found it easier to down climb on the more exposed side, there were much more solid holds to grab on to which made the down climb itself easier. If you were standing above the crux and looking down ... the left hand side, or the side that has much less exposure, appeared to be more technically difficult as it presented less holds.
Once you have made it past the crux, there is a bit of scrambling over bolder like features as you make your way up. The ground will flatten out a fair bit as out cropping's of trees pop up. You will also come across a fire pit and couch made of stones. Directly behind that is a large rock formation, you do not need to scramble over it. You actually follow the trail to the right as it scoots around the outskirts and presents you with an easy few meter scramble to get yourself up and over.
Once over the rock feature you have a very good view of what is left. Mostly a steep hike along a visible trail takes you to the summit. The trail does vanish occasionally once on the rock again.
At the summit, you are greeted with a rather large area to relax. The trail does continue past the summit to larger grassy areas where the larger groups seem to flock to. Below you get a full panoramic view of the Barrier Lake and thanks to Mount Baldy's position, you can see as far as the horizon will let you to the east and fantastic mountain vistas to the west. If you look around on the ground you can also spot a geological survey marker back from 1981.
If the goal was for the North peak only, the return is the same way. If you have budgeted for enough time, you can continue on to the South and West peaks. The route is rather straight forward but does involve a careful down climb to the ridge below.
GPS Plotted Route
The GPS logged route starts directly on the side of the road at the trail head and not at the Baldy Pass parking lot.
With the exception of a couple short level spots, the route is a steady uphill slog with a few scrambling sections.
Click here to download the GPS route in GPX format. You may have to right click and select "Save Link As" if your browser does not download it automatically. Be sure to save it as a .gpx file.
What were your experiences scrambling Mount Baldy (North Peak)?
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