Wasootch is a popular destination in K-Country, accommodating both hikers and climbers. Many climbers visit the Wasootch Slabs regularly, especially those that are transitioning from indoor climbing to rock walls.
The scramble to the ridge is considered a difficult hike and can be done by the experienced. The final spine of the ridge presents two options, an exposed scramble to the summit, and an optional hiking trail at the base of the cliffs. Close to the city, Wasootch Ridge is the perfect jaunt to get outdoors on the weekend and experience the beautiful sights from the top.
As you hike along the well trotted trail, views of Nakiska Ski Hill open and you gain the elevation rather quickly. The views are well worth the steepness of the trail and the wobbliness of your legs at the end.
The name "Wasootch" originates from the Stoney Indian language which translates to "unique". It rather suits the long scramble to the ridge of the mountain. The term is also found at several areas in Kananaskis including Wasootch Creek and Wasootch Peak. The Stoney people found the features located in these areas unique and beautiful to the mountains and the name has stuck since.
Wasootch Ridge Trip Log
The start of this trail starts at the Wasootch Creek parking lot. This is also a popular spot for sport climbing and dry tooling in the winter so you might see a lot of vehicles as people are spread across the valley. The Wasootch Creek parking lot is about 16.6km from the Trans-Canada Highway.
The initial jaunt to gain the ridge is pretty steep. From the parking lot the trail shoots straight up the slope with a series of small switch backs. The ground is mostly dirt at this point with roots mixed in.
The trail is a combination of easy going hiking on the high points to steep sections on loose rock as you hit some of the uphills. Overall though you are gaining elevation and any declines are negligible.
The first false summit was very windy. I was worried about how the exposed ridge would be if the wind continued as such but it thankfully died down by that point. There were a couple wind shelters people have made from stone on the east side of the summit.
Looking down on the west side into the valley is Wasootch Creek. The geology of the creek looks like it was hit hard from the previous flooding as there is no top soil anywhere left; only a long rocky remain stretching from the base of both mountains. Porcupine Creek runs along the base of the east side but it is not quite as aesthetically interesting as Wasootch.
Continuation along the ridge is mostly hiking until you come across a human made wind block. It’s a semi-circle wall a couple feet tall made of stone. At this point you have the choice of scrambling or hiking. The scrambling route takes you right on the edge of the spine. Any slip or tumble off is sure to be fatal. It should not be attempted unless you are comfortable with your experience and heights.
Scrambling can by bypassed via the hiking route which takes you along the right (north) side of the ridge. You drop down and lose a bit of elevation as you skirt the base of the rock wall.
Scrambling along the ridge is a mixture of hands on scrambling and balancing as you walk along the high points. I imagine in summer there is probably a little more room to walk around on some of the skinny sections as when we did it there was a trail of snow along our left side which was not inviting to walk on as we didn’t know what was under it. There are a couple sections where you are stepping down into a drop with nothing but air around you.
To finish the scrambling portion you need to make your way down to where the hiking trail meets up. This section had quite a bit of loose gravel on it while down sloping towards the drop. The down climb itself was approximately 12 feet if memory serves right. It was unfortunately a while ago since the time of writing so I do not remember exactly. There was not an abundance of good holds though.
The final summit block for us involved meandering through the snow on what was walkable. There were rather steep snowy sections which provided a few challenges to walk on without slipping but if you are doing this in summer, I imagine there would be a distinctive trail to follow. Otherwise its basically walking where you can as you ascend.
The last portion before the summit is mostly hoping over perfect ankle twisting rocks. The highest point of Wasootch Ridge has a decent amount of room to stretch out on. With a wide valley formed on the east and west side of Wasootch Peak you get stunning views in all directions. Mount McDougall to the South and Mount Bryant would be the closest neighboring peaks.
You also get a great overview looking back at the spine you came up which leads all the way back to Mount Lorette on the other side of the highway.
For a quicker descent we omitted to take part of the hiking trail down versus scrambling over the rocks. With the sun on its way down we wanted to get past the exposed areas while there was still some sunlight out as doing it under headlamp would be rather challenging.
Additional photos of the down climb. For the return this would naturally be a climb upwards to regain the ridge.
Additional photos of the scrambling along the ridge. I found a few of the steps on the way back more challenging then on the climb up. Might be just due to having to step down into a lot of free air versus climbing upwards.
GPS Plotted Route
The GPS map shows how you essentially follow the ridge right from the get go. You depart the parking lot and start the ridge right away and stay on it until the summit.
The majority of the elevation gained right at the start in the first two kilometers. This is due to gaining the Wasootch Ridge from the parking lot. Once you start making your way up towards the tree line the elevation gain smooths out a bit until the very last summit block. You lose a little elevation throughout as you go up and over the various little humps along the ridge but they are all pretty minor.
What were your experiences scrambling Wasootch Ridge?
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