Wednesday, May 11, 2022

First Summits - Wasootch Peak, Kananaskis

Wasootch Peak is the unofficial name for a small mountain located near Kananaskis Village, and it is not connected to the popular Wasootch Ridge Trail. Wasootch Peak and Wasootch Ridge are different hikes starting from different trailheads.

Wasootch Peak is a fabulous early season training hike in spring and you'll get some serious height training completed on this very steep trail that finishes with a scrambly ending near the summit. Start with Prairie Mountain and a few other more "gradual" hikes before working your way up to Wasootch Peak. 

Wasootch Peak overlooking the Nakiska ski hill 

Stats for the Hike 

Distance:  7.5 km return

Height gain
: 900 metres 

Time it took us to complete the return hike: 
It took us 5.5 hours (3 hours moving - man we take a lot of breaks) with two youth ages 10 and 12.

Best time to do this hike: Wait until late April / Early May to make sure the snow has melted from the trail. Even then it's suggested you bring ice cleats or spikes for any lingering snow.

: This is an easy scramble. It's more than a hike, but you shouldn't have to use your hands much (or at all.) There's a fairly decent trail the whole time and much of it is just a steep forested path. The only loose gross scree is at the top in the final 100 metres where this hike gets its "scramble" rating. If you don't like scree you won't make it to the summit.

All Trails Link 
Wasootch Peak on All Trails 

Note to download the map, you'll need to have a premium paid subscription. I find it to be worthwhile, even just so I can see how far I am from the summit every time somebody asks "how much further?" 

I also like to download the map so that I know where to park. There is no official parking lot for this one, so at least look at the map on your home computer and then put a pin on Google Maps so you know where to pull off the highway.

The hike gets scramblier the higher you go

Everybody's favourite rock on the Wasootch Peak hike

Finding the Trailhead

Drive out towards Kananaskis Village on Highway 40 and do a U-turn right after you exit the highway for the Village - when it's safe to do so!!

You're going to be turning around here and parking immediately along the side of the road where there will probably be other cars parked. There is space to park so that you're not right on the highway but exercise caution getting your gear out of the car.

You can find the spot to park on Google Maps. 

Looking up at the summit of Wasootch Peak from the creek at the bottom

Segment 1: Hiking up through the forest

Head up from the highway into the trees watching for the empty creek bed that you see in the photo above. The hiking trail is to the left of the creek bed and once you get on it, you can't lose it. It's a very good trail.

The trail is easy to follow, but is relentlessly steep!! I pretty much swore I'd only ever do this hike once (even though I'm now contemplating doing it again for training.)

My best advice: bring candy and fun snacks, take your time, and push on for the more interesting terrain above. Once you get to the easy scrambly terrain, the hiking becomes much more fun on this trail!

The first 2 km will be the worst part for hiking up a "boring trail through the trees."

Hiking up a steep trail through the forest and above to reach the summit of Wasootch Peak

Segment 2: Fun scrambling up mini cliff bands and rock

Finally after the first couple of kilometres the hike starts to get interesting! There are mini cliff bands, there's a bit of easy route finding, and you aren't just plodding up steep dirt.

We were with friends who are still fairly new to scrambling and they had no problems on this section. They were slower coming down, but just take your time.

Easy scrambling up baby cliff bands on the Wasootch Peak Trail

There are lots of good viewpoints where you can stop and catch your breath 

Minimal hands-required scrambling on the Wasootch Peak Trail

Segment 3: All the nasty scree to the summit!

I can handle plodding up a boring trail through the trees and I'm ok with easy fun scrambly terrain, but I draw a line at nasty scree so I did not enjoy the final 100 metres of height gain.

That being said, put your head down, trust your feet, take your time, and try to choose the best line.

I found the trail to be best along the far right side, next to the skyline (even though it dropped off steeply here.) We also tried to stick to the slabs as much as we could because they were beautifully grippy!! 

Our friends called it quits here and waited for us to summit. 

This is what awaits you at the end of the hike!

Our friends made it about half way up the final scree slope

The slabs were gloriously grippy for going up

Reaching the Summit of Wasootch Peak

We finally reached the top of the ridge and then enjoyed a bit of easy scrambling to reach the summit. There was also a very short section of airy ridge traversing before the summit. I'd say that if you don't like heights, you won't enjoy the final section.

Looking down at Highway 40 towards the Nakiska ski hill 

The final ridge walk to the summit is a tad airy

Next time I plan to hang out here a little longer to take in the views

Caution is definitely needed at the summit

Making our way down "Carefully!!" 

Return the same way you came, slowly, and carefully. The rock definitely felt loose coming down the steep scree at the top. Once we got lower down it was easy walking though.

Looking back up at the scrambly terrain below the summit

Slowly and carefully descending the Wasootch Peak Trail 

Recommended Gear and Safety Tips 

  • This is not a beginner hike and children should have previous scrambling experience on steep terrain and loose rock. My son is very experienced and found the hike easy. His friend did not.

  • The final summit ridge is narrow and extreme caution needs to be taken with children here. If you're nervous at all, skip the final walk to the summit and stop once you reach the ridge.

  • Check the weather report carefully before you go and watch the skies while hiking. I wouldn't want to be caught near the summit on this mountain in a storm.

  • Bring light gloves for the descent. They'll protect your hands if you fall and you may appreciate them if you need to use your hands at all on the cliff bands.

  • We didn't feel that helmets were necessary for this hike, but they would be appreciated if somebody took a tumble! We had also chosen a very quiet day mid-week and didn't see anybody else on the trail. Rock fall could be a hazard if you went on a weekend.

  • Long pants are always a good call when scrambling. A thin lightweight long sleeve shirt is recommended too on descent. If you slip on loose rock, you'll be happier if you have a layer of clothing between your skin and the rock.

  • If you're not sure your children are ready for this hike, try it solo without them first. We do a lot of hikes on our own before bringing our son. This was one of the few where my son and I both did the hike for the first time together.

  • Finally, this hike would not be the best choice for a hot summer day. There is no shade on the upper slopes and you're far from any water source.

Wasootch Peak is a great scramble for families with previous experience

1 comment:

  1. Wow this hike looks so nice! Might go there soon with my husband, I know he will have so much fun