Pocaterra Ridge

Elevation: 2670 m
Elevation Gain: 464 m
My Ascents:
September 28 2014, September 25 2012, September 12 2011
GPS Track: Pocaterra Ridge

A few weeks ago the phone rang – a quick glance at the caller ID revealed that it was my father-in-law Gary. While most men might decide to screen such a call, I decided to answer. After bantering back and forth for a few minutes, Gary informed me that he and Karen (my mother-in-law) would like to book a room at the “Hobbs Hotel” next weekend. Of course, I told him they were always welcome in our home (after all, who doesn’t love visits from their in-laws?). The next words out of his mouth, however, convinced me that I would enjoy this visit:

“We’d like you to take us for a hike.”

And with that request, the wheels were set in motion! Seeking an objective which would be family-friendly while offering a high scenery to suffering ratio, Brianne and I decided to suggest Pocaterra Ridge since the trailhead’s high elevation (2206 m) grants quick access to beautiful alpine scenery. With my father-in-law and mother-in-law already signed up, it seemed natural to invite the ol’ sister-in-law along as well. Indeed, before I knew it, I found myself in the midst of a Christison family hike!

Our hike got off to a cool and frosty start with temperatures near freezing in the shadow of Highwood Ridge. I’m fairly certain that Gary and Karen (who will be off to winter in Arizona shortly) were wondering why they’d bothered to get out of their warm beds at this point. In fairness, I’m willing to bet that Brianne was wondering the very same thing…

After about an hour of hiking along the frosty trail, we reached a small but scenic tarn overlooking Mount Rae.

Further proof that winter is on its way. :-(

As we hiked beyond the tarn, we finally escaped the cool shadows of Highwood Ridge and were treated to wonderful views of misty Mount Tyrwhitt beyond the thinning larch forest.

A closer look at the famous rock arch on Mount Tyrwhitt’s east ridge.

Enjoying the vibrant autumn colors. The many larch trees en route to Pocaterra Ridge were definitely among the reasons that we decided to take the in-laws hiking in this area.

After a relatively flat start to the hike, it’s all up-hill from here! Rocky Mount Pocaterra can be seen on the left while grassy Pocaterra Ridge rears up on the right.

Jana and Diesel enjoy the view…well Jana does anyways (poor Diesel is blind).

Gary enjoys the elevation gain as the larch-filled valley becomes smaller and smaller below.

As we ascended higher, we were granted better and better views of some interesting meteorological phenomena as clouds poured over Grizzly Col towards the rock glacier at the foot of Mount Tyrwhitt.

Karen takes advantage of a little “power assist” (Crux) on one of the steeper sections.

Frequent breaks are required to properly enjoy the view!

Nearing the summit, the view towards Highwood Pass opens up beautifully as the inversion continues to send cold clouds plummeting over the ridge tops down towards the valley bottoms below. The panorama features (from left to right): Mount Rae, Mount Arethusa, Little Arethusa, “Storethusa Ridge,” Storm Mountain, Highwood Ridge (just beneath the clouds), Mist Mountain (distant), Grizzly Ridge, Mount Tyrwhitt and my in-laws. Click to see larger.

On top! Karen bags her second peak in the Canadian Rockies! I think we’ve got her hooked now. ;-)

Gary and Karen enjoy the magnificent views of the Kananaskis Valley from the summit.

The one who got me into this crazy family. ;-)

Vapor trails over Mount Rae. At 3218 m, Mount Rae is the tallest peak visible from Calgary.

Mount Arethusa is the most difficult scramble that Brianne and I have completed. Little Arethusa (foreground) was much simpler (if not a little snowier)!

Golden larches litter the valley below Highwood Ridge while the larger peaks of the Misty Range rise up above the cloud beyond.

Storm Mountain towers above a sea of cloud.

Mist Mountain lives up to its name yet again.

Jana and Diesel enjoy their first summit together. I’m fairly confident that Diesel is the first blind dog to summit Pocaterra Ridge!

A different breed of waterfall – water vapor cascades over Grizzly Col revealing Storelk Mountain beyond.

Mount Abruzzi makes an appearance beyond the Tyrwhitt – Pocaterra col.

Pocaterra Ridge winds its way down towards the many peaks of the Kananaskis Valley. Click to see larger.

Jana looks out over Gap Mountain, Mount Elpoca, Tombstone Mountain the starting point of the Elbow River Valley.

Looking north beyond Mount Pocaterra towards the long ridge extending from Mount Kent (left). Surprisingly, the summit of Mount Kent is actually at the closer, shorter end while the higher point beyond is known unofficially as the North Summit of Kent Ridge which connects to Mount Inflexible (right) via a red rock ridge. Snowy Mounts Galatea (left) and James Walker (right) are also visible beyond this red ridge.

Familiar Kananaskis Valley peaks (from left to right: Mount Bogart, Mount Lougheed, Wind Mountain and Mount Kidd) visible beyond Gap Mountain.

The Opal Range extends to the north forming a vertical barrier on the east side of the Kananaskis Valley.

The girls and their “babies”.

Me and my baby (Goat)!

One big happy family.

After enjoying a pleasant summit stay, it was time to make our way back down. To keep the descent interesting, we decided to let the blind dog lead the way!

Gary and Karen make their way down as the shadow of Mount Pocaterra begins to creep towards us.

Thanks to sharp eyes (not poor Diesel’s), we managed to spot a scrambler high above on Mount Pocaterra.

Karen shows off her best “orangutan” descent technique.

After a speedy (“orangutan”-like for some of us) descent, we stopped amidst the larches for a break and another family photo.

Crux and Diesel enjoy a cool drink of water while the rest of us look forward to a cool drink of beer!

A little chilly on the paws…

Looking back towards Karen’s latest conquest.

Still a couple hikers on the summit of Pocaterra Ridge.

Diesel leads the way back to the Highwood Pass trailhead.

It’s hard to go wrong when the views (like this one of Storm Mountain) from the trailhead are this good! Pocaterra Ridge is proof that a day with your in-laws can actually be something worth looking forward to! ;-)