We haven’t been back to East Wind Pond for a long time and were expecting the worst. Would the old exploration roads have grown in? Would the trail stamped out by the boy scouts nearly 20 years ago even BE there?
I was trying to explain to some hikers at the trailhead where we were going “No, not Wind Ridge, Skogan Pass, Pigeon Mountain or Mt. Allan. See that ridge way to the south? Well its way beyond that, in a hanging valley under Mt. Lougheed.’ (At GR227482 to be exact.) “Though shown on the topo map as little blue dots in the middle of a bog, it is, actually, a real lake surrounded by meadows, larches and grassy ridges.” The leader decided to stick to her original plan — who can blame her. 21 + km is a long way when there’s bushwhacking involved.
The tramp up the Mt. Allan trail was horrible as usual. When we turned off onto the Wind Valley exploration road we were relieved to find the old road was still easy to follow. Just a few wet mossy places to splosh through. We were astonished at the amount of water coming down Wind Creek in late August and at the crossing place found the log totally inadequate. We ran across, the idea being that water doesn’t have time to run into your boots. I expect you know that theory.
After that, the roads continued to give easy walking to where the trail takes off through the forest at GR240501 at a bunch of flagging. Good news! Not only was the old trail still there, it was a vastly improved version that was flagged and had been gone over recently with a chainsaw. Pity about the second gully that needs a suspension bridge, but apart from that the going was straightforward to where the flagging ended far up the valley at about GR234481.
Farther on there are remnant trails to tree edge where the valley opens out between Lougheed and Allan. As I plodded along, a ditty kept running through my head “All Trails End in Deadfall, All Trails End in Deadfall.” On a trip prior to this one, a friend and I had been lightheartedly discussing a suitable name for a fictitious book about bad trails. And now it was about to come true. Because you emerge from nice open forest into a tangle of deadfall coupled with over-head-high willow brush. Pushing through it a rite of passage if you want to reach the col above the lake. We decided to test out another approach i.e. follow the stony creekbed of a side creek towards Lougheed, climb scree to the cliffs, then traverse to the col through what must surely, up there, be smaller sized willow bush. Unfortunately, it was not.
So, anyway, by the time we got to the lake there was absolutely no time left for ridge wandering, let alone lingering. I kept waiting for the sun to come out of the clouds so I could get a decent photo of the lake, while Tony kept pointing to his watch and saying things like “we don’t have our headlamps.” Eventually it was decided the sun was never going to light up the water because it had, in fact, set behind the mountain. So off we went, wasting some more time on the descent by checking out a ridge route and getting stuck in dense spruce thickets. Where are the game trails when you need them? Seriously, the dearth of good game trails in the area is very strange. So we backtracked and checked out the usual ascent/descent route to see if it had improved. NO, it hadn‘t.
Some friends have walked the ridge to the north of the lake and from it dropped off onto the trail, “dropped ” being the operative word.. For a few minutes we had considered descending the direct route from the lake over the lip of the hanging valley to the flagged trail. Perhaps this is where the game had trodden out a trail, although we saw no sign of one on the way up. It’s now a week later and I regret not checking this out!
Has anyone reading this ever tried this route, which, if it went, would be the faster way in?
Start: Trans-Canada Hwy. at Dead Man’s Flats. At exit 98 take the road signed Banff Gate Mountain Resorts and Mt. Lougheed Viewpoint. You drive past Thunderstone’s quarry to a T-junction at the end of the road and turn right into Pigeon Mountain trailhead.