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April 19, 2010
While searching the Hiking Trails section of the Forum hoping to find some new snowshoeing opportunities, I happened on Derek Ryder’s post on the “Secret Cave” (1 August 2010). This hole in the lower face of Mt. McGillivray – it is a tunnel-like facility once intended for storing ultra-sensitive government documents – is reached from the section of the TransCanada Trail that heads west from the Heart Creek parking lot and terminates at the base of the road leading to Pigeon Mt./Skogan Pass parking lot south of Dead Man’s Flats (see Canmore & Kananaskis Village Gem Trek, 5th ed.). The TransCanada Trail is well signed, and it turns out, well traveled by snowshoers and mountain climbers. The latter use it to reach the McGillivray slabs located above the cave.
Ryder describes well the route to the cave, which is straightforward, and I would only add that the spur up to the cave from the TransCanada Trail leaves it at GR266571 (this left turn is obvious). He has also attached a short magazine article describing the history and raison d’être of the cave. On Saturday 19 March it took us 40 minutes on snowshoes to reach the spur and perhaps another 5 minutes to climb to our destination.
Our game plan, once we had seen the cave, was to continue along the TransCanada Trail. Heading west from the junction we encountered virgin snowshoe territory, in that there was no evidence of any such activity there this season. This time of year in such a location there is crust that will support you and some that won’t, knee-deep snow and bare patches, all available over a track that always seems to be either rising or falling. Before turning back we reached that part of the trail where it descends over a kilometre or so to the Dead Man’s Flats terminus, which is basically at the same elevation as the Bow River.
This is a beautiful trail, enshrouded in spruce and aspen but still with one or more mountains always in view (McGillivray, Pigeon and, across the Bow, Grotto and ridges). Lac des Arcs is also visible at times. Not so beautiful are the occasional glimpses of the cement industry to the north and the roar of the TransCanada Highway just below.
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