The New Ha Ling Trail

Plaque where trail heads into the forest.

Amid hundreds of other curious people, we too, walked up the new Ha Ling/Miners Peak Trail. The start is well marked  and the sign reading “No Bicylces” is being replaced. After the first two standard zigs came a preview of what was to come: the first appearance of rock steps. Zig 4 impressed with its yeti steps gouged out of slabs with a chain on the side, and the blasting of a long line of slabs to create a walkway. I seem to remember crossing these same slabs on a bridge of flimsy branches!

Signs at the start.

Rock steps on the 3rd zig.

Yeti steps at start of 4th zig

The rock cut on the 4th zig.

More yeti steps.

The viewpoint just over halfway up the trail. Note the rock seats that occur at regular intervals all along the trail.

A great view of EEOR and Whitemans Pond from the viewpoint.

On meeting some friends two corners up they told us we hadn’t seen anything yet. So after enjoying the fabulous viewpoint just above the halfway point, we continued on the long traverse to treeline where  the rock steps multiplied greatly.  Gasps of awe from people in front of us signalled our arrival at the first set of wooden cable steps (sometimes called cable ladders), this one nearly 100 steps high and catering to both up and down traffic.  Some call it the stairway to heaven as it leads to the scree slopes below the summit. Above are two shorter sections of cable steps. Interestingly, some larger dogs were having problems getting the hang of them. As for me, I felt like I was walking up an out of service elevator.

Looking up the first set of cable steps.

Looking down from the top.

Coming up to the second set. The three humps in the background.

Looking up the second set to the third set of cable steps.

Final section of trail to the saddle.

En route to the summit.

The summit overlooking the Bow Valley.

Starting back down.

A final section with more rock steps led  to the saddle, or near enough. (En route an unsigned  scree trail headed off right to the saddle proper and Miners Peak.) After the maintained trail ended at a sign, most people were carrying on to Ha Ling’s  summit using  a multitude of trails, some more scrambly than others, We took the trail farthest left which is always the easiest. New to the summit area was a ring of signs at every possible entry point telling people to not  throw rocks over the edge onto the climbers. I found it a bit unnerving  that two neophytes were sitting on the crumbling edge with their legs dangling over the precipice. Maybe we need another sign:  “Do NOT sit on the edge. It’s the surest way to Heaven.”

Looking down the third set of cable steps.

Returning along the rock cut.

Returning along the rock cut.

In conclusion the newly aligned  trail is now utterly safe for all people and their dogs and, even a cat.  No doubt some people will feel uncomfortable with all these man-made “improvements.” So lets get some comments, both for and against them. There are many repercussions from having a super safe trail and not just from the aesthetics point of view..  But whatever you think of it, chalk it up as another K country first.

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6 comments… add one
  • Ken Sep 17, 2019, 10:08 am

    I haven’t been up there since the trail reopened but it looks like the powers that be have tried to make the trail safer for new hikers and provide easy access to the top for people who might not otherwise go hiking. In that regard, I think the improvements are ok. Those of us who want a more natural hiking experience can hike the many other natural trails in the area. Yeti steps and cable steps are not everywhere yet, are they?

  • Gillean Daffern Sep 15, 2019, 1:23 pm

    I recently asked Matt Hadley (trail designer) about those cable ladders. Here is part of the email: His answers are in quotes.

    Personally, I think it an amazing trail, one of a kind in K Country. Nevertheless I feel ambivalent about those cable ladders. They seem a little out of place. However, I can see why they were needed. Correct me if I am wrong. You couldn’t go farther right into a possible avalanche gully,
    “Correct.”
    And you couldn’t make small zigs up the scree because that would surely invite shortcutting.
    “Exactally.”
    So something that would get people up high quickly was the only answer? Questions people are asking about them: The design for a start. Are they one of a kind in Canada?
    “My dad actually came up with the design based on a technique he saw used in the Sahara desert to climb the sand dunes. He then modified the design to construct cable ladders in the bay of Fundy region of NB. On the Fundy footpath there are numerous cable ladders that ascend and descent the 200m of vertical from the ocean up to the height of land. There they were built narrower as the trails are much less busy, and were out of 4×4 material. With much input from Alberta Parks staff we designed ours to be two way. The idea was that the trail is just too busy for people to be patient enough to que up or wait to pass. We also wanted to have the chain handrail so that users can hold onto the chains with both hands so that they are less likely to slip when everything up there is covered in snow and ice. ”
    Does the wood age to grey? (My thinking here is that they would blend more easily with the rock.)
    “It should stay mostly the color it is, that is a new type of pressure treating that is brown so it is meant to be less obtrusive than the old green stuff.”
    How were they assembled?
    “They were assembled in place up there, as they were too heavy to be flown up. Another time we might try and make the cable sections modular to allow them to be flown up in sections, however the 6”x6” rough sawn timbers become quite heavy if you are trying to then move an entire section around by hand. With regards to anchoring, the bottom Cable ladder is anchored at the bottom where we found bed rock, there are 3 anchors drilled and epoxy anchored into the bedrock. The top of this ladder there was not any bedrock for 10’ deep, so there we built a gabion basket full of rock and wrapped cables around that to anchor off of it. The next two cable ladders are all rock anchors.”
    Thanks Matt!

  • davebloggs Sep 2, 2019, 9:49 am

    love it or hate it it’s there now and going no where in a hurry . so embrace it for what it is. as zoltan says if it encourages more people to get off their computers get outside and become part of the next generation of hikers etc that is where the future is, i dont want to see this up every mountain but with the sheer numbers of people on ha ling something needed to be done its now well and truly planted on every tourist trail map and gives people a fairly safe experience of being on top of a mountain they get their photos tell their friends who also now come and visit, and the tourist industry thanks them with open arms. it has become a product of its own success . if people are serious about keeping everything wild then stop all further development in the bow valley in canmore, there are plans to extend canmore all the way to dead mans flats both sides of the highway , and its not far off happening, so a few yeti steps and some chain fence are the least of the problem.

  • Brendan Aug 29, 2019, 7:07 pm

    Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with improving the trail. But I do think the “yeti steps” (steps permanently cut into the rock), the ugly chained fences and the literal staircase are a bit much. What happens when every mountain becomes as popular as Ha Ling? Will there be a staircase up every mountain? Despite the regular traffic on the mountain, in my opinion this trail is way over-developed.

  • davebloggs Aug 19, 2019, 7:49 pm

    From my point of view anything that improves safety on what is arguably one of the highest traffic trails in the area is a good thing, it keeps people to one route which stops braiding and slope erosion . as for people sitting on the edge there is no cure for stupid i’m afraid, as someone who has had to recover the exploded remains of people at the bottom of cliffs i have to say they give no thought to the importance of safety as long as they get their instagram photos etc I always tell them that will be the last picture their families will have of them. ok rant over back to the trail . i have not been up there yet but will give it a go once the initial stampede has died down. looks to me that the crews have done an amazing job . thanks for the review.

  • Zoltan B. Aug 17, 2019, 3:54 pm

    Writing improvements in “quotations” seems to imply you believe, and perhaps want others to believe, the opposite has occurred.
    What are some anotnyms to ‘improvement’?
    Breakdown, decay, collapse, deterioration, decline, failing, degeneration.. to name a few.
    These aren’t words I’d use to describe the newly man-made incursion on the heavily trafficked trail.
    K-Country has opened the door to future generations of nature lovers and peak baggers so let’s relish it while passing on the joy and knowledge of the mountains!

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