Added by James Hueser
The difficult scramble up Midnight Peak of the Baldy Range will be well worth it when you reach the breathtaking views of the front ranges and foothills.
When exploring, sometimes the best days are when you bite off a bit more than you can chew and push your limits. On a summer day without a cloud in the sky, Midnight Peak would be challenging, but in winter it's a difficult test to be attempted by the prepared and able.
The trail to Midnight Peak starts off as the Baldy Pass trail. There is a parking lot on the west side of Kananaskis Trail (Highway 40) marked with signage. There is a crosswalk to take you across the highway and to the trail. The Baldy Pass trail continues for 4.0 km - make sure to look behind once in a while to get a view of Mount Allan or else it's a pretty uninspiring walk to the pass. While there are a few different routes to the summit that make use of the ridges that hook up with Midnight Peak, we opted for the "more traveled" route that goes around the east face of the mountain.
Even in winter, the trail to the pass is well packed and doesn't require snowshoes, but crampons could be helpful depending on weather conditions - unseasonably warm weather had iced up the trail pretty good in some spots. The easiest part of this hike is following this trail.
Once at the pass, take a few moments to look east across the prairies and foothills. To the north is Mount Baldy, to the south is Midnight Peak. The pass is very exposed to the elements, so snowdrifts tend to settle in low spots - mainly the trail. However, there is still a lot of bald scree, so snowshoes are probably not necessary at this point. After about a kilometre, the trail disappears into a forested area on the east face of Midnight Peak. Keep following the trail in and you'll see that it actually does disappear! Even in summer, route finding is required at this point, and once again, winter makes it even more difficult by adding a metre of snow to slog through. Put on those snowshoes now.
Even with snowshoes on, it was difficult to bushwhack through the forest. As much as we tried to keep to the right of the forest - which will come in handy later - whatever path was clear and heading up was what we took. Once out of the forest, the true nature of Midnight Peak becomes apparent.
A moderately loose scree slope - that we measured at 30 degrees - is a taste of what you'll be dealing with for the next few hours - but there are a couple of options. One is to go straight up, the other is to go north around the base of the scree slope and then straight up once you hit the forest again. The second option is a little less daunting and is a bit more stable, but just as steep. It's steep everywhere.
We went straight up, and once again the snowpack wasn't significant enough to keep snowshoes from being damaged, so we took ours off at this point. This gave us a bit more control with our feet which thankfully made our footing a bit more sure. Once past this section of scree, back into the forest. Once again, try to stay closer to the right, but bushwhacking is bushwhacking.
Once out of the forest, you'll find the scree slope that will be your life until the summit. The daunting view is belittled by the views of the front ranges around you see - there's always that trade-off of effort expended and grandeur experienced. The snow fills in the trail more than the surrounding scree, so it's pretty obvious as it zigs and zags up to the summit. Nearer the summit, however, it turns into a slog and some bear-crawling might be required.
Enjoy the summit while you can, the descent is interesting to say the least. Once again, options to go down the ridges are available, but I can't say what they're like. We went down the way we came - our poles got a workout that day. Sure footing and pole placement is a must to navigate the scree and crusty snow. The path to the Baldy pass is a welcome sight and time to enjoy the 4.0 km - very relaxed - walk back to the trailhead where Mount Lorette is waiting to welcome you back to your car.
Highlight of this trip was heading out early. We started before sunrise and ended up witnessing the sun paint the tips of Mount Allan a brilliant magenta - talk about looking through rose coloured glasses!
- Hiking boots
- Hiking poles
- Winter layers
- Water and snacks
- Bear Spray
- A buddy
- Avalanche report - active avalanche slope
- Do not attempt in anything less than favourable conditions and be knowledgeable about avalanches and indicators
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
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