Hiking in Kananaskis 101: Maps, route finding and when a hike is not a hike
It is wonderful to see so many people discovering the Kananaskis. There are many amazing walks, hikes, routes and scrambles in this part of the Rocky Mountains and the foothills. If you are new to the area it is critical to understand that most of the hikes you read about on All Trails have very little or no signage.
Many of the “hikes” you read about are actually routes or scrambles. Routes and scrambles do not have any trail signage, they are simply a route that users have created. And even though the path may be well followed, the Kananaskis has many, many trails that diverge from the main route. These side trails are rarely marked. It is confusing. You need a paper map and you need to know how to use it.
WHEN A HIKE IS NOT A HIKE
SCRAMBLES are when hikers climb to the top of a mountain peak. An EASY scramble is a difficult hike and you will be using your hands to climb over boulders on very steep slopes. A MODERATE scramble means you will have a fair amount of exposure and if you fall, you will likely die. A DIFFICULT scramble means you need ropes. Some popular scrambles that you may have heard of are Mount Yamnuska and Tent Ridge.
All scrambles are technical and require a lot of experience in route finding and the ability to handle steep slopes and free climbing and exposure. So this means that you need to have a map (phone batteries can die) and do your own route finding. Of course, having a map is not enough to stay found.
Route finding 101 says:
- Know how to read a map
- Actually have the map out and follow along while you hike (unless you are on a very obvious route).
Trail conditions & closures, weather and what to pack
Before heading out to hike it is important to check the status of the trail. Wildlife and trail maintenance can lead to closures. Find Kananaskis Trail Reports here.
It is difficult to accurately forecast the weather for a specific hike so you need to be ready for winter in July. ALWAYS HAVE a toque, gloves, mitts, rain gear in your pack, year-round! Here is a WHAT TO BRING list for hiking in the Alberta Rockies and foothills.
TELL SOMEONE your hiking plan
Be sure to tell someone you hiking plan so if something goes wrong on your hike and you do not return at a planned time, your contact will call for help.
WHERE TO BUY GEMTREK MAPS in Calgary:
MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op)