Monday, July 27, 2015

Plateau Mountain (Alberta)

Plateau Mountain in the southern part of Kananaskis which is called Cataract had been on my mind for a very long time until I finally found the full information as how to get to the trail-head and how to go up, last week. To me, from what I had read on the web, it always sounded like a different hike and in fact it was but not as special as some have mentioned.
The interesting part is that its coincidence. I was sitting at the desk, I guess it was last Tue., when my buddy approached and asked about my weekend's plan. He is no hiker and has not done any sort of sport in his life but has heard stories from me. While I was a little bit surprised I explained to him about this hike and added that he would be more than welcome to join, considering it is not a very challenging trip. He said he would let me know. In a few hours another colleague, the one who had wanted to join me for a hike and then he didn't join due to being extremely drunk(!) and I did Mt. Sparrowhawk instead, asked me if I was going anywhere! I told him about the conversation I just had with the other guy and considering their background is the same, he was happy and it was supposed to go as a group of three. The next day the first guy cancelled his presence in our group, making a party that he had to attend as his excuse. I didn't have any issue with that and we set the plan for Sun. morning but I told him that I would give him a call for the final confirmation in Sat. afternoon.
Plateau Mountain, as I have seen and read, could be reached from two different trails. There are not very far away from each other but I realized the one that we took took us to the summit much faster.
We approached the mountain from its south side, from a road which took us to a small gas facility owned by Direct Energy, according to the signs. The trail-head is located in Highway 940, some 150 km south of Calgary(!) and it's a gravel road. I had driven my car to several locations in the past 2 months so I wanted to give it a break. So I picked up the telephone and called the guy and told him that we would have to cancel the program because I believed he would not want to go if the other person was not going, first. Secondly I don't have a car. The Lady would need the car. My intention was indicate to him that we would not be able to go unless he brings his vehicle but didn't say that directly, just to test him. He said we would have to go and he didn't have any issue driving. That was all I needed!
We encountered this herd of goat on our way back. The villager was so timid of this cute innocent animals. I wonder if he made his pants wet or not!
We started at almost 05:20 from the city and we just had a short stop for gasoline. By the time we hit Highway 940 he already was tired and asked me when we would reach the destination. We were doing just fine and I was able to find all of the signs that I had noted them down. So I told him it would not be much further. We eventually found the gated road which leads to the top of the mountain at almost 07:50 and quickly started our trip from there. The trail is a wide gravel road which even two wide cars can pass and the steepness is not much. The first one hour leads you to another gate which was locked at the time. The weather was chilly and wind was blowing and the higher we got, the more obvious northern Kananaskis mountain got and the more beautiful the surrounding was. He showed the first signs of tiredness after an hour and half and wanted to sit. It was like a walking in the park for me so I told him not to sit for more than 5 min. as his body gets cold and it would be hard for him to continue. There was no one else on the trail. All around was beautiful, at spots covered in colurful wildflowers. We reached the so-called summit which in fact is the end of the road and a small gas facility with warning signs around it. It took us 02:30 hours to reach there but it's easily reachable in 2 hours. I also checked the extension of the road while he was resting. The road led to another similar faculty and ended just there.
The interesting thing happened on the way down. While we were going up he complained why there was no wildlife and he added that what I had told him about the possibility of seeing Mountain Goats was not correct. He said he didn't think Goats could come up to this elevation! I didn't say much knowing he was a stupid villager from country which I prefer not to reveal. I just showed him some defected materiel from the goat or something else and made sure he understood. So we were heading down and all of a sudden I noticed a herd of Goat in distance. I realized he had not noticed them. I asked them to keep quiet and follow. To my surprise and that had never happened before the goat were coming directly to us! I guess they wanted to show us their territory. The guy freaked out and took a knife out(!) and looked like he wanted to defend himself by stepping in and attacking them! I told him to calm down. It was obvious that they were showing their prominence there. If we were stopped they would come to us. If we were walking slowly they were behind us, escorting us out of their zone, it seemed like! 
The trail became really nice while descending giving me the opportunity to take this shot and a few others. This is showing the trail looking north. You can see a few of  a high elevated Kananaskis mountains at left
This time the guy bent and garbed a rock. To show him it was OK and we were only asked to leave, I picked a grass and extended my arm towards the leader of Goat group! He got closer and smelled the grass and my hand and stopped just there! I told him we would have been better leave slowly and gently and that's what we did! They followed us to the start of a slope and stood there watching us leave! 
There was nothing else on the way back but the weather was much nicer compare to our ascend. The sun came out and give me the opportunity to have a few photographs. I guess we reached the car at about 13:30 and marked our trip with a 05:30 hours time. Overall Plateau Mountain is a very easy hike and it even could be ran half way, I would say, if you're fit. The area is nice but compare to many other places I've been to it's just OK. The hike is good for beginners but a good exercise for average people as well. The trail is almost empty of people and easy to maneuver on. The only issue with the hike is its 150 Km distance from the city which I didn't care! I only wanted to do this hike for two reasons: 1) I had two previous failures reaching summit which had given me a great sense of dissatisfaction and disappointment. I thought I'd be better fooling myself by doing this childish hike! 2) I wanted to see this part of Kananaskis and not drive this long and I achieve that as well!
(Photo, top: Small gas facility and pipeline belongs to Direct Energy and is seen when you reach where the road flattens and you would not get more elevation from there. I have no information regarding the mountain's elevation but I read that the hike gives an elevation of 527 m. Finding the elevation would not be so hard)

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