Late June 2016
Oh how the flood has trashed K Country, or perhaps it has restored solace to lands once busy with visitors? Old Baldy, once a classic backcountry sojourn on a great trail to subalpine lake below a wide arching ridge, now a debris pilled bush thrash along the access creek with a horrific descent westward towards Boundary Ranch.
Don’t do this route, a much better option is to ascend/descend along the SW ridge of Mt. McDougall (NW2) to dodge the flood debris of the valleys. Comments on this one would be great, see Daffern’s K Country Trail Guide Volume 1 for route details.
Upon departing the car it was easy walking along a wide path beside Evan Thomas Creek. Looking for the left hand trail we ended up turning left onto a horse trail which we followed for a few hundred meters before returning to the Evan Thomas Trail to find the true trail junction a few meters down the path. Nicely flagged.
The flagging continued through the flood debris up the creek for what seemed like hours. The narrow path along the stream bank just before the waterfall junction has been destroyed by the flood and a sketchy route over loose conglomerate is the only option above the stream on the west bank. No water was flowing over the falls at the fork, we continued left into the upper fork and were greeted by a smooth path and small hills next to a babbling brook.
The next section has everything we love about K Country. Views which unfurl with each step as we entered an amphitheatre of peaks amoung Mt. McDougall. We crossed tundra and approached the tarn which was absurdly low given that its late June!
We ascend northward through a maze of meadows, avalanche debris and krummenholtz before gaining at the ridge where the sandstone and limestone come together. Resting, the view satiates our soul as we eat a handful of pecans and a few tiny biscuits, no sandwich. Feeling like Froto and Sam, as we underestimated our food rations and had a long way to go to get back to the shire, we stride westward along the ridge at 2500 m.
This is where we should have returned via McDougals NW2’s S and SW ridges, we however descent just after our ridge turns NW. On the steep grass we loose focus and find ourselves bush crashing and talus hopping down steep terrain to gain the descent drainage…which is hopelessly destroyed by the flood and should not see humans in search of enjoyment any time soon (30 years at least!). We did come across an elk shed high on the ridge as we descended before the trees.
At the bottom we end up among Teepee skeletons then onto a random horse trail in a maze of trails tied to the boundary ranch. After startling a group of bison in a paddock we wind along a trail leading to the Restaurant, very tempting.
Then the long walk along HWY 40 back to Evan Thomas trailhead parking. As difficult as the day was, we’re starting to feel that a hike isn’t complete without some bushwhacking an a few cruxes with navigation.
An amazing hike, but perhaps it’s not worth the effort for some.