11.9 km (including Hot Springs)
1395 m Elevation gain
7 Hours approx.
Mist Mountain. No ropes, huge views, 3138 m, tired legs. With a solid ascent on two legs (no climbing) a blissful screen run on the return and a hot spring on the way down. The peak of Mist Mountain is the merciful giant of K Country. Beware of grizzlies as this is in the heart of the grizzly paradise of the Highwood and beware of thunderstorms with lightning so begin early.
Following the route on the Gem Trek Map of the Highwood/Cataract Creek region, we arrive at the lay-by on the side of HWY 40 just east of the Mt. Lipsett day use area. Walking north for a minute, we find the trail branching of into the forest to our right (N) with a survey stake at its entrance. We climb through lush forest before emerging into a meadow leading to an unnamed pass that is very typical of the Highwood region. One is reminded of Grass Pass as they ascend a moderate incline through meadows dotted with gnarled spruce, pine with ground squirrels and flowers. Grizzly digs are everywhere on the lush green slopes and golden eagles cruse the higher peaks. An unnamed ridge rises to the east that beckons for another day’s adventure.
We arrive at the pass and rest with a view of Mist Ridge and the elusive Sheep drainage beyond. A hot spring drizzles down the mountain side leaving a yellow and orange stain to the north west. A cool wind is refreshing as the summer sun is warm. The grey massif of Mist Mountain dominates our view and we can’t help feel our excitement being greeted with intimidation as we see our endeavour tower before us.
We turn westward and enter the grey alpine valley ahead. Waterfalls and endless scree. After crossing the stream we begin our scramble NNW at 2530 m. Time melts away into slow steps as the views increase in intensity each time we regroup, rest and turn around for a look. We pick our way among slabby outcrops past a small stream where we drink water flowing down the rock walls. Options exist to dodge the loose scree in favour of solid rock which offers steep but sure footed seams to ascend. At 2800 m the views of the endless ranges emerge beyond the Elk range and we top out on a ridge at 3000 m for a rest and a view of the Sheep River valley and the ridges falling off the east face of Mist Mountain. Huge winds blow in that remind us of our great height in the atmosphere.
The final ascent along the ridge is a welcome break from the endless scree slog as it has huge views, dizzying cliffs and a moderate slope along a route free from exposure. Interesting geology of pinkish sandstone crusted on limestone. As we arrive at the summit the wind stops and the sun shines, a few birds are hopping about as we sit down for lunch.
The peaks of K Country are all around along with an unparralled view of the Highwood region. The view of Grizzly and Highwood Ridges with Paradise Valley in between are a highlight while the highway snakes through the valley below below the summits of Mt. Lipsett.
We descend. A huge scree ski down the southern face of Mist into a basin. We loose our elevation in minutes. This is a great route as this mountain offers mercy upon its decent as the option of picking our way down our ascent route seems torrid. We loop back down the small snow-covered valley bottom sticking to the left to meet our ascent trail at 2530 M.
We detour to the hot springs at about 2330 m elevation heading north across the slope. Steep snow fills a small valley where the creek runs and we go off trail through the krummholz and avalanche slopes to meet a faint trail leading to the springs. A sublime location for a soak, towering cliffs above with desolate ridges and peaks surrounding. Two pools that can fit 1-2 people each. Mind your garbage as we all want this place to stay pristine. The water temperature is a little disappointing if one has visited other springs like St. Leon, Lussier or the like. A warm spring, not very hot but still easy to get into. We soak for a while before getting out and freezing in the wind. We boot it across the slope at 2315 m as a shortcut to the route we used to access the hot springs. The going is easy except for a few densely treed parts before we arrive at the trail leading back to the unnamed pass.
We descend in the afternoon sun as a view of Oldum ridge is cradled in the unnamed valley. We enter the forest hollering as we go, before meeting the highway and driving home past Eden Valley to Longview.
A mountain for any hiker’s bucket list.