7.5 km approx.
500 m elevation gain
Imagine climbing a mountain and ending up on… a barren prairie. As flat as the endlessness of Saskatchewan. Bizarre polygons of permafrost popcorn. Periglacial formations of frost boils, stripes, nets and stone circles. The summit of Plateau mountain makes one feel the aliens are close at hand, spelling crop circles of rocks on the vast flat top tundra of the Plateau.
With cars at each end, our one way route included an access at Dry Creek on the north side of the highway at a road to a gate. We walked about 1 km to a gas well before picking a route eastward to the summit just north of a flood ravaged drainage. Once on the plateau we walked eastward across polygons to the road and turned north, heading past the gas well before connecting with the main road that descended westward in great switchbacks through meadows and into the forest to reach the main access road.
The old cowboys call it Flat Top mountain, the official name is Plateau Mountain which has been an ecological reserve since 1991. Believed to be a nunatak the plateau was not covered with glaciers during the last ice age. Not only that but it harboured plant life during the ice age period that remains to this day. Sedges and bizarre plants with transparent leaves are among the relics found only here. The reserve hold over 500 species of plants and the rare White Bark Pine is found below the summit on the upper slopes of the subalpine (famous for their pine nuts, stored by squirrels and eaten by Grizzlies).
For an ecological reserve it is strange to see a road and gas wells upon the wind blasted summit. These were build before the designation as the reserve and will continue to operate until the gas reserves are exhausted. We didn’t hear any noise coming form the wells and assume they’re capped but still active.
All this aside, the sublime tranquility, serenity and desolation that one feels upon the plateau makes this a sacred place in Kananaskis. One feels as though they have stumbled into an ancient sanctuary of silence, wind and equanimity among ancient lichens of fluorescent green and black growing on the rocks among the peaks.
We never made it to the ice caves, one is gated, two are difficult to find and access. Filled with icy crystals that make time mind wander the wonders of imagination. The January cave contain the bones from 32 animal species dating back 35,000 years from the time between the last two glaciations. Truly a tectonic time capsule.
To embark on this journey is to voyage into the inner recesses of K Country. Bring a 4 wheel drive or at least one with good clearance. See the klm track on the google earth image below for a visual of our route.