Mount Ware Winter Attempt
This was a true winter attempt after the Solstice in December of 2013. We are not sure if it has been done before after the winter gates have closed to make it a true attempt, nor do we care, nor does anyone really care I am pretty sure, but we had lots of fun, learned lots about extensive winter travel in the backcountry(even if it was all done along a road!) and maybe realized we bit off more than we could chew.
Round trip from the winter gate closure along the Sheep River Road to the parking area for summer hiking of Mt.Ware is about 36-40km of agonizing travel. In very low snow years one could do it on a mountain bike as many sections of the road get beat with sun and melts especially along the shoulder. We brought snowshoes but only used them in one section close to the Mt.Ware parking area where the road takes a dip and collected snow that had not melted. However the saving grace was a pair of those hardware store boot crampon things that you strap to your hiking boot, the kind with little rivet plugs, and we recommend those for sure for anyone who wants to try to assault this historical bump on the landscape.
My partner Jon and I started from the car when it was still dark and finished into the night, we could not have been happier to reach the car and get into some warmer non-sweaty clothes. We plan to try it again in a future winter or maybe just hike up the thing from the newly opened Gorge Creek Trail in the height of summer instead! The flood of 2013 had done some damage to the Gorge Creek Trail road, most noticeably the first little bridge one encounters not far from the junction with the Sheep road. It was gone and the metal culvert was a twisted mess in the gully. Further up the road sections were washed away and had fallen down the embankment. We did notice a few short pillars of ice way down in the valley bottom from Gorge Creek.
Once we got to the parking area for Mt.Ware we made the tuff decision to turn it around as it is about 8km roundtrip still to the summit and back to the parking area where a trail map sign is posted. With about 20km of travel to do in the late afternoon this seemed simply unattainable and frankly unappealing! If you want to see John Ware’s homestead log cabin, it has been moved to Dinosaur Provincial Park north of the town of Brooks.
Part 2: The Summer Summit
After a few years break and picking October as the month to go – the area is very beautiful at that time – we sought to conquer Mt.Ware and capture the moment by bringing his biography with us in our rucksacks, a compass in case we get lost.
We were mostly excited about the luxury of not having to walk 20+km just to get to the parking lot, in winter like before. No we just drove the fun Gorge Creek Road and parked, this is almost too easy.
The trail is obvious behind some green box thing in-a-tree stump for Gorge Creek. This is horse country and the trail shows its wear.
Follow it above the creek for a few kilometers passing some pretty picture stops. Continue for another kilometer or so and you pass through an open area which is very forested. Above you to the SW is a pyramid shaped tree hill.
Around here the trail continues and breaks off, however, take the uphill variant and follow it. After some time it will pop you into a perfect treed saddle – would be a cool spot to shot a movie. The saddle is very forested and you can not see the summit and you may feel disoriented to what the topo map shows, so if you are, then look for a slight trail heading up and east. There is some flagging and cairns but may be hard to see if they are gone. If you start heading uphill on soon and its kinda sandy dirt then this is where ya wanna go.
Follow this trail up through a treed area that thins out and is very pretty as it opens into the colorful, yet desolate hill where you will see the summit now. Head toward it on flat rocks and pass bushes until the summit head shoots up from the flats. You can see downtown Calgary from here depending on how good your binos or camera zoom is. It’s an optical illusion as it seems like Ware is too far north to where the buildings sit in the background sky. You ever been to the House of Mystery in Montana? – well this view reminds me of that kinda oddball fun. Magnetic hills come to mind.
The lay of the land makes your body wanna move out right to the easy east ridge and your drawn and pulled that way, however, picking a line through the chossy rockband from the east side and scrambling on big blocks up to the summit. Do not descend this way at all, it would be very dangerous and silly and an unnecessary amount of rubble would be bomb dropping on anyone happen to be coming up.
The summit is very cool. Amazing views that change as you do a 360. Mountains are so remote looking to the north and west. Spectacular cairn. Great book. Great history and a fitting naming on this mountain – Mt. Ware.