This epic took place in 2011 and is similar to another Kananaskis River epic I found myself in years earlier in the folder “Kananaskis River Ice” found here on Rockies Obscure.
This time around I had a partner experience the fun of epics, a fun young fellow named Moortza, always gung-ho for something climbing related and good to have along when things like this go wrong as he just trudges along.
There was construction taking place that winter near the parking area for the ice route Cobra Verde, so we did not want to be seen and be in the way or anything, so we decided to make a different approach to the ice by crossing the Kananaskis River near the rangers and park staff cabins nearby.
Crossing the river early morning was again not a big deal, just got a bit wet and jumped around on exposed tree and jutting out boulders until we made it to the very steep, vegetated west side. Once we got there it was harder than it looked to ascend the chossy, mossy wall but we grabbed branches, used our ice picks and grunted and groaned to get ourselves up, hoping not to fall back into the river.
Once on top of cliff, we happily walked through the deep woods for about 45 minutes bee-lining it for Cobra Verde. It was all the same: walk over deadfall, go around bushes, try to find open areas to navigate, but then out of nowhere came a special surprise! A lake! An unknown, unnamed lake hidden from view of any road or trail, ringed by tall trees and shaped like a hockey rink. We crossed it as it was the dead of winter, being only about 150m wide and 250m in length. The sun found a way to shine upon it and make us forget about the earlier part of the journey.
Once across it was about another half hour of meandering through woods and finally we came out very close to the base of Cobra Verde. However, the first pitch was peeing water and seemed very uninviting and would have made us soaked to the bone as we had not brought any acceptable water-proof clothing and that would not have made much of a difference anyway. We sat and looked for our lake, and we could see where it was located, but even from the altitude of Cobra Verde we could not see any of the lake itself. What a secret for a hardy fisherman!
We ate, then re-traced our footprints in the deep snow and were back to the lake in no time at all. We both talked how we should hike some hockey sticks, skate, shovel and friends up there and have a game. Soon we were back at our cliff above the river and the houses for park staff appeared so close we could touch them. We carefully clammered down the ugly cliff and got to a small piece of land and here, horror set in! The flood gates up the river were opened up again, and the river was now a raging, freezing torrent, whitecapping here and there as it made a bend.
Moortaza’s eyes were huge, and I told him sorry, that this is the second time I forgot about the river. I tried to cross it and got about 3 feet in and crotch height but the power and temperature made me turn back. It was raging mad and dangerous. I told Moortaza there is no way whatsoever we can attempt the crossing as we would be swept and drown. He agreed when he saw me struggle back to our tiny shore. Again we struggled up the west cliff back to level ground. From here we made a call to either go back up to the lake and Cobra Verde and hike out the normal way in, or simply walk along the top of the cliff paralleling the river and hope it keeps us dry until we hit the Smith-Dorien Road. We both thought about it and decided on paralleling the river. This took a few hours and a few times we were tempted to try to cross but sanity stopped us. We walked on, and we were yelling with glee when we came across the metal road barrier for the Smith-Dorien. From here we walked back and hitched a lift with a passerby. Tried to calling from a booth nearby but it never worked. Soon enough we were back safely in Calgary and put another epic under the belt!