Gibraltar Mountain & Mist Ridge

elevation: 2,665 m. height gain: 2,000 m.
area: Highwood Pass,AB map 82 J/10

Ref: Andrew Nugara's More scrambles in the Canadian Rockies 2nd edition
trail map

The trail map indicates the private property on the Sheep trail.
Scramble: RT 12.5; 6.25 up. After last weekend's 30 kilometer hike to Association-End, I knew I was good to do the mileage required to reach Gibraltar via Mist Ridge. I was looking forward to hiking the lengthy ridge and its good trail, it boasts incredible views along the way and apparently does not disappoint. The other "less scenic" option via the Sheep River is no longer recommended; private property, which is clearly marked on the trail map, must be crossed and biking is not as efficient anymore because of the numerous washouts on that trail. This season the weather has been unstable for most part; it seems that afternoon thunderstorms have been the norm. Despite such a forecast on this day, I decided to give this long trek a try and get an early start to put the odds in my favour. I invited Jay and he agreed to meet me at the trailhead bright and early. I spent the night at the trailhead to avoid having to get up super early and drive, I've done this quite a few times already this year and I rather enjoy this arrangement. When Jay showed up, I was ready and we got on the way. The sky was already mostly overcast; to the east there was some blue but to the north-west, clouds were forming. We hiked at a steady pace only stopping for a brief break at the southern summit of Mist Ridge. We continued at a good speed to the north summit, it took us a little less than 4 hours. We both felt time was of the essence, the clouds to the north were getting darker and puffier although they seemed rather stationary; yet, east of us, blue sky remained luring us to go ahead. After another very brief break, we descended from the north summit of Mist Ridge towards Gibraltar. We skirted the first set of bluffs and scrambled the lower bluffs right in the middle. Following a short section of tights trees, we reached the saddle and started our hasty ascent to the summit ridge. Once on the summit ridge, we scrambled to the first summit that is wrongly labeled as the true summit on the topo map. From there, the summit ridge is a little bit more challenging; at times we travelled on the south side to avoid difficult terrain on the ridge proper. As we neared the true summit, Jay negotiated the ridge's outcrops while I circumvented them by losing height. The weather had been moving in by now, we heard some thunder to the north and it started to drizzle. At the top, we took the time to sign the register and grab a quick bite. There was no time to linger with the increasingly darkening sky, we discussed wether we should return the way we came or beeline down the south-west slopes towards Cliff Creek. The lather option wasn't too appealing as it was unknown to us; from fear of being cliffed out, we decided to return on the ridge. I followed Jay over the first outcrop when we started to see lightning over Mist Mountain, we instantly changed our plan and beelined down the mountain. To our delight, the descent to the creek was easy and from there, we picked up a really good goat trail along the east side of Mist Ridge. Travelling lower down was great as there was thunder, lightning and it was also raining with hail. We couldn't believe the timing and how lucky we had been making the summit and descending an unknown route with no hiccups. We even joked as we plodded on the unexpected goat trail that led us below the south summit of Mist Ridge; that was convenience at its best!!! Once we were back on the main trail, the sun came out briefly and we took a well-deserved break. The sun felt so nice, we peeled off our wet layers. That wonderful break was short lived though, the clouds returned chilling us quickly. At that point, we just picked ourselves up and resumed the mindless trudge back to the parking lot. Honestly, this was a very satisfying trip with a fair share of luck; I thought it would take us much longer and I wasn't sure if the weather would cooperate. All and all, a superb day out chased by storms!!!


Lovely cows greeting us on the trail.

trail junction

Junction for Mist Creek trail and Mist Ridge on the right.

good trail

Hiking on a good trail.

our objective

Our objective, we'll ascend the left skyline and come down the main gully almost straight down from the top (center).

mist ridge

On Mist Ridge's south summit, the north summit is visible in the far distance (left center).

pleasant hiking

Steady pleasant plod to the north summit.

some height loss

A bit of height loss to reach the northern end of the ridge.

gibraltar's ascent slopes

Gibraltar's ascent slopes.

mist ridge's north summit

At the north summit of Mist Ridge, 4 hours later.

looking back

Looking back at Mist Ridge.

down to the saddle

We negotiated some bluffs on the way down to the saddle.

at the saddle

At the saddle.

looking back again

Looking back at the north summit of Mist Ridge.

summit ridge

Starting on the summit ridge.

more summit ridge

More of the ridge.

true summit in sight

On the west summit with the true eastern summit in sight.

circumventing difficulties

Circumventing difficulties on the south side.

looking back towards the west summit

Looking back towards the west summit; it's possible to stick to the ridge proper except for one outcrop which needs to be circumvented.

at the top

At the top but not for long..... T-storms quickly approaching.

eastern view

Eastern view over Gibraltar's "Half Dome".

view south

View south with Highwood Peak on the left.

mist mountain

Dark clouds and lightning over Mist Mountain beyond Mist Ridge.

survey marker

Survey marker.

leaving the top

Backtracking on the ridge a short distance before our beeline down the gully.

beeline down the gully

Time to bail off the ridge to avoid lightning strikes, we went left of big rock on the left.

easy descent

Easy descent.

it's raining now

It's raining now, just squeezed in that summit!!!

goat trail

From Cliff Creek an awesome goat trail handrails Mist Ridge, thank you goats!

some hail

Thunder, lightning, rain and hail........

almost back on the main trail

Almost back at the saddle below the southern summit of Mist Ridge.

break in the sun

No, this isn't a trick shot; the sun came out momentarily, break time!!!
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