Yates Mountain (Barrier Lake Lookout) Attempt

Elevation: 1996 m
Elevation Gain: 625 m
Yates Mountain is the unofficial name of the high point of McConnell Ridge immediately north of Barrier Lake. The peak was named after Emily Yates who ran the Diamond Cross ranch which was located on the site presently occupied by nearby Camp Chief Hector. The peak has a long history of serving as a lookout, beginning with the Stoney Nakoda whose name for it, Tokyapebi Ipa, can be translated to: “Lookout Point for the Enemy.” Today, the peak is the site of the Barrier Lake fire lookout.
My Attempts:
December 22 2013

After an extended absence from the mountains following our ascent of Himalayan giant Mera Peak, Brianne and I found ourselves longing for the outdoors on the second shortest day of the year. After waking up to dismal weather and a mild hangover in Calgary on Sunday, it seemed that our tentative snowshoeing plans for the day were, once again, likely to go by the wayside. Fortunately, before officially abandoning all intentions of an outdoor pursuit and going back to bed, I checked the mountain webcams. To my great surprise, the sun was shining and the sky was blue in the mountains! Having already wasted a couple hours of precious daylight sleeping in, we hurried to get ready and set forth with a nearby Front Range peak (and the associated short drive) in mind.

Crux enjoying a beautiful view from our starting point (the Barrier Lake dam) despite a wind chill which made it feel like -20.

Looking across Barrier Lake towards snowy unnamed peaks and a more distant Skogan Peak.

Brianne makes her way along the wide dam leading to the Prairie View trail. Rocky McConnell Ridge can be seen behind her on the left while our objective for the day, Yates Mountain, is the forested summit immediately above the dam’s flood gates.

High noon isn’t so high on December 22. In fact, the sun was so low at noon on this day that it was eclipsed by relatively miniscule Mount Baldy (2192 m).

Enter the woods…After a scenic start to the hike along the north shore of Barrier Lake, Brianne and Crux enter the forest where we would spend the next 2 hours hiking in the shade without any views.

Happy to have her (sister’s) snowshoes on.

Crux wished that he had snowshoes too.

Typical views.

After a couple of hours in the trees and their cool shade, we finally reached a clearing high up on the ridge where Crux could finally enjoy the sun’s warmth once more.

From the clearing, the summit of Yates Mountain seems so close but so far away. Unfortunately, our late start, coupled with a commitment to attend a family dinner in a couple of hours, meant that this high clearing would be our turn-around point. The summit will have to wait for another (longer) day!

Despite not being able to continue to the summit, the view from our high point was spectacular as the solstice sun just rose above the peaks of the Kananaskis Valley beyond Barrier Lake.

Mount Baldy in the golden late-afternoon light.

Turning the scant sunlight into a photographic phenomenon.

Brianne and Crux look out over Kananaskis Country.

Brianne rocks aviator sunglasses as I take a self-portrait in the sun before making our way back down through the shaded forest.

Bum-sliding down through the woods proved an effective way to speed up our descent provided that you didn’t run into any buried stumps.

Back down at Barrier Lake just in time for sunset. We may not have claimed a summit today but we enjoyed a beautiful day in the mountains all the same!