Little Ware

October 22, 2020

After an incredibly warm, dry and all-round lovely autumn, it came to an abrupt end with snow. A lot of snow! So much snow, that this is the earliest that our local nordic centre in West Bragg Creek has ever started grooming.

As an avid skier, I could not wait to get out there. Wanting to avoid crowds, visit some less frequented areas, and using our skis as a quick approach, my husband Mike and I headed back to Sheep River Provincial Park to tackle some easy mountains with long approaches.

Optimist vs Realist

When planning trips, I am an eternal optimist. I love pouring over maps, picking out routes, and building my day. I had big plans for this trip – Little Ware, to Mount Ware, over to Surveyor’s Ridge, and then finishing the loop at Volcano Ridge. It is totally doable at 17.5 km and 939 m of elevation gain and loss. Even easier on my light touring skis to eat up the long stretches of flat approach time.

Optimist Map
My plan was to start in the East, and travel west to nab Little Ware, Mount Ware, and Surveyor’s Ridge (red pin drop), and the swoosh back via Volcano.

Unfortunately, reality sometimes gets in the way of my eternal optimism. While we did indeed have lots of snow for skiing, there was zero base. This meant that only about 50% of the trail was quality, skiable snow. The rest was marginal with hidden sharks waiting to take a bite out of my bases. We had to strap the skis to our packs for the ascent of Little Ware. All in, there was too much time fooling around to get this trip done with the shorter days.

In the end, we did a loop around Little Ware, going up the ridge route and coming down via the gully. The skis were still a good idea though as the snow was pretty deep. The ski back on our tracks was indeed nice and fast, and worth the effort.

Gear

Most people will do this as a hike, so bring your hiking boots, poles and regular daypack kit. If going on shoulder season, also bring gators, spikes and snowshoes for the deep snow. Black bears and cougars are abundant.

Overview

From the Gorge Creek Day Use area, head west on the main trail. At about 1 km, cross Gorge Creek at the bridge. After another 100 m, turn left and follow the Gorge Creek trail. At about 2.8 km, look for the trail heading up and to the right. This is the Little Ware East Ridge route. Follow the ridge to the summit of Little Ware. To return, retrace your steps down the ridge, or continue past the summit to the wide col between Little Ware and Mount Ware. From here, head straight south down the gully. Connect up with the Gorge Creek Trail, turn left and head back to parking lot.

Trail Head

Park at the Gorge Creek Day Use area. As we found out, this road is not maintained. We were the first (and only!) vehicle here all day, and our front bumper was acting like a snowplow.

The road might not be maintained, but the outhouse was fully stocked. The trail starts to the left of the outhouse.

At the south end of the lot, pick up the main trail heading west. After about 30 or so metres is where you’ll find the first trail sign, oddly facing away from you.

One reason I am here with so much snow, is this is an equestrian route. The start of the trail is usually quite boggy, wet and muddy from the horses during the summer. It dries up once out in the open.
The trail map shows where Mount Ware is, but does not indicate any trails leading to it. You are on your own for signage.

Main Trail

Stay on this main trail for 1 km.

For the summer, once you break out of the trees, the trail dries up nicely.

Cross the bridge over Gorge Creek.

Go straight for 100 m, and then make a hard left to continue on the Gorge Creek Trail. Going straight leads to Volcano Ridge.

This is where you turn left after the bridge.

After hiking another 100 m after the left turn, we came to another junction. Keep going straight to stay on Gorge Creek Trail.

We stopped at the next junction to add more wax to our skis. Go straight (slightly right) here. The left hand trail is a long flat valley loop – perhaps for horses?

We were soon out of the trees, and traversing the ridge above Gorge Creek. We thoroughly enjoyed this part of the trail, mainly due to the great views of the creek. It was just starting to freeze, and was making lovely little gurgling noises.

The undulating ridge above Gorge Creek.

What we did not like, and what took a lot of time, was the undulations. We couldn’t ski down anything because the base wasn’t thick enough. We ended up walking or side-stepping down the hills. More snow and a consolidated base would have definitely helped, but hey, that’s the joy of pushing the seasons.

Even if we could have skied this, the log across the bottom of the trail would have made for an abrupt end to the trip.

At around 2.8 km, keep a sharp eye out on the right for the Little Ware East Ridge trail. We skied right past it, losing a bit of elevation in the process. We discovered our mistake, hiked back up the hill, found the trail, and continued on.

The trail on the right looks pretty obvious now, but we managed to ski right past it.
If you find yourself hiking right beside Gorge Creek like I did, then you missed the Little Ware Ridge Route.

This was the biggest route finding for the trip. We continually found and lost the trail under the snow. I had just done a bunch of route finding the week before at Missing Link Mountain, so I was getting used to picking out the subtle hints of where the trail might be.

Regardless, we still managed to get too low, and elected to hike straight up to get back on the higher contour line.

We definitely lost some time as we tried to keep on the trail.

It soon became apparent that there wasn’t enough snow to fully cover the tree roots and rocks, so we strapped our skis to our packs and continued on as a hike.

This might not look like a lot of fun, but our skis are light and our ski boots were surprising comfortable for hiking. It was like wearing a mountaineering boot with a full shank.

We kept to the ridge, in mainly tight forest for about 1.5 km.

The tight trees were a bit of a problem with the skis. Mike accidentally broke off a branch and didn’t realize he was carrying it.

At about 4.5 km, we hit the flat summit ridge. Here it was a real winter wonderland. The trees were nicely spaced, and we could put our skis back on for a lovely but short swish over to the summit of Little Ware.

Distance to Little Ware via the East Ridge is 4.8 km. Elevation gain was 539 m. Time to summit was three hours in frustrating conditions.

The summit of Little Ware, looking across at Mount Ware. So close, yet so far. I WILL get to you one day! Surveyor’s Ridge is behind, on the right.

From our vantage point, we looked across at the now unrealistic objective of Mount Ware and Surveyor’s Ridge beyond.

It was already 1:00 pm, and too late to continue on. Sadly, this is the second time that I’ve misjudged the distance to Mount Ware. The first time was five years ago. My daughter Mackenzie was sick and stayed home, but Kayla was ‘forced’ to go on the hike. She was definitely feeling that she was missing out on some quality home-alone time. This was also a late fall hike, and the snow was building up nicely at the Little Ware-Mt Ware col. Needless to say, we were happy to turn back and put our hard done-by daughter out of her misery.

Kaya on the top of Little Ware on November 15, 2015. She’s smiling here, but don’t let that fool you. Bluerock Mountain is in the background.

Little Ware Return

We decided to descend via the gully between Little Ware and Mt Ware. From the summit, we headed north a short ways to avoid the cliffs beneath the summit. We then angled down to the col between Little and Mt Ware.

Mike heading for the Mt Ware col.
These are the cliffs below Little Ware, making it necessary to go wide to the north to avoid them.

From here, it is more or less a straight shot down the gully, sticking to the middle, or low point. Distance from the summit to the main Gorge Creek Trail is about 1.5 km.

There is no trail here, but we did follow some deer tracks, which was a great idea. They avoided a few hidden hazards.

When the trees start in earnest, we found lots of flagging and some blazing to guide us back to the Gorge Creek Trail.

The entrance to the treed area is well flagged. It was no problem finding our way back to Gorge Creek trail.

Once at Gorge Creek Trail, we passed through a little gate.

From here, we were on a narrow trail with the Gorge Creek bubbling below us.

This part of the trail had pretty deep snow, and I was very glad for my skis. I really do not like trudging through deep snow.

Soon enough, we caught up to our ski tracks from the trip in. This is where skis really make sense. We positively raced back to the parking lot – on the flats. We had to take off our skis for just about every downhill, or risk falling face first as our skis were grabbed by hidden rocks. Still, it was about 3 to 4 times faster than walking in deep snow.

All in, Little Ware is about 11 km or so of easy hiking. We added on about 500 m with missing a turn. The East Ridge route offers a gentle ascent and mild route-finding, with the gully being a quick descent off the mountain.

One day, my reality will match my optimism. I WILL climb Mount Ware.

If you found this post useful, please do me a huge favour and click the Star button to “Like” it. You can also follow my blog, follow me on Instagram, or join my FaceBook page Al’s Adventurers.

Alisen

Totals – Tracked on Strava

Date:  October 22, 2020
Group:  Two (Alisen & Mike)
Distance:   11.47 km (less if you don’t miss the turn)
Elevation:  539 m (1,779′)
Time:  5 hours 15 minutes (include breaks and general dicking around time)

The approach to the base of Little Ware makes this an ideal ski. Unfortunately, condition were not ideal, which slowed us down.
As you can see, the only real elevation gain is once we started up Little Ware. Otherwise, it’s a lovely hike along the picturesque Gorge Creek.
Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Adventures, Hiking, Skiing
13 comments on “Little Ware
  1. We’ve been out snowshoeing 5 or 6 times. There’s enough for that but didn’t think quite enough to ski. Looks like you found about the same, maybe another couple of weeks though.

    • alisendopf says:

      I absolutely LOVE to ski, so that is my go-to winter sport. This was a bit of fun until we can take our alpine touring gear out. It’s one thing to trash the bases on my 20+ year old skis, it’s another to rip a chunk out of my new dps touring skis. I agree with you – with this warm weather, it’s going to be a bit longer before I can ski in comfort.

  2. Shannon Corbie says:

    This was a great summer hike however we went counter clockwise to Surveyors Ridge to Ware and Little Ware. It definitely tested our navigation skills using a map and compass. I love this area for not being overcrowded and that you can wander the woods without relying on a trail. Nice update on the trail conditions.

    • alisendopf says:

      Thanks for the report! I was considering doing it from that direction too. I have been up Volcano Ridge a few times, so it seems a quick hop over to Surveyor’s. I think I either need to do this in the summer when I have more daylight, or when there is a LOT of snow, which is hard because the road closes Dec. 1st.

      Yes! I agree! No one is ever here. A great place to actually navigate and be at peace in nature.

  3. Stockbitcoin says:

    WOW this beautiful.. absolutely lovely 👌

    • alisendopf says:

      Thank you. Glad you liked it. The scenery does all the hard work 🙂

      • bj.richmond says:

        How’s everything over there today due to the pandemic and election??

      • alisendopf says:

        The pandemic is heating up again. We were in lockdown in the spring with WAY less cases. Our Alberta government is refusing to help manage the health care crisis or provide financial help. It’s all coming from the federal government. Blessed to have our health care system!

        As for the election, Trump is no friend to Canada and his trade policies also negatively affected many US states, so fingers crossed a new presidency will help relations. We have many friends in the US and I wish you all the best. The intense divide between people is causing harm in so many ways. I hope everyone can come together sooner than later.

      • bj.richmond says:

        the Government are not helping the citizens to fight against the covid19 pandemic. it’s bad that trump has make America 🇱🇷 Lost soul every single day.. we ask for God to help you out from this covid19 pandemic..

      • bj.richmond says:

        Nice to hear from you.. I’m happy to be friends with you if you don’t mind??

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: