Mount Arethusa Loop

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Mount Arethusa Loop is a 9.0 kilometer loop trail located near Kananaskis, Alberta, Canada that offers the chance to see wildlife. The trail is rated as difficult and primarily used for hiking. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
9 km
ELEVATION GAIN
851 m
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

dogs on leash

hiking

views

wildlife

scramble

snow

off trail

Mount Arethusa is a deceptively difficult peak in the Highwood Pass area, just south of Kananaskis. While not one of the highest peaks in the area, it is one of the more difficult to summit. The route is exposed with some difficult scrambling and should not be attempted by those without proper equipment and the skills to return safely.  The route starts on an obvious pullout on Highway 40 about 1.3km south of the Highwood Pass trailhead parking lot. From there the trail is marked by a small pile of rocks and a yellow sign advising hunters that weapons must be carried unloaded.  The trail starts as a nice soft path through the forest running parallel to Storm Creek and began to climb moderately into the large basin between Mount Arethusa and Storm Mountain. You will then ascend the scree on the southern shoulder of Mount Arethusa to gain the ridge. This scree is loose and you spend nearly as much time fighting for traction as you do moving forward. Fortunately there are many solid outcroppings for more stable footing. Once on the ridge the effort required was reduced considerably. The initial section of the ridge has minimal exposure and climbs at an easy angle. That led to the crux of the ridge. The crux is basically a thin section of ridge that then drops into a narrow chimney that must be down-climbed. The crux may intimidate some climbers but it's straight forward and well cleaned. A welcome contrast to the loose rock covering the rest of the mountain. After the crux the route drops to the west side of the ridge and traverses a series of ledges before leading to a false summit. From here you can see the true summit but the path is not immediately obvious. Once again the ridge proper is not the best option and the route drops to a series of ledges on the west side. The ledges are relatively wide but have some of the most extreme exposure of the trip. A fall here would likely be fatal.  After a couple ledges the summit can be claimed easily. If you made it this far and found any section difficult or intimidating you should return the way you came. The crux will be an easy up-climb and the scree will make for a fast descent. Alternatively you can descent via a gully. This descent gully is much harder and strenuous than the route to the summit and once you begin you are fully committed to it. Stopping and climbing back up to return the way you came would be extremely strenuous and difficult. While you shouldn't be on this mountain without a helmet, this gully should absolutely not be entered without a helmet. The route into the descent gully starts with a steep slab that you must drop down across. It's not so steep that it can't be done as a butt-scoot or crab-walk but you'll definitely want to be on all fours. Once in the gully the terrain gets worse. It's steep and loose. Just about everything you touch will move and you'll find yourself sending large amounts of rock down. This long gully offers little protection and rocks dislodged at the top will bounce all the way to the bottom.  The gully starts out fully of loose rock and debris but about half way down it becomes steeper and very smooth. You'll find yourself with no holds, using only pressure on both sides to steady yourself. Here, anything you dislodge will fly out the bottom of the gully and bounce unpredictably the entire way down.

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