We left the Cat Creek trailhead at 9.15am with full backpacks heading for a camping location near Lake of the Horns.
David, Ulli, John and Barbara prepare to start a backpack to the Mt. Mcphail, Lake of the Horns area.
This was essentially a flat dirt road whose only real obstacle was a crossing of the Highwood River. After setting up camp, we set off for an afternoon walk to Lake of the Horns, a popular fishing spot. With some minor scrambling we reached the picturesque Lake, but it was unfortunately too windy to linger for long. However the views to the east more than compensated.
Descent from Lake of the Horns: Barbara, Arnold and John
Ulli, John and Arnold on the trail to Lake of the Horns
We were back at the sheltered campsite around 5.30pm for dinner, where Arnold demonstrated the use of a steripen for water purification. Then to bed around dusk (9.00pm) in time for the big day tomorrow up Mt. Mcphail.
John, Ulli, Barbara and Arnold prepare dinner at the campsite 1.5km from Lake of the Horns
We left the campsite at 8.30am and followed a good horse trail all the way up to Weary Creek Gap where we took a long break by a picturesque lake which had a few good camping spots. Crossing the outlet and other streams in the area was a bit problematic before we started on the long trudge up Mt. Mcphail at 10.30am.
Ulli, Barbara and John relax at Weary Creek Gap enroute to Mt. Mcphail
Barbara and Ulli cross a pond at Weary Creek Gap while John looks on
The weather was reasonable but breezy. We chose to ascend the wide talus slope on its west side which was probably a mistake as we found the east side descent somewhat easier. However neither was nice: various sized lumps of talus which moved irregularly.
Most of us made the summit for a long break to admire the extensive views around 1.30pm.
Summit of Mt. Mcphail: Ulli, Arnold, John
View east from the summit of Mt. Mcphail
We started back down by 3.00pm near the east ridgeline. Some rain showers passed, but one was particularly heavy near the Gap, so it was a wet tired group that reached the campsite by 7.00pm. Conversation was more limited before we retired at 9.00pm with hopes for a good day on the Hill of the Flowers.
After a cool night (some frost), Sunday dawned pleasant enough and we set off for Hill of Flowers by 8.30am. Unfortunately, we only got about halfway up the ridge when rain hit once again. It was an easy decision to abandon the trip and return to camp for the hike out. But Arnold was very impressed with the diversity of the flowers, despite them being well past their prime. Packing wet tents was no fun, but had to be done before starting the 10km trek back to the cars in pouring rain.
The rain stopped after an hour or so and the sun was even shining when we crossed the cold Highwood river at the same time as a horse drawn wagon, some cyclists and another two backpackers. Although the young strong cyclists made it look easy, the river crossing was not trivial (over knee deep with a good current), and one member was grateful for some assistance unselfishly given by the young cyclists.
A horse wagon crosses the Highwood River near the Cat Creek Trailhead
Barbara, Arnold and Ulli cross the Highwood River near the Cat Creek Trailhead
We arrived back at the cars by about 2:30pm. One of the first things I did after getting home was to distribute all the sopping wet gear around the basement to dry out. There was plenty of it.
Thanks to the good company of Arnold,John,Barbara and "Ulli", it was a successful trip. However, despite the excellent views from Mcphail's summit, the trudge up and down was on rubble and talus as bad as anything I've seen. I will not be repeating the ascent. But Lake of the Horns and Hill of Flowers are definitely worth a visit. An approach by mountain bike is definitely feasible.Total stats approx: 38 km with 2240m elevation gain and loss.C&S David.