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The Mt Ambler hike makes a nice half-day (4-5 hours) before the long 5-hour drive from Grande Cache back to Edmonton. It one of those 'Sound of Music' walks, where you quickly pop out into the alpine and ramble through the meadows on top. Distance is only about 7.5 km so you can bag it fairly easily.
The elevation gain is only 385 metres to the first summit , but there is a second summit beyond on the other side of a little valley where the actual cairn box is located. To get there and back up to the first one adds an extra 140 metres.
The first part of the Ambler trail follows a quad road laid down by the lumber company, and it's a good warm-up. Ice on the puddles...
...then the Mt Ambler trail splits off to the left.
The trail gains elevation gradually but steadily, following a nice path through the woods.
Mt. Hammel, Leg 4 of the Grande Cache Death Race, is across the way. That race is 125 km long over one 24 hour period, and it's a big attraction for a small, isolated town. For one weekend in August, the town is packed - hotel room waiting list are full a year ahead of time!
The ascent is not too hard, and while you're clambering over tree roots and quad tracks for the first part of the hike, there aren't many other obstacles. After a couple of kilometres of that, though, there is one short, steep section, that takes you right into a narrow traverse. That section is impassable by the quads, so the rest of the mountain has been spared the destruction they cause in other areas.
Right after that push, there is a short walk through an area of stunted pine, then you're there! Well, not at the end, but right up into the alpine meadows.
The trail climbs slowly up to the first summit, just another 50 metres higher than treeline, then starts to drop.
We got our first views of the true summit across the shoulder...
then the trail drops straight down into the valley.
An interesting phenomenon takes place as you start the climb up the second peak. I see it every time.
While I'd been nagging people to stay together and make lots of noise because of the large number of grizzlies in the area, by the second day, they've started to get forgetful. Coming up the opposite side, though, I paused to point out the extensive (and fresh) grizzly diggings throughout the meadow. Suddenly the line tightened up and people started actually paying more attention to their surroundings; curiously, they started looking over their shoulders!
We were perched on a ridge top with steep cliffs all around. Made for great views and a great spot for a break. A bit of wildlife - we watched the ravens riding the thermals coming up from below us, and the stupid dog (on a leash fortunately) nearly ran off a cliff chasing a chipmunk!
Note the flagging tape used to mark the return path off the meadow - pretty hard to find that spot again unless you knew where to look.
All in all, a nice weekend in the mountains. Nothing too dramatic, but some great hikes, good company, pretty scenery, and a weekend out of town.