Going the Wrong Way Down Powderface Ridge Trail

Powderface Ridge in Kananaskis, Alberta is a tough slog both up and down but the top has amazing views

I had heard a lot about this trail, researched this trail, and downloaded off-line maps for it for my GPS and static maps in case that failed. Turns out, I should have gone one step further and taken someone along who knew the correct route.

It is on the edge of the Rockies and the top has an amazing view of the peaks in the distance.

The 8 km up is relentless. It has 700m vertical of rocky trails of mostly even grade. There was virtually no running this trail. It was mostly a fast hike to the top.

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Rocky ankle-turning trail on the way up.

I had planned to run on the way down, so I could make up time. In my misguided wisdom, I thought I would hike up the one side, down the other side, back up the other side and and then downhill all the way back to the car.

I got to the top, ooh-ed and awe-d, and then started on the way down the other side. However, I must have immediately lost the trail. What I was following looked like a trail, and followed the rock cairns along the top and was going in the right direction. Evidently other people must have taken this trail too, but had obviously judged the error of their ways and corrected before I noticed my error.

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Rockies for a backdrop

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On the way down, when I checked on my GPS 500m after the top, it showed the official trail was 100m to the east, fortunately going the same direction as I was. However, it was down a steep cliff from where I was. And that cliff continued for another 500m (forward and back). I never was able to get over to the trail. So I ended up picking my way down the mountain through the trees making my own trail. Not so smart since it took me an hour to go 2 km to the highway at 30%+ grades. At the bottom I was only 200m from the trailhead I had wanted to go down.

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Down the other side

But I had lost too much time and had to find a quicker way home. So instead of going back up and over the mountain, having briefly contemplated hitch-hiking, I ran the 9km along the highway back to my car.

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Taking the highway back to the car.
22 km round trip – 4 hours = 5.5 km / hr (obviously not much running)
700m from the parking lot to the top. 10% up, 30%?? down the other side

I had wanted to do the 700m x 2 = 1400m vertical, but I only got in 900m for the day. Still it was a 4 hour trail run (mostly a hike). Still an epic place to be on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. What more could I want?

Next time I’ll know the trail a lot better. But the fun is in the adventure, right?

Instagram of amazing trails: @trail_runner_guy

More mountain climbing stories here: Ha Ling PeakEpic Trail Running, KananaskisGalatea CreekJasper, Hamilton Lake, Powderface Ridge

Author: Kevin

Just a trail runner in Calgary and beyond

4 thoughts on “Going the Wrong Way Down Powderface Ridge Trail”

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