Brett Pawlyk and Annabelle Oung have just released a new book, “Nordegg in Winter”, a companion to their previous book, “David Thompson Country: A Scrambling Guide.” It can be purchased at the Nordegg Canteen, the Beehive Artisans Market in Nordegg, or on Amazon.ca, and coming to more stores across Alberta soon.
Here is the Introduction and then a description of the Allstones Trail Hike.
The Nordegg & Abraham Lake area in winter is a place like no other. While the region is now well established as a summer destination with its abundance of crown land camping, hiking, scrambling, climbing and other outdoor recreation opportunities, winters still feel relatively quiet. The vast majority of visitors that make the trip here do so in order to snap that perfect shot of the ice bubbles on Abraham Lake, and very few stay long enough to truly experience what the area has to offer. Most stick to the lake shore or the few well-known areas, such as Siffleur and Crescent Falls, without being aware of the multitude of adventures hiding in plain sight. With endless kilometers of hiking trails, frozen creeks, awe-inspiring canyons and jaw-dropping scenery everywhere you look, you could spend weeks here and barely scratch the surface.
Getting to the heart of David Thompson Country in winter is an adventure in itself. You could experience any type of weather, from beautiful, warm sunny days to unforgiving spells of -40 temperatures and gale-force winds. Cell service is minimal to nonexistent in most places, and Highway 11 can be dead quiet. There are only a few signed trailheads and most information about the area is passed between locals or spread around the internet. The lack of information and resources about the area during this special season is what led us to write this guidebook. Our goal is to arm readers with the information necessary to instill confidence and have a safe and enjoyable experience in winter.
In this book you will find information on a wide range of outings including hikes, ice walks and some snowshoeing, that will suit winter enthusiasts of all ages and abilities. The routes described will take you on a wide spectrum of adventures through wintery forests, hunting for ice bubbles, to viewpoints of frozen waterfalls, into the depths of canyons, and across Abraham Lake. Come breathe in the crisp winter air, listen to the crunching snow under your feet, get blasted by hurricane-force winds, and be awed by the endless ice formations. A visit to this magical place will rejuvenate the soul and have you yearning for more. It will break the monotony of the long, cold winters of Alberta. John Muir said it best, “The mountains are calling and I must go”. What are you waiting for?
TRIP 8: Allstones Creek
Trailhead: Allstones Staging Area,
From Nordegg 31.1 km; From the N. Sask. Crossing 58.8 km
Budgeted Time: 1 to 3 hours
Distance: 3.2 km
Elevation Gain: 125 m
Difficulty Rating: Easy
IN A NUTSHELL
This is one of the best hikes in the area for all ages and abilities. Other than descending the hill from the highway to the creek, this relatively flat ice walk with no major technical difficulties offers a very high reward for such a short distance. Winding through impressive rock formations, you follow a meandering creek bed to a frozen waterfall, providing everyone in your group with a wonderful, interactive experience.
- Family friendly, easy and short hike
- Sheltered from the wind
- Impressive rock formations
- Ends at a frozen waterfall
- No cell service
- Potential for rockfall
- Potential weak ice over moving water
There are two different parking spots for this hike, one on the north side of Allstones Creek and one on the south. Both have outhouses but the north lot fills up quicker as it is a little bit closer, has significantly less capacity, and doubles as the trailhead for Allstones Lake hike. For safety reasons, please use one of the parking lots instead of parking on the highway shoulders. Incidents are frequent in this busy area.
Access the creek by crossing the highway and finding a route down that you are comfortable with. The easiest option is to enter on the south side (away from Nordegg) past the guardrails. During the descent, be sure to make a quick stop to check out the culvert – the echoes produced by yelling into it are highly entertaining.
Once you drop into the creek, work your way upstream past some impressive, multi-coloured vertical rock fins. Past these, the canyon begins to tighten up and takes many left and right turns. Keep going upstream, watching out for the odd section of open ice. Although there is a small chance of breaking through in certain areas of weakness, the amount of water flowing down the creek is minimal. It is doubtful that the water is more than ankle deep, and most of the creek is frozen solid.
Eventually you end up at a wall of rock containing a frozen waterfall. Some years, the ice forms just right to see and hear the water flowing underneath. This is the end of the line for all but the very adventurous and skilled.
Beside the waterfall, you will notice a homemade ladder that is attached to some trees above with very old rope. It is highly recommended NOT to climb up this in the winter! The ladder does not reach all the way to the top of the rock band, forcing one to transition to rock climbing over slick, waterworn rock that can have ice and snow on it. If you wish to continue up the creek, the best way is via the steep scrambling route up the left side (when facing the waterfall). Reaching the top requires a vertical, icy step. Remember that you must come back down this on the way back if you choose to keep going. Once on top, continue upstream and drop back to the creek by going down the first gully past the waterfall. From here, the canyon opens up and becomes less interesting. There is a small waterfall around 1 hour further upstream. Not recommended.
Return the way you came.
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