Smutwood Peak holds a very special place in my heart, as this hike was my first time ever actually summiting a mountain. Before Smutwood, I had done a ton of hiking in mainly low elevation areas with fairly easy terrain. Once those short and sweet hikes started to become too easy for me I made the decision to try my hand at a summit. Being that I had recently moved to Cochrane and I didn’t know anyone in the area to hike with, I put a post on Instagram asking if anyone would like to be my hiking buddy and also show me the ropes. I got a tremendous response from so many wonderful people, but Dominique was the one who asked me to join her to do Smutwood a day after I had made the post. I also got to chatting with another fellow mountain lover named Amber who gladly wanted to join us on what would also be her first mountain summit as well. Not knowing what we were getting ourselves into and just happy that we had people to enjoy the outdoors with, Amber and I eagerly said yes to Dom and started preparing for our first mountain summit.
The morning of the hike I met Dom and Amber at the Petro gas station along the Trans Canada Highway, they piled into my vehicle and off we went. As we drove towards Kananaskis Country we talked amongst ourselves and got to know one another a little bit. I knew right away that I was going to have a wonderful day with these ladies. What I didn’t know was that I had an absolutely stunning although daunting (to me) 19km hike with around 900m of elevation gain ahead of me.
The parking lot for the trailhead is fairly easy to find, as it sits just west of the Engadine Lodge which is located a very short distance off of the Smith-Dorrien Trail. Once we parked the vehicle and had our gear ready we set off down an old logging road. The road eventually came to a fork where we stayed on the path to the right. The trail lead us into a forested area along the Commonwealth Creek, which is also quite easy terrain to deal with for the most part besides the fact that its slightly grown in and has some steep sections. Our biggest concern in that area was the large grizzly bear population that’s known to frequent the area. This is definitely not the place to go if you forget your bear spray.
After the short jaunt through the forest, we came up to a beautiful, open valley where we walked for a short time until we reached the first real steady incline of the hike. Along the way to the upcoming Lower Smuts Pass, we were treated to sightings of Marmots, Pikas, and some gorgeous wildflower patches. Lower Smuts Pass is located between Mount Birdwood and Mount Smuts.
Once we reached the top of the pass after a short but somewhat steep trek, we were treated to even more scenic vistas. The view of the deep emerald Birdwood Lakes came into view instantly and left us all in awe. Towering above the lakes was our destination, the peak of Mount Smutwood. When looking to the right we could see the scramble route up Mount Smuts which is the neighbouring mountain to Smutwood. The scramble route up the south side of Smuts is considered one of the most difficult routes according to Kane’s Guide. We took one look at it and could tell that it wasn’t for the faint of heart. After taking in the view we continued left onto a scree path around the lakes towards our ascent route.
At the ridge of the false summit, the trail became more rocky, but it was still fairly reasonable as far as terrain difficulty goes. On our way up we spotted the ever so beautiful Leman Lake in the distance, and we also had a pretty stunning view of the Upper Spray River Valley below us on the other side of Smutwood. Ahead of us was the false summit, which thankfully we were able to go around. We continued up the short slog and eventually reached the peak where our eyes fell upon some of the most breathtaking scenery any of us had ever laid eyes on. A full 360 panoramic view of the surrounding lakes and mountain peaks was our backdrop for lunch that day, it was amazing. We must have spent at least an hour or two up there just hanging out and taking photos.
After we felt like we had absorbed enough of the crisp mountain air and beauty, we packed up and started our descent, which was just as scenic as the ascent. Even though I was exhausted and couldn’t wait to take my boots off after a nearly 9 hour day, I was so amazed with the raw beauty of nature that I had witnessed that I knew I had just developed an addiction to summits. To this day, Smutwood is still my favourite peak. Although what I think I loved most about that day was the fact that Dom, Amber and I went up that mountain as strangers, and came down as friends. It seems that mountains just have a way of connecting people. This was certainly a day I will never forget.