Fortress Ridge

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Distance - 13.8km return Elevation gain - ~600m cumulative
4 hours out / 2.5 hours back

The trail rolls up and down along the ridge, and the end of the ridge is only a little higher than the start, with the elevation all along both ways.

I have wanted to do Fortress Ridge every since I first attempted and failed on a rainy day years ago.
Unfortunately, shortly after that failed attempt, Fortress skihill shut down completely and the access was blocked off by a decommissioned bridge.
While many people still ski up the 7km access road, that is an absurd additional start to a day hike, so I haven't been back.
When I had an opportunity this year to get in to Fortress, Laurier, Axel, and I set out to hike the ridge and enjoy the larch along the way.
The day threatened bad weather, but any rain stayed well down the valley, and we managed just cloud, and even a couple of sunny breaks.

We parked at the top of the first hill where the T-bar used to end. It's possible to drive further, but we figured we'd walk the valley.
The first part is descending the back side of the skihill, then hiking back up the far side, to reach the start of Fortress Ridge.

The top of the first ridge, and the ridgeline ski run to the right.

Looking ahead onto the skihill.

The Far Side ski runs, and the start of Fortress Ridge.

Laurier hikes down into the ski hill valley.

The bottom terminal of the backside chair.

Looking up to the Fortress from the ski valley.

Axel hikes up the road.

The Far Side ski area.

The sun comes out long enough to light up a slope of larch on the Far Side.

An interesting angle on The Fortress from the ridge.

Axel hikes under the Far Side chair.

The first summit on Fortress Ridge.

From the top of the far side chair, the ridge starts with a short uphill to a high point overlooking the ski hill.
We descend the other side, then start off on a roller coaster ridge.
The ridge is nontechnical, and generally easy walking.
There is one major low point in the middle, and on the way down to it, there is one section of kind of loose rock (no need for hands on),
and at the bottom of the low point, the trees spill over onto the ridge, and there is a little section without much trail.
If you have a decent sense of routefinding, it is possible to find paths for pretty much the whole section, and we ended up bushwhacking about 5'.

The Fortress and Fortress Lake from the first summit.

Axel and Laurier descend the first hill.

Axel stops for some photos.

Looking down the rest of the ridge from the first peak.

Laurier and Axel descend the ridge.

Hiking along the ridge and the view south.

Axel descends a rocky section.

The Fortress.

Larch spill onto the ridge from the east as we descend.

Axel hiking along the larches.

Descending to the low point.

Laurier hunts for a route in the gap.

The final ascent to the end of the ridge is again rocky and loose in places, but easy going.
The last summit on the ridge is quite small, and often windy. We took some photos and then headed right back.
The elevation gain on the way back is about the same as on the way out, but we moved faster covering the same territory we'd already seen.

Axel hikes back up the next peak.

Laurier and Axel hiking to the windy end of the ridge.

Another rocky step near the end.

Looking back to the third peak from near the final.

The final peak on the ridge.

Axel and Laurier hiking up the rock.

The final summit of Fortress Ridge.

The lighting was poor, so I played with camera settings.

an oddly-painted look back along the ridge.

Axel hiking back near the low point.

Axel and Laurier leave the larches behind.

Laurier and Axel travers past the final summit.

Hiking along Fortress Ridge.

The skihill ahead.

Hiking back through the ski hill to finish.

Photos taken by Rachel

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