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Mesa Butte (Square)

Summit Elevation (m): 1698
Elevation Gain (m): 315
Round Trip Time (hr): 1.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 4.5
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 1 – you fall, you tripped over your own feet
Difficulty Notes: No difficulties. May need snowshoes if you do it in winter but the slopes get wind blasted and are usually clear.
GPS Track DownloadDownload GPX File
Technical Rating: OT2; YDS (Hiking)
MapGoogle Maps


After skiing a rather long day on Spoon Needle, Steven Song and I agreed that we should do a shorter day on Sunday, February 16. We settled on Mount McNab – a very simple snowshoe which should have me back home by around noon and agreed to meet at the parking area around 08:30. As I drove towards the winter gate and the McNabb camping area, the weather slowly deteriorated from brilliant morning sunshine to full-on blizzard! I was following one set of tracks, which I was sure was Steven. Sure enough! As the snow storm almost blinded me, a car came from the other direction and slowed. It was Steven. He was concerned about getting stuck in the rapidly accumulating snow. I dismissed his concerns and convinced him to follow me. Two minutes later I was wishing I was in my 4×4 instead of the Corolla. I could no longer see the road and we agreed it was unsafe to continue.

Mesa Butte Route Map

Now what?! I was ready to go home, but Steven was 4.5 hours from home and wanted to salvage something. He pulled out his map and we settled on “Mesa Butte”. I had no idea what or where this was, but it was an official summit and the weather looked to be sunny just to the north so it was worth a shot.We drove back to Turner Valley and turned north to Millarville and from there, back into K country! About 30 minutes after turning around in a snowstorm we were standing beside our cars in brilliant sunshine, ready to hike Mesa Butte – what a weird morning. There is nothing technical about Mesa Butte. We didn’t take the ‘official’ trail, but simply headed up from near the equestrian camping area along the highway where there was room to park. We took the ‘shoes which was a good plan because higher up we needed them to cross a logged slope which held quite a bit of fresh, unconsolidated snow. Once we hit the main part of the hill, we came across a beaten path which led to the summit.

My favorite shot showing the trail to the summit and great views west.

Calgary was clearly visible and the views back west were pretty decent too. We noticed that the bad weather to the south had pulled back over the divide and decided that since Mesa Butte was such a short / easy objective we should go back to McNab for another try.

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