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Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies

Scrambles in the Banff, Lake Louise, Bow Summit, Canmore and Kananaskis areas. Photos and route descriptions. Class 1 and 2.

What's New!

My daughter Victoria and I did a pre-Christmas hike of Prairie Mtn Dec 23 2016

Trail report updates for Kananaskis, Banff, Yoho etc

http://www.albertaparks.ca/kananaskis-country/advisories-public-safety/trail-reports/

http://www.pc.gc.ca/apps/tcond/index_e.asp

E-mail me here - if you have any questions or need advice

new04x.gif (1169 bytes)new for 2016 is the Cory Pass / Edith Pass Loop, a very worthy but difficult hike with a rugged viewpoint at the Pass. Mt Edith can also be scrambled from near the pass. Also the Cox Hill hike, very nice views at the overlook but most of the trail is in the trees.

new04x.gif (1169 bytes) new for 2015 is Ptarmigan Peak in the Skoki area, just a fantastic area on a blue sky day, also a less demanding hike but with great scenery, the Big Beehive Lake Agnes Tea Hut Plain of the Six Glaciers Tea Hut Loop

new04x.gif (1169 bytes) for 2014 is the Tent Ridge loop by Spray Lakes, spectacular blue sky day near the Columbia Ice Fields doing Tangle Ridge and a real nice ridge hike scramble by Barrier Lake in the Kananaskis called the South Peak of Baldy

new04x.gif (1169 bytes)for 2013 is Door Jamb Mountain Loder Peak, a nice early season moderate scramble to get the legs in shape and Little Hector a sizable effort but the views and the feeling of remoteness make it worthwhile!

new04x.gif (1169 bytes) for 2012 is Rawson Lake Ridge - Sarrail Ridge, a real gem with great views of the upper Kananaskis Lake area from the ridge top and a real suffer fest of a trip to Big Bend Peak by the Columbia Icefields

new04x.gif (1169 bytes) for 2011 one week trip to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, hiked and scrambled three peaks.

Mt. Richthofen, Ypsilon Mountain and Hallett Peak

Also for 2011 four scrambles, Forgetmenot Ridge in the Elbow Falls area, Wasootch Ridge and Midnight Peak both in Kananaskis Country just off highway 40 and Mt St Piran at Lake Louise

For 2010 Mt Howard , Snow Peak via Burstall Pass and Pigeon Mountain near Dead Man Flats

See Utah Scramble trip from August 8th to August 14th, 2009. Two great scrambles were done.

Mt Timpanogos and Mt Nebo North Summit

November 1, 2008 scramble of Fossil Mountain. Winter fun, great scenery and good temperatures.

Summer of 2008 enjoyed a great ridge climb called Thunder Mountain 1 hour south of Longview, Alberta

Colorado Fourteeners  - Trip number 4 - August 9 - August 18, 2008 - successfully summited 3 peaks, Princeton, Mt of the Holy Cross and Twin Sisters.

E-Mail Me Here with any comments or questions you might have.

Kananaskis / Highwood Area – Mt. Indefatigable, Opal Ridge S, Mt. Rae, Mt. Tyrwhitt, Mt. Baldy, Mt Kidd South, Grizzly Peak, Mist Mountain, Opal Ridge N, Mt Allan, Moose Mountain, Prairie Mountain, Mt Glasgow, Mt Cornwall , Wasootch Peak, Mount Burke, Thunder Mountain, Mt Bryant, Mt Howard, Forgetmenot Ridge, Wasootch Ridge, Cox Hill hike

Canmore / Spray Lakes – Ha Ling Peak, East End of Rundle, Grotto Mountain, Big Sister, Mt. Sparrowhawk, Heart Mountain, Mount Yamnuska, Fortress Mtn or "The Fortress", Wind Tower, Mt. Chester, Rimwall Summit Mt Nestor, Snow Peak via Burstall Pass, Pigeon Mountain

Banff / Lake Louise – Rundle Mountain, Cascade Mountain, Mt. Fairview, Mt. Temple, Mt. Niblock, Eiffel Peak, Mt. Cory, Mt. Bourgeau, Mt St Piran, Mt Richardson, Fossil Mountain, Ptarmigan Peak, Cory Pass / Edith Pass Loop

Bow Summit / Yoho Areas – Mt. Jimmy Simpson, Observation Peak, Cirque Peak, Mt. Andromache, Paget Peak, Mt. Field

The impetus for this portion of the web site came from surfing the net and finding a couple good web sites on the Colorado Fourteeners (see links below). They have trip reports and good beta posted by various scramblers over the years. Great sites to plan an excursion down to Fourteener land. I thought it a good idea to put together a group of scrambles in which somebody coming up to the Canadian Rockies would have some good info to plan a trip. Of course no matter where you are from, whether nearby Calgary, or anywhere on the WWW you could plan some great trips.

Check out these Colorado Fourteener links: www.14ers.com and www.summitpost.org

My own personal scrambling adventures began with Alan Kane’s book called Scrambling in the Canadian Rockies available from Rocky Mountain Books. On this web site I have only posted one’s that I have personally done and these are written up more or less from my personal experience on the mountain.

All these scrambles are half-day trips to long day trips covering elevation gains from 2,300 ft to 5,500 ft. The shorter ones are good to build fitness on before tackling the biggest.

DISCLAIMER – SCRAMBLING IN THE MOUNTAINS HAS INHERENT RISKS AND THE MATERIAL PRESENTED HERE IS INTENDED TO PROVIDE INFORMATION TO HELP A SCRAMBLER AVOID ONLY SOME OF THE RISKS. VARIABLE WEATHER, CHANGING ROUTE CONDITIONS, POOR DECISION MAKING, ILL PREPAREDNESS ETC. CAN CONTRIBUTE TO SERIOUS INJURY, EVEN DEATH. SCRAMBLERS USE THIS MATERIAL AT THEIR OWN RISK AND THE AUTHOR DISCLAIMS ANY LIABILITY FOR CONSEQUENCES THAT COME ABOUT IN SCRAMBLING THESE PEAKS.

Trail report updates for Kananaskis, Banff, Yoho etc

http://www.albertaparks.ca/kananaskis-country/advisories-public-safety/trail-reports/

http://www.pc.gc.ca/apps/tcond/index_e.asp

 

Dangers from Wildlife and Insects

Of course learning about the possible dangers of encountering wildlife such as bear, mountain lion, cougar or insects such as ticks is a wise move. I can make a number of comments but only in a general manner. The tick season is generally in the springtime from say approximately April, May June. Ticks can carry serious disease such as Lyme's Disease. Kananaskis area down highway 40 is a known tick area in the spring. The Waterton area is known for ticks. How to avoid or handle ticks should be of further study for yourself.

Bear encounters - the general advice is to hike in large groups, make noise as you go down the trail by voice or by bear bell, learn the favorite areas of bears ie don't hike on a berry patch trail in the late summer, check with the Park Rangers as to bear activity on certain trails, consider carrying bear spray, a good book is one by Stephen Herrero called Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance, educate yourself in this area, I have always liked short approach type scrambles where I spend as little time as possible hiking through the trees or along running creeks although in certain seasons the bears like high alpine terrain also. Checking the trail update report links above for any trails closed due to bears is a good idea or visiting the appropriate visitor centre for current information is a good idea.

Mtn Lion / Cougars - these cats are not often seen but are present, a lady was stalked and killed one winter near Banff at Lake Minnewanka as she cross country skied alone, smaller children and pets have been targets also, it is advisable to get a good book or research online on the behavior and activities of these cats. Some have said if stalked or approached by one of these cats to make yourself appear as big as possible, make lots of noise, grab anything you can, rocks, large stick. Some people will carry an accessible fixed blade hunting knife.

These are only some of the wildlife dangers in hiking and scrambling in the Rockies. It is in your best interest to educate yourself as much as you can and use common sense in the areas you decide to venture into.

Trip Grading

The whole idea of scrambling is to get to the top of the mountain in the least hazardous way and avoiding any technical rock climbing. You are likely off route if you find yourself doing any technical rock climbing, it would be advised to retreat. The ratings on the various scrambles are based on dry and snow free conditions. Class 1 scrambles require extra care and attention if not dry and snow free. A slip on class 1 scrambles is usually not life threatening resulting in a few scrapes and bruises. Any of the Class 2 scrambles (Mt Temple, Cascade Mtn, Mt Niblock, or Big Sister) can be very dangerous in less than ideal conditions and the added risks must be carefully weighed.

Class 1 – steep hiking on and off –trail, little use of hands, minimal exposure

Class 2 – steep hiking on and off-trail, slabby, loose, down-sloping terrain, frequent use of hands for sections, some exposure, some route finding involved, possible rock fall, Helmet a consideration here

Preparation for Scrambling

You really need to have a base of fitness before scrambling. That base of fitness should include stair climbing, sports that use the quad muscles a lot, and some type of regular high cardio-vascular exercise. You can go out with little specific fitness and scramble a shorter peak but you will likely find your legs stiff for 2 or 3 days afterwards. It’s much more enjoyable to have a base. A couple hikes that are good ones for a base are Sulphur Mountain at Banff and the Lake Agnes/Beehives hike at Lake Louise.

Experience and Knowledge – various Outdoor and Alpine clubs offer outdoor courses and trips with experienced members, these clubs can be a valuable source of information in order to avoid taking on too much risk for your experience level and avoiding common outdoor mistakes – perhaps you know of an experienced friend who would be willing to take you on some class 1 scrambles

Risk – assessing your own comfort and risk level is important – if you are used to only hiking then perhaps a shorter class 1 trip with an experienced person would be best to assess the risk factor versus enjoyment of the outdoors – any trip into the Rockies has the potential for Bear contact, knowledge of how to minimize the risk is important

Equipment Recommended

Ankle High Full Leather Boots – you can get away with day hikers but they really don’t last especially if you make scrambling a habit. They should be ankle high because off trail terrain is common and you can be vulnerable to an ankle sprain with low cuts. It is difficult to get down a mountain with a sprained ankle! I have met people going up to the steep col on Mt Rae in $30 low cut running shoes. This is an accident waiting to happen.

They should also be a half size to one full size bigger than your regular shoes with a lacing feature that keeps your heel back on descent. The correct bigger size should allow your heel to stay in place as you test them going uphill in the store and allow your toes not to touch the front as you go downhill. Try on lots of different brands until you find something that works.

Alpine Pack 40 to 60 liters – smaller daypacks may be okay for some shorter scrambles but on any of the bigger ones you need the space. On long day trips up the bigger peaks you can need 3 liters of water, ice axe, possibly crampons, extra clothes, food, etc. A 25-liter daypack will not cut it. I’ve been using the "Deuter Futura 38L " and the "Camelbak Alpine Explorer 30L with 100oz water bladder". Be sure your pack fits and has a chest strap, the cheaper ones don’t.

Clothes – rain jacket with hood, wind pants, wind jacket, synthetic layers (fleece, wool, polyester), NO COTTON, toque, pair of light and heavier gloves, cycling gloves, thin cross country ski earmuffs – dress lighter going uphill and have some dry clothes in your pack to change your first layer plus add a layer when you reach the summit. Hiking up the mountain is when you generate a lot of heat and sweat. You need to be drinking water and also have something dry to put on at the top to avoid hypothermia. Hypothermia can be deadly as exercise causes you to become dehydrated to a degree and the cooling effects of weather changes on the mountain can bring its onset. Too much heat being drained off the body causes hypothermia and its symptoms are shivering, slurred speech, loss of coordination, apathy etc. A soggy cotton T-shirt, no extra clothes and cold rainy weather on the upper mountain is a deadly combination. Cotton just does not insulate but instead soaks up sweat and begins to drain the body of heat. If the weather is predicted as warm and sunny and you do choose to wear that fancy souvenir T-shirt you bought at Banff please bring a polyester undershirt and fleece JUST IN CASE OF SUDDEN WEATHER CHANGE. At certain times of the year you can be golfing in shirtsleeves in Banff and experiencing below freezing temperatures and a cold wind on top of Mt Rundle. Drinking water, taking a thermos of something hot, eating high energy foods, layering your clothes as you go up and down the mountain is important. If you are from the Calgary area I highly recommend a visit to Mountain Equipment Coop on the corner of 8st and 10th Avenue SW or any of the other outdoor shops in Calgary. Others such as Atmosphere (across from MEC), Spirit West, Out There, Campers Village etc generally carry name brand outdoor stuff. Valhalla Pure in Canmore is also a store I like to check out. Banff has Monods, the Patagonia store, The North Face store etc

Food – high energy food such as Power Bar Gels, Power Bar Triple Threat bars, Cliff Shot Bloks, Cliff Bars, thermos of hot drink, regular lunch stuff – you’ll find you need to start snacking on something about 1 to 1 hours into the scramble to maintain your energy levels

Other Equipment – an old ski pole is good for scrambles, it takes some stress off your legs going up and especially coming down - ice axe and crampon rental or purchase if necessary for peaks like Mt Temple or as conditions warrant – it is imperative if you end up going on a trip that requires an ice axe that you also get some hands on training in how to use it from an experienced person BEFORE YOUR TRIP

If doing a winter hike on easier peaks like Ha Ling or Prairie Mountain then microspikes are good for traction on icy and moderate angled trails. As the angle of the trail increases crampons will be necessary. Get advice on particular winter trails and use good judgement. Quality snowshoes may also fit certain outings in winter.

Other Miscellaneous – sun-block and lip-block cream +15, sunglasses, long handkerchief, tissue paper, camera, binoculars, small first aid kit, knife

COOL 3D MAPS

I highly recommend the cool 3D recreational maps put out by GemTrek. They are available from Mountain Equipment Coop, Chapters Books, Banff Parks Info Center, and GemTrek’s web site listed below just to name a few locations. Maps are around $13 Cdn each. They feature trail information with a cool 3D effect showing the mountains. There are ones for Banff, Lake Louise, Canmore –Spray Lakes, and the Kananaskis just to name a few. A good investment for $52 Cdn.

Visit the GemTrek site on the www at http://www.gemtrek.com/

 

Season and Weather Factors

In a typical summer season in the Canadian Rockies the best conditions for scrambling would be the last week of July and the first three weeks August. This would be especially so if you were planning a two week trip to the Canadian Rockies. This period has the best chance for dry route conditions on the biggest scrambles. If you came for a two-week trip and wanted to include Mt Temple and Cascade Mtn I would suggest any two of the first three weeks in August. Most of the scrambles have a wider range of season possibilities as I have shown on the individual scramble sheets but for the two week trip the chance to pick and choose from all scrambles is greater during the period mentioned above.

Weather can be a variable affair in the Canadian Rockies. You start off with a bright sunny day in the morning and by afternoon find yourself on the upper mountain in a cold wind, rain and fog. I have a friend who has been up Cascade Mountain many times and has yet to see anything from the summit. The weather forecast for the next 5 days can usually be obtained from the Park Information Centers but be prepared anyway. The Parks Information Centers (see phone numbers below) also provide trail conditions and closures due to bear activity so are an important source of information. If a trail has experienced bear activity the rangers will post a bear warning sign for would be hikers. They give a "caution bear in area" warning or sometimes an outright closure of a trail and area. Carrying bear pepper spray, hiking in a large group and making lots of noise are recommended activities. I have never encountered a bear on any scrambles yet and I think prayer helps. You can see why I like short approaches.

Recommended First Scrambles

The two that I would recommend to get a feel for scrambling is Prairie Mountain near Bragg Creek and Ha Ling Peak near Canmore. These are good for training and deciding if the sport is for you.

SO YOU ARE COMING FOR A TWO WEEK TRIP

Congratulations ! I want you to experience a good trip in the Canadian Rockies!

The typical best time to come is the last week of July and the first three weeks of August. You can come earlier and later but the choice of scrambles may be limited due to conditions up high and shortened cooler days. The first three weeks of July or the last week of August to mid-September still could provide relatively good conditions and weather. It all depends how the weather season is going. I had some great scrambles in mid July and mid September.

From Colorado to Banff driving distance is around 1,185 miles, a two-day drive but definitely doable by car pool. I’ve organized a two-week trip to the Grand Canyon carpooling, camping and hiking for $300 Cdn each. That trip was 1,700 miles one way. Anyway it is crucial to come with friends who can get along for two weeks. You know, people who do not have a fixed agenda, inflexible thinking, socially insensitive to others, hard to handle habits, etc. Compatibility is very important on a two-week outdoor trip. You need each person to be mature enough to give each other space and not want to make all the decisions. Being a bit of a servant to one another goes a long way to make it a good overall experience for everybody.

Base Camp

http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ab/banff/activ/camping/tunnel1.aspx

I am assuming a low budget trip therefore camping at the Banff Tunnel Mountain Campground is my recommendation. This is a first come, first serve campground but it is a big one, over 600 sites. Getting there before 11am on any day but perhaps Friday or Saturday should ensure a choice of site no problem. Loops C,D,E or F recommended. Loops A and B usually are for the younger crowd who seem to need a little more noise in their lives if you know what I mean. The farthest loops are near the top of the terrain and you do hear the odd train coming through the valley. The daily fee per site is $27.40 Cdn plus $8.80 if you want to have a campfire. Showers and washrooms are in each loop. This is the best of both worlds because Banff is central to all the scrambles and when you want a rest day you can tour around Banff or just kick back at the campground. Every convenience is nearby, hot springs, groceries, outdoor stores, Park information center. There is a daily fee of $20 for every day your vehicle is in Banff National Park therefore it is better to buy the yearly pass at the park gate for $136 Cdn. Still a cheap deal if you are carpooling. You can sell the park pass on E-Bay later.

Check out the official Banff National Park web site here

http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ab/banff/index.aspx

If you want a more remote camping trip I would recommend Boulton Creek or Elkwood Campgrounds in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park (Kananaskis Country). These have showers and washrooms and run at $26 Cdn per site. Firewood is available in bundles at extra cost. These campgrounds are nearest to Mt Indefatigable, Opal Ridge S, Mt. Rae, Mt. Tyrwhitt, Mt Sparrowhawk, and Big Sister. There is a small store nearby at Boulton Creek and a gas station with store (Fortress Junction) just outside the Provincial Park.

Check out the Kananaskis Country Official Home Page at

http://www.albertaparks.ca/kananaskis-country/

The Hostel Experience

For a little more money per person you can stay at a number of hostels. These are dorm style rooms and some private rooms depending on location. Bring your own sleeping bag and favorite pillow. There are four that are fairly central as a base. The Banff International Hostel $20 Cdn members $24 non-members, the Lake Louise International Hostel $21 Cdn members $25 non-members, Castle Mountain Hostel (mid way between Banff and Lake Louise) $13 Cdn members $17 non-members, Ribbon Creek Hostel (Kananaskis Country) $13 Cdn members $17 non-members. A yearly membership is $25 Cdn but if you are coming from outside of Canada you must buy your membership from the Hostelling Association in your own country.

For more information check out the Hostelling International web site at http://www.hostellingintl.ca/Alberta/

 

Important Phone Numbers

Banff Park Information Center (main street 224 Banff Avenue) 403-762-1550

Banff Park Warden 403-762-4506

Banff RCMP (police) 403-762-2226

Lake Louise Visitor Center (Samson Mall – Lake Louise town-site) 403-522-3833

Lake Louise Warden 403-522-1220

Lake Louise RCMP (police) 403-522-3811

Barrier Lake Information Center ( Highway 40 Kananaskis Country) 403-673-3985

Barrier Lake Info Center is just south of the TransCanada highway on highway 40; about a 5 minute drive

Emergencies Kananaskis Country 403-591-7767 or 591-7707

Peter Lougheed Park Information Center 403-591-6345

 

 

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