Thunder Mtn
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Thunder Mountain - 1 Hour South of Longview, Alberta

Thunder Mountain ridge ascended from right to left

Yes, the turnoff for 517 is a bit obscured

Gas facility near the corner of 517 and highway 22

Looking back north up highway 22 from the turn onto gravel road 517

Early morning at the trail head see the flat area above

Short rough road up to the flat area but I didn't bother when I arrive in the dark on Saturday night. During the daylight the Rav4 would have made this.

Another view of the road to the flat area next to the ridge

Accessing the ridge

You arrive at the first of 2 heavily treed slopes quickly

A closer view

The plateau area after the first treed slope, summit not seen from here

A closer view as you approach the 2nd treed slope

Looking back on the plateau area from high on the 2nd treed slope

Almost to the top of the 2nd treed slope

The ridge narrows after the 2nd treed slope with the false summit in the distance

The first gendarme which can be passed on the left

Halfway along the ridge to the false summit area

Looking back after passing the second gendarme (left or right will work)

Closer view of the false summit area

Almost there!

Looking back from the false summit

At last the real summit pokes up her head

A ways to go but at least the goal is in sight!

Looking back to the false summit area from along the final ridge to the summit block

Looking forward from the same spot

Almost there with a short traverse around the summit block

An enjoyable summit stay to be sure!

Looking south we see Crowsnest Mountain and the Seven Sisters

Looking Northwest there is a wall of mountains the bigger one being Tornado Mountain

Al enjoys the long but enjoyable ridge walk home

The Old Man River valley near the trailhead

Thunder Mountain – 1 Hour South of Longview, Alberta

Scramble: Class 2 – Steep Hiking, Quite a bit of off-trail/ faint trail, Experienced Route Finding Skills Required

Altitude: 2,335m (7,661 ft)

Elevation Gain: 960m (3,150 ft)

Ascent Time: 2 1/2– 3 1/2 Hours

Best Season to Scramble: Mid May to October, Possible Ticks in Spring, Bit of a wind zone so look for a calm forecast for the area

Highlights

This is a great ridge scramble on a calm clear day which I had. I highly recommend this scramble, most enjoyable. If a warm day take at least 3 liters of water maybe 4.

Getting There

From Calgary to the trailhead is about a 2 hour drive. Since I was going in the fall with shorter daylight hours I drove down to the trailhead the night before and slept in the Rav. I headed south of Calgary on highway 2 to Nanton. On the south side of Nanton you take highway 533 west for approx 40km to highway 22 near Chain Lakes Provincial Park. Turn left and head south down 22 for approx 48km and turn right or west onto gravel road 517. The turn here is just past the bridge across the Old Man River on highway 22. Head west on 517 for approx 17km with a good view of Thunder Mountain before you. Park on the left side of the road or ascend the short rough road to the flat area and you step out of your car and are on the ridge in 2 minutes or less (see photos of parking area).

Another more scenic way is to head to Longview from Calgary taking the quickest route to highway 22x and turning south on highway 22 going through Turner Valley, left at Turner Valley over to Black Diamond, then a right in the middle of Black Diamond continuing on highway 22 south (watch for highway signs as you go through Turner Valley and Black Diamond) on to Longview. From Longview continue down highway 22 going south for 97km to the 517 turnoff just past the Old Man River bridge as mentioned on the Nanton route.

Route Description

From the flat grassy area there is a foot path at the north end which gives access to the lower ridge. From here you have to use your route finding skills as the trail is obvious sometimes, faint other times and just plain disappears for stretches. The lower part of the ridge has a couple of ribs with a ravine in between. There are two heavily treed slopes on this undulating ridge. The first one which you hit very quickly has a cliffy area and you need to cross or be on the far left rib as you enter the treed area (see photo). A trail enters the trees on the left and brings you to a spot where you climb some moss covered rocks to the right and this allows you to bypass the cliffy area. From here it is winding your way as best you can up through the trees to the first open plateau.

(On you way back it can be difficult to find the exit spot to bypass the cliff area so you need your route finding cap on for that. If you find yourself in too steep of terrain you need to backtrack and reconnoiter your area. There are a few cairns but I am not sure if they aren’t a bit misleading as they take you to the far right rib which leads to a pretty steep overgrown area. I had to bushwhack across the ravine to my left and then headed down some more to the cliffy area and then just happened to notice the exit spot where I had originally ascended to my right.)

Anyways, once you reach the first plateau it is a pleasant gradual ascent to the second treed slope. Head up the center and pick up a trail which takes you to the top of this slope. From here your views are expanding and you see the long rugged ridge which takes you to the false summit. The true summit does not come into view till you hit the top of the false summit area. You generally stay on the ridge crest as much as possible. There are 2 prominent gendarmes. The first one is passed on the left and the second one can be passed on either side. Once at the base of the false summit area a trail traverses left and one goes straight up as you approach the trees. I would take the traverse left for a couple of minutes and then ascend a steep slope of scree up a gully to the rocky area above. A bit of hands on climbing in this section. From here it is only a few more minutes till you reach the false summit area and the rest of the ridge and the true summit finally come into to view. It’s about 2 to 2 ½ hours to the false summit and then 30-40 minutes more to reach the true summit.