Big Sister
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Big Sister - Spray Lakes Road

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D - Down climb just beyond tree line

Photo of down climb courtesy of Granticulous

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The big slope looking down from the col. Michael Teekens and Al Strandberg plodding their way up. You can just make out the parking lot below.

Big Sister

Scramble: Class 2 – Steep Slab Hiking, Use of hands, Couple of short 5 to 7 meter down-climbs, Some exposure, Some route finding

Altitude: 2,936m (9,630 ft)

Elevation Gain: 1,200m (3,936 ft)

Ascent Time: 3 – 4 Hours

Best Season to Scramble: July – September

Best Conditions to Scramble: Dry and Snow Free Conditions, Would not recommend this scramble if conditions are not perfect


This scramble offers a little bit of everything, short approach, steep slabby sections, scrambling on all fours, down-climbs looking through your feet, route finding, great views and a sense of accomplishment when completed. Highly recommended when conditions are dry and you’ve done some easier scrambles.

Getting There

Head west out of Calgary on the TransCanada highway # 1 to Canmore 106km (66.2 miles). From the Bow River bridge in Canmore drive 17.3 km (10.8 miles) up the Spray Lakes road to the Big Sister gravel parking area. The road from the Bow River bridge takes you past the Canmore Nordic Centre and onto the Spray Lakes road (packed gravel). The Big Sister parking area is a left-hand turn just as you hit the Spray Lakes dam. From the parking area you will see directly ahead the imposing gully system of the southwest side of Big Sister. If your base is Banff head east on the TransCanada for 26km (16.2 miles) to Canmore and follow route as above.

Route Description

From the parking lot head up towards the gully system crossing the creek bed to the left and follow the ascent trail up the left-hand side of the gully system. The trail rises steeply through the trees until you reach open slabs. A few minutes further up there are two possible spots to down-climb onto the face. The second spot a little further up is the easier one although when I first climbed this I down-climbed the harder one. Didn’t see the easier spot till on the way back down. Continue up the face until you reach the top of the ridge before the route curves over to the right. From here follow along steep slabby terrain bypassing to the right or going over a 5 ft high bump on the ridge. Be careful here especially if the route is not dry. Continue up steep terrain until you reach a down-climb of 5m (17ft). The down-climb leads you to the left of the summit ridge pinnacles. Keep close to the wall of the pinnacles and be careful here. Once past the pinnacles the final steps to the summit are a bit less demanding.