Elevation - 2949m / Rating - Easy / 15km Roundtrip / 1570m Gain
Team: Steve Henderson / Olivier Roy Martin / Brett Rayner
Mount Rundle is the first entry in my summit log. It was the first mountain I scrambled up. I had spent the entire summer rock climbing, and I didn't give any thought to scrambling mountains unroped. As fall arrived, the weather for hiking and scrambling was perfect. Crisp mornings allowed for comfortable approach, and it would warm up as you climbed up the mountain (in theory).
Every morning as I left my apartment in Banff, Rundle would stare me down, and I can't say I didn't wonder what it would be like to stand up there. My work schedule had settled down, and my days off had migrated back to Saturday and Sunday (not normal for theatre). This meant that I could do fun outside things with the Film and Media work studies! My friends Steve and were interested in attempting Rundle, and I was too.
The view of Rundle as I leave home
The trailhead is just beyond Bow falls, by the golf course. The trail starts off as a wide double track, sometimes travelled by horses. Shortly after you start walking, you will branch left and climb a curvy hill. After a long straightaway, the trail will branch left again, and the uphill begins. As you gain more elevation, you will pass by a few gullies where the dirt path turns to stone, and about an hour in you find the first switchback. The trail can get quite steep in places, but is a nice change from the monotony of the forever straight sections before. At the top of about a dozen switchbacks, there is a large rock. This is an ideal spot for a rest break, and maybe a bite to eat in preparation for the fun to come.
A view out of the trees towards Sulphur
Olivier resting after the switchbacks
After a short break we pressed on. The next section of trail is flat, providing some time to get the blood in the legs flowing again. Soon you will emerge from the trees, and cross the Central gully. On the far side the trail ascends steeply back into the trees, and there is flagging to lead the way. This forested ridge is very steep and seems to go on forever before the trees start thinning out.
The Central Gully
As the view starts to open up, and the trees disappear, there are many paths to choose from. They all lead up, and you can't really go wrong. The further left or right you go, the closer you will be to a long fall. The ridge is an upside down funnel, and it becomes clear there is only one way to go. The infamous Dragons Back is before us, a section of the ridge where it becomes only a few feet across, with a sheer drop of over 100 feet on either side.
The terrain is steep near treeline (Photo - Steve Henderson)
Looking back towards Banff and Sulphur Mountain, with Borgeau, Mount Brett, and Pilot Mountain behind
Steve takes a quick break before the scrambling
Steve approaching the Dragons Back
The summit block looks much closer as the ridge widens again. It looks like a triangle, and you head for the climbers left side. The only challenge to the top is ascending the piles of (sometimes unstable) rock. The rocks get larger as you get higher, but the view makes up for the suffering. We passed a few groups of people as they fought against the lack of oxygen at almost 3000 meters altitude.
The steep slope was finally beginning to level off, and we got our first look down the Bow valley. We stumbled upon a window (opening) in the rock wall along the ridge, and we stopped to take a look down to the valley bottom (about 1000 meters below). The summit came into view, and there were at least 8 or 9 people standing on top near the edge. The weather was perfect, and all around were mountains as far as the eye could see. I looked toward Banff and could make out the (now) tiny building where I lived. I was finally standing on the other end of that sightline, and it felt great. The rush of being up so high, combined with the exhaustion from the climb gave a real feeling of accomplishment.
The top is in sight! (how many people can you spot?)
Steve gets the first look out the window as we reach the summit ridge
The beast that is Cascade
Sitting on the edge at the summit of Mount Rundle
Getting to the summit is only half way, and the real challenge can sometimes be getting back down. We had not been at the top long before we started to get chilly, so we layered up and had lunch. We spent a good 45 minutes on top, and none of us wanted to leave. Finally we decided that we had to go, and made our way back across the summit ridge to the scree slopes. Look for grey streaks of smaller scree to the left as you descend. They are prime lines for scree skiing, and a faster, less painful descent option. The route back to the car is the same thing in reverse.
I was surprised how many people were just starting up, as we neared the trailhead around 4pm. We had been out for nearly eight hours, and it gets dark quite early this time of year. It was nice to get back to the car and sit down. We had plans to hike up Sulphur and Tunnel that evening, so we headed back home to refuel.
Olivier on the summit
Heading down from the summit (Photo - Steve Henderson)
The mighty Assiniboine off in the distance (Photo - Steve Henderson)
I couldn't help but lay across the most narrow section of the Dragons Back (Photo - Steve Henderson)
This mountain will always be a favourite of mine. The views are incredible, the terrain is manageable but physically demanding, and it is super close to town. On future trips I've clocked roundtrip times at just over three hours, and I have been up top at least 5 times. This is not the highest point along the 12km ridge that is Mount Rundle, but it is the peak in Alan Kanes "Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies". The upper portion of the mountain can become a shooting gallery if parties above are not mindful of loose rock, and a helmet may be wise during the busy summer months.