• Brett Rayner

Mount Bourgeau

Elevation - 2930m / Rating - Easy / 24km Roundtrip / 1500m Gain

Team: Devan Burton / Roland Eksteins / Pia Ferrari / Philip Gosselin / Steve Henderson / Olivier Roy Martin / Brett Rayner

The weather continued to hold up into October, and my friends and I set our sights on completing the trifecta of big mountains rated 'easy' around Banff with a trip up Bourgeau.

Our crew grew to seven for this adventure with regulars Steve, Olivier, Roland and myself, now joined by Banff Centre practicums Devan, Phil, and Pia. We were lucky that our friend Nathan was willing to drive a few of us to the trailhead, as I was the only one with a vehicle and I did not have enough space for everyone.

It was a crisp morning as we stepped up and over the animal gate; the perfect weather for hiking! The trail up to Bourgeau Lake is double wide, and easy to follow. There are not many views along the way (until you start up the head wall) but it will all be worth it further into the journey. About five kilometres from the trailhead there is a small waterfall, where we took an extended break. From there the trail gets steep, and switchbacks upwards towards the lake.

The view as we gain some elevation

Devan crossing the start of a new bridge over Wolverine Creek

Bourgeau Falls

Looking up towards the summit as we approach Bourgeau Lake

As the trail levelled off we emerged from the trees into an open meadow. In the summer this is prime grizzly habitat, but luckily we did not encounter anything along the trail. This area is fragile and it is important to stay between the wooden beams to keep from damaging the landscape. After the meadow a solid trail heads into the woods, and if you would like to stop at the lake take a left at the sign.

We headed towards the lake where we waited for everyone to regroup. After a quick snack we continued on through the woods towards a scree slope that takes you high above the lake. The slope is steep, but the view really opens up behind if you stop long enough to look.

Olivier and Bourgeau Lake

The view as we climb above Bourgeau Lake

After the steep slope, the scree trail continues towards the first of the alpine tarns (small lake). The trail skirts right along the edge of the first tarn, and on the far side we found a good spot to stop and eat lunch. It was a little chilly and some clouds were moving in, so we ate quickly and then headed off towards Harvey Pass.

From the end of the first tarn the trail climbs up and then takes a left turn below a second tarn. We headed straight up a dirt slope and as we crested the ridge Harvey Lake stretched out to the pass before us. Olivier spent some time playing in the snow while we waited for the others to catch up.

As the rest of the group made it to the pass we discussed the plan. The sky was grey and it was quite cloudy. A decision was made that some of us would continue to the top, and a smaller group would climb as high as they pleased and then descend to the pass and wait for our return.

The trail is easy to follow

Approaching the first Tarn with the summit behind

Making our way to the summit ridge

Joking about Rolands sock gloves

Passing the time by Harvey Lake

Steve, Olivier, Phil, Devan, and myself headed up the final ridge. The summit was hidden in the clouds and within minutes the cloudy haze rolled in around us, drastically reducing visibility. The only way we knew was up, and we stuck close to the edge of the ridge climbers left, following trails in the scree. As the slog wore on our group slowly strung out. I was somewhere in the middle making sure I could see one person ahead, and one behind. The clouds soon got so thick that I could only follow the leaders of the group by their footprints in the snow.

Although this mountain is featured in a scrambling guidebook, it is really just a long hike. There is one section that can be considered scrambling along the final ridge. A rocky outcropping blocks travel directly adjacent to the edge, and you must travel along larger loose rock with a feeling of exposure to climbers right. This section is short lived and the scree slog resumes until the top.

Sunshine Village featuring Delirium Dive

Final ridge to the summit

Pano before we enter the clouds

Olivier getting close to the summit

As I neared the summit a large square object slowly came into view. The weather station on top of Mount Bourgeau guided me the last 100 meters to the top. Similar to a week ago on Cascade we had no view, but this time it was windy and lightly snowing. We huddled close to the weather station, using it to shield ourselves from the wind as we put on more clothing. I wandered out along the summit ridge being mindful of the cornice already developing, to a rock cairn. As I turned back towards the others, Devan emerged out of the clouds and took the final few steps to the summit. I rejoined the other four, and a few minutes later we started down.

Standing near a pile of rocks somewhere on the summit ridge

The weather station on the summit of Bourgeau shrouded in clouds

Steve bundles up as we prepare to leave

Tiredly stumbling down the mountain through the clouds

Devan descends to Harvey Pass

The way down is the same 12 kilometers as the way up, and as we descended the clouds cleared a little. We soon met up with Roland and Pia, and discussed our next dilemma. We had too many people for my little car, so we would have to make two trips. We split into two groups, and the fast four (myself included) took off towards the car. At times I found myself jogging after my cohorts who were moving super quickly, but the trail still seemed to be neverending. The drone of highway traffic slowly got louder, and finally we were back at the animal gate. We threw our packs in the trunk and I drove off towards Banff.

The drive from the trailhead is about 15 minutes and within half an hour I was back. I waited for a few minutes to see if the other three would show up, then I got bored, grabbed my can of bear spray and headed up the trail. Within 20 minutes I could hear the others, and they were pretty happy I hadn't abandoned them. We made it back to the car before dark and soon we were safely in Banff.

Mount Bourgeau from my apartment in Banff

My legs were really feeling it after climbing three big mountains in as many weeks (with a couple smaller ones interspersed). With that said I felt very lucky to have been able to complete big (but relatively easy) mountains at this time of year. I could only hope that the weather would hold up for one more weekend of adventures...

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