Elevation - 2984m / Rating - Difficult / 5km Bike - 13km Hike - 5km Bike
280m Gain (bike) - 1435m Gain (Hike) / Watch Data
Team: Brett Rayner / Kevan Rayner
Mount Brett has been on my radar for at least a year. That was when my parents pointed it out to me. When I first moved to Banff I had no idea that there was a mountain I shared my name with, even though it is so easily seen from almost anywhere in town. Kane rates this scramble as hard, and although I have done a few, I don't normally consider hard scrambles (so friends can come/easy for solo missions). This mountain was on my short list for 2017, so it had to be done. I decided to make it more of a 'challenge' by riding my bike all the way from Banff to the trailhead, and back, making the total bike distance 55km!
It worked out that I only had to be at work for a 6pm show call (usually there is a rule that if you have somewhere to be you don't get to come on the scramble adventure, but I made an exception for myself), so if I left very early I should make it back. My brother, Kevan had the whole day off, and I somehow convinced him to tag along (I actually guilt tripped him into it by reminding him there is a higher chance of being eaten by bears/cougars when I'm running alone). He was even up to try the long bike approach!
We set our alarms for 4am, hoping to leave the house at 4:30. We ended up leaving at exactly 4:44, just before dawn. We rode the first few kilometers slowly, calling out for bears quite frequently. Vermilion Lakes is quite popular with the bears around Banff, and we did not want to run into any going full speed on the bikes.
Tunnel Mountain and Mount Rundle from Vermillion Lakes
Kevan prepares for the slog ahead
Kevan rides along the Trans-Canada highway towards the Redearth fire road
We stopped briefly at the furthest dock, and then rode on along the bike path towards highway 1. The ride to the trailhead was just over 22km. After climbing through the animal gate, (which is hard with a bike) we started up the last 5km of double track trail to where we would continue on foot. I highly recommend bringing a bike for the first five from the trailhead. Although you may walk it up some of the steeper sections on the way up, it saves time and is a hell of a ride on the way down (I have done it a few times now).
Walking across avalanche debris (Photo: Kevan Rayner)
After 5km you will need to ditch the bikes (we locked ours to a tree as we needed them to make it back to Banff) and headed off the trail to the left. We found a wide open section with no trees and some rocks to start out on. After 15 minutes the bush started to thicken, and there were only bits of trail we could find to follow. You can`t really get off route as long as you are in the right drainage to begin with. The way will eventually clear, and get steeper and rockier as you approach the upper meadow. From there find the easiest way onto the ridge on the right, where there is a noticeable dip.
Open rocky slopes leading the way
Kevan looks in awe at the summit ridge of Mount Brett
There is a trail that leads up onto the ridge, if you can find it
Finally on top of the summit ridge. There is still a fair way to go
Once on the ridge, the first bit of walking is quite easy and it is hard to lose the route. The wide grassy ridge then gives way to rocky slabs. Along the ridge we encountered a family of Bighorn Sheep. The mother stood in one spot and did not take her eyes off us as we gave them a wide berth. The lambs were running and jumping around on the ridge, and it was nice to see they were having as much fun as we were!
Locals keeping watch
Brett Approaching the Bighorn Sheep (Photo - Kevan Rayner)
Pilot Mountain and a little lamb
The ridge gets rocky and the scramble begins!
There is little scree, and the slabby sections are very grippy and easy to move on. We stuck to the ridge as much as we could except for a few detours away from the edge. There are two down climb sections, the first of which is more obvious. The second is quite close to the top, and detours down to the right. Once down, follow a ledge marked by a cairn left along the wall, and the final rock slab will come into view.
Kevan on the first down climb
Higher up on the ridge (Photo - Kevan Rayner)
The ridge had a lot of fun hands on sections. Note Assiniboine peaking out in the background (Photo - Kevan Rayner)
Kevan on the summit of Mount Brett with Banff in the background
Summit panorama on Mount Brett
The views from the summit are incredible, with a literal sea of peaks in every direction. Assiniboine, Temple, and Mount Ball are easily spotted. Kevan and I were both pretty tired at this point, and we are only halfway through the trip! The clock was sitting at just over six hours, and we had made the summit before my set turn around time. We spent 25 minutes on the summit, eating lunch and taking some photos. Then we shouldered our packs and headed for Banff (and work!).
We decided that we wanted to try an easier way down, as some of the stuff we climbed up would not be fun to go down. Instead, we angled left away from the ridge down a scree slope. As you get lower you can head right, and with some side hill travel and a few scramble moves rejoin the ridge before it transitions from rock to grass. From there we retraced our steps back to our bicycles.
Kevan and I emerged from the woods onto the Redearth Creek fire road. I left him with the packs so I could go locate the bikes. I had to use my GPS watch to guide me, but I found them! As we donned our biking gear, a man zoomed by on a bike screaming for joy. Although descent will be quick, it gives us a higher chance of sneaking up on an animal. Last time I came out of the woods onto this fire road a bull moose snuck up behind us, and gave us a scare when we realized it was there (and waiting for us to give it the trail).
We started off down the trail on the bikes, and made it back to the Trans-Canada in 15 minutes! The slog and boredom of biking along the highway was short, as we decided to take a route back through the forest. We took the exit for Sunshine Village ski area, and rode to the Brewster Creek bridge. After a quick stop to soak the feet, we headed off through the woods towards the Sundance Canyon trail, and Banff.
As we rode through town, I couldn't help but look back at the mountain, feeling both tired, but also excited my crazy adventure had worked (and wondering how our legs still functioned?!). I had finally conquered my namesake! As we rolled up to our departure point, the time was 4:43pm. Not only did I have plenty of time before work started, but we had completed the trip in 12 hours. Kudos to Kevan for pushing his limits and surviving this sufferfest, as I know my body was feeling it the next few days.
This meadow was extremely rocky (Photo - Kevan Rayner)
Cooling off in Brewster Creek (Photo - Kevan Rayner)
Overall, Mount Brett was a really fun scramble. I am a big fan of great approach trails, and multi-disciplinary adventure, and this trip had it all. It can be a long day from the trailhead, even with a bike approach, but the views and fun scrambling make it worth every step! Don't try this one too early in the season, as snow up high on the ridge might make for sketchy conditions.