|Elevation:||3218m = 10,555'|
|Elev. gain:||1000 m = 3,280'|
|Difficulty:||Moderate scrambling via south slopes and ridge.|
|Ascent time:||4 hours, 15 minutes|
|Descent time:||2 hours, 10 minutes|
|Trail head:||Highwood Meadows parking lot off Highway 40.|
|Topo map:||82 J/10 Mount Rae|
As I prepared to start my ascent, a bear warning indicated a grizzly sow with cubswas in the area. A park maintenance worker just happened to arrive at that time andhe told me that the trails in the area had been closed a week ago due to the sow andcubs but had been re-opened.
Follow the Ptarmigan cirque trail as it crosses thehighway and makes it strenuous approach to the cirque through enclosed forest. My cautiousprogress made the ascent much longer than it normally would. The grade and forest finallyrelents with the cirque and open ground unfolding before you. Walk to the rear of the cirqueby following a spur trail. This will take you around a leftward bend and the lower ascentroute up the cirque appears. The high point in the photo is not the summit but a massivegendarme.
As you proceed further to the rear of the cirque, the trail fades as it passes over brokenrock. The trail guide suggests plodding up the scree gully to the col but as seen in thephoto, snow covered the gully.
I decided to ascend rotting slabs beside the snow as I didn't have an ice axe with me.Frequent hand and foot holds were required and there were a few tense moments. After reaching the col, quite narrow to boot, the summit presents itself in the distance.
I navigated a tricky two foot wide section on the col filled with snow. Fortunately,there was no need to circle around the large gendarme on the ridge as the north slopesbelow were essentially free of snow. I descended to scree/rotting cliff bands usingone of the discernible paths below the massive gendarme. There seems to be numerouspossible routes at this point to the airy summit ridge.
I decided to angle towards the summit ridge and wait until I was quite close tothe summit (distance wise). A prime route appeared beside a yellow spotted pinnacleon the summit ridge. A good scramblers route here was easily followed.
Once on the narrow summit ridge (maybe 4-6ft at most) , careful progress was required withthe added complication of a several thousand foot drop on the north (right) side. In windyconditions this could be quite an unnerving experience! After 15 to 20 minutes of slow andsteady progress, the summit is attained. A register is located in the summit cairn. Whilethe summit is fairly flat, there is not a lot of maneuvering room.
I noted that the last recorded ascent was two weeks earlier in mid July. I was only the fourthparty to reach the summit this year. I was not truly surprised by this fact as I had notencountered anyone on the ascent, perhaps the snow on the col discouraged others. Thesummit affords a panaramic view as Mt. Rae is the highest point in this area of Kananaskis.
After having lunch, I surveyed the descent route back to the col.I retraced the ascent route, from the summit to the col, only taking 45 minutes to complete. AsI surveyed the route down from the col, some day hikers down below were no doubtcontemplating the ascent to the col. A very quick 10 minute descent from the col to the rear of thecirque was aided by glissading two snowfields. The cirque was very busy with day hikerson the return.
On a personal note, Mt. Rae is the highest point I have ascended in the Canadian Rockies.
Back to my scrambles/hiking history.
©1994 All images by Craig Knelsen. All rights reserved.
Created: May 13, 1998. Revised: Nov 12, 2002.