Distance: 19 km
Elevation gain: 1595 m View map Download GPS track
A typical personal conversation at work goes like this:
Coworker: Did you hike up any mountains this weekend?
Me: Yes! We scrambled up __________!
Coworker: Oh, where's that?
And then the conversation dies when I realize they don't know any landmarks that could possibly help me explain where it is. I usually just say Kananaskis or Banff now. So that's why I'm so excited to have scrambled up Cascade Mountain. It's the bloody huge mountain that looms up in front of you as you approach Banff from the east along the trans Canada highway. Everyone who has driven to the mountains from Calgary has seen it and it's super easy to describe where it is! Plus they're going to think I climbed up the visible front face, which will start (or perpetuate?) the myth of my mountain prowess.
There are several things worth noting about Cascade Mountain:
- It has quite possibly the most boring approach trail in the Rockies. Holy crap is it awful. Even the crossing of Forty Mile Creek has no view whatsoever. It wasn't until I’d hiked 6 km that I got the first views into Cascade Amphitheatre, and even that was so dull it earns a deserved "Don't Do" rating in Don't Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies. And to top it off the first 2 km were gently downhill, which meant I had to hike uphill on the way back!
- The scramble is very, very popular. I was the first to reach the summit today (11:20 am) and on the way back down I counted 51 people on the mountain and 5 more below the amphitheatre. Most were tourists and teenagers from Banff and many were terribly ill-prepared, but at least today they were of the crazy-excited-to-be-CLIMBING-A-MOUNTAIN!! variety, and I always enjoy talking to those types. It was nice to see people enjoying the mountains! And it was a good thing I enjoyed talking to them too as I answered the questions "How much further?", "Did you go to the top!?", and "What's it like up there?" at least a dozen times.
- It's an easy scramble with a few short moderate sections. From photos and descriptions I had thought the crux was the detour around the false summit, but that was actually quite easy and there wasn't really much exposure at all. If snowy it would be incredibly dangerous, but when dry like today it was easy. The most difficult part came before it. It was a short section of slabs with bits of ball-bearing scree on them. Today melting snow had a few sections wet and impossibly slippery too. One group was having quite a bit of trouble with it, but I found a better route just above the bare slabs that made it not too difficult. A few short downclimbs (marked with paint or cairns) also had easier variations.
- It's a really long scramble! With nearly 1600 m of cumulative elevation gain it was incredibly strenuous. Both my (stupid) knees are hurting now and I'm quite enjoying sitting down at the moment.
Overall, however, this was a great scramble. The views above treeline and the varied scrambling terrain, ranging from boulders, slabs, (very) short downclimbs, and good ol' scree, made up for the long and boring approach. I'm slowly moving beyond scrambles that are nothing more than scree slogs and the variation on this one was nice. The views from the top were spectacular too, but with a stiff wind and a temperature near freezing I unfortunately couldn't linger to enjoy them.