Distance: 9 km
Elevation gain: 1460 m View map Download GPS track
The mountain weather so far this summer has been rather dismal. A typical day begins well with sunny skies, but by 10 am the clouds are rolling in and by early afternoon it is precipitating. To make the most of the short bit of morning sun we've found ourselves getting up around 5 am and choosing relatively short hikes/scrambles so that we can be back at the car before things get messy. Today the weather was no different and we once again found ourselves rushing out the door at 6 am, planning to scramble up Mount Cory in Banff National Park, a moderate scramble that is considered fairly easy.
Unfortunately our early start was thwarted by Banff National Park regulations. Access to the Mount Cory scramble route is via the Bow Valley Parkway, which unbeknownst to us is closed 8 pm to 8 am between March 1 and June 25, and we ended up waiting 20 minutes for the gate to automatically open. And the jinx on our day didn't end there. While the pullout parking area was dead obvious (just 1.7 km past the gate), the initial trail onto the mountain was not. Almost immediately we encountered a fork in the trail; a good trail went left and a flagged fainter trail went right. I chose flagging, which was correct, but at another junction chose good trail over flagging and we found ourselves on a ridiculously steep mud and scree slope. We powered up this, but either that or something else wiped out my stamina and I struggled to keep going at a reasonable pace for the rest of the day.
Back on obvious trail we geared down and climbed 900 m up over a horizontal distance of just 2 km. It was steep and unrelenting! Views were limited along this section too, so it was a complete slog for nearly 2 hours until we emerged onto a small plateau with an alpine meadow that granted our first views to the north. This point also signaled a change in the general terrain of the ascent route. From here forward the grade was significantly gentler, and we found ourselves ascending along a series of small plateaus, each preceded by a short scramble and several followed by a short downclimb. Each scrambly section looked impossible until it was right in front of us and then an easy route appeared, often marked with a cairn. With careful route selection we never found ourselves in an exposed position and we only really used our hands for balance. Despite rapidly increasing cloud cover, the varied terrain and spectacular views along this section made it wonderful Type I fun
and mostly compensated for the slog to get to this point.
Just before the summit we found ourselves sidehilling on firm mud just below the ridge. It was completely unpleasant and the footing was terrible. At the time this seemed like the most feasible route, but competent scramblers should probably investigate the rocky summit ridge as an alternative. Regardless, after 3.5 strenuous hours we found ourselves standing on the south summit of Mount Cory. A northern summit of equal or slightly lower height beckoned just 10 minutes further, but with snow starting to fall to the west and a cornice that complicated the traverse we decided to head back down instead. Overall a fantastic trip on a so-so weather day!