Distance: 8.5 km
Elevation gain: 940 m View map Download GPS track
Mount Yamnuska, situated on the eastern edge of the Rockies near the trans-Canada and sporting a unique fin shape, is a well known mountain that nearly every scrambler has climbed. I've avoided it, however, primarily due to a narrow cliff ledge that I'd have to shimmy along while holding onto a chain. Photos make it look terribly exposed and I simply have no interest in potentially testing my ability to arrest a fall with a cold, gloved hand.
Then a few weeks ago it just happened to occur to me that there are actually two ways up the mountain: The usual cliffhanger route via the east and another route via the west, which most people descend. A quick map check revealed that an easy forest trail approached the western end of the mountain and would, importantly, avoid the scree on the common descent route.
I started early to avoid the crowds and shortly, at the one signed intersection on the trail, turned left onto the route identified by the sign as the climbers route. After passing one trail heading up I started up a steep switchbacking trail that took me right to the base of the cliff. From there I followed a faint trail along the base of the cliff, passing the common scree descent route, before contouring around to the north side of Yamnuska, now on wide and obvious trail. A few areas along the traverse involved annoyingly hard scree, but overall the traverse was easy and not once did I encounter overly loose scree.
From the Goat Mountain - Yamnuska col it was a further 200 vertical meters to the summit on a trail varying from bedrock to loose scree. Without paying much attention to where I was going I still only encountered perhaps 50 m of loose scree along this section. It was mostly the interlocking stuff too, so even on the scree sections I never slipped more than a inch or two. After a short summit snack I retraced my steps, but took the common scree descent route back down to the main trail rather than head down the trail I'd ascended. I'd been curious about this descent given its oddly legendary status, but having gone down it I'm a bit bewildered as to what the big deal is about. The scree is relatively big and hard on the knees and isn't nearly as nice as the stuff on at least a dozen other mountains I've scrambled.
On the way down I also met about a dozen others that appeared to be hiking up the same way I had gone, and if you're not a fan of chains and cliff ledges this is certainly the way to go. It's a great scramble for when the bigger peaks are snowbound!