Distance: 34.5 km
Elevation gain: 2300 m Route map
The Mount Glasgow to Banded Peak traverse has been on my radar for much longer than I've had the stamina and skill to complete it, but as I steadily improved on both those factors a few years ago, it started to seem like a realistic trip. When I met Alison and discovered that she too had not yet done it, we agreed to do it together. Ironically, the traverse had almost slipped entirely off my list of interests by this summer, so when Alison proposed it for this weekend I nearly said no! I'm very grateful I didn't make that mistake though as it turned out to be one of my more memorable trips.
We started the trip at 5:40 am with an easy bike ride along the Elbow River road to where South Glasgow Creek crosses. We stashed the bikes here and started up the creek, following bits of trail on either side of the drainage, but generally slogging over a ton of river rubble. As the canyon narrowed we followed flagging and cairns leading into the forest to the left to a good trail that traversed above a narrow canyon. Many trip reports show some adventurous scrambling around waterfalls and pools and this trail must bypass that as weren't slowed by anything of the sort.
When the trail returned us to the creek bed at the head of the canyon we immediately crossed the creek and picked up another trail on the opposite bank (north). This trail ascended away from the creek, then eventually returned us to it. We then followed the creek until we reached a lovely meadow nearly south of the summit of Mount Glasgow, then slowly slogged up 600 m of rubble; mostly stable down low, but a bit loose for the final 200 m. A wide variety of wildflowers and fossils helped lessen the sloggery, as did the skull and partial skeleton of a bighorn ram – something I've been wanting to find for a decade!
Approximately 100 m below the summit we reached moderate scrambling terrain. Consisting largely of grippy limestone it wasn't terrible, but I was very happy to have Alison there to confidently assist with the route. In the end I didn't really find any of it exposed and was generally calm, but it was certainly a bit more technical than I usually do.
After taking in the view from the summit we descended to the Glasgow-Cornwall col, easily detouring around a few cliff bands on the ridgecrest lower down, and began the ascent of Cornwall. This involved nothing more than slogging up pleasant scree and for the steeper upper section there was even a good trail to follow. The descent to the Cornwall-Outlaw col was similarly pleasant, although a moderately strong cold wind was a bit mentally taxing.
Snow patches and cliff bands on the ascent ridge of Outlaw looked like they might complicate matters as we slogged up its nasty rubble, but we found an easy way up the first cliff band to its left and a good detour to the right of the second band. After that it was straightforward again and we reached the oddly windless summit without any additional concerns.
The descent of Outlaw was the lowlight of the day so far. It was very steep, the rubble was the horrible type that collapses underfoot unexpectedly, and our knees got beat to pieces stumbling our way down to the Outlaw-Banded col. While the entire slope looked to be equally awful, a long snow patch on the south side of the Outlaw summit ridge may have pushed us too far to the east for our descent, so consider investigating a more westerly route if you go.
The lower slope of Banded Peak was quite pleasant to ascend and as the slope gradually steepened a trail took shape, but as we neared the summit even the trail couldn't help with the loose blocky rubble. We also met our first people of the day, two guys who had come up from the north, one of whom follows my website.
By this point both Alison and I had set new records for elevation gain and were feeling pretty darn good about it! I'm pretty sure we even said "we did it!" at least once, and it really did feel good to have "completed" the Glasgow to Banded traverse. What I failed to fully appreciate is that we still had over 15 km to go that would consist of a horrible descent, bushwhacking, and a hot slog along a horse trail and old road. While I still had a surprising amount of physical strength remaining, I think believing I'd beaten this trip relaxed me a bit too much mentally for what remained.
The initial descent from Banded Peak went by reasonably well. The rubble was annoying, but not terrible, and we were soon walking happily along its north ridge. When it steepened again a trail reappeared and led us straight to a cliff! Wtf? There was clearly no way down so we were forced to hike a short distance back up, then descend some mildly sketchy terrain. We weren't free yet, however. The remaining 400 vertical meters was horrible rubble similar to that on Outlaw Peak that jarred our tired bodies and sent us flailing for balance every few meters. It was terrible!
At the base of the slope we crossed a creek on a snow bridge, then ascended 40 m to the top of a moraine (this ascent seems much easier if you stay just a bit upstream). A lovely descent through meadows then led us to the forest, which we bushwhacked through until we intersected a horse trail. We strayed a bit to the left (north) in the meadows and I'm now wondering if sticking closer to the main drainage may have led us to the trail faster, but that's really just a guess.
The horse trail made travel easy, but it did seem to unnecessarily climb a few small hills that seemed much bigger in the heat and at the end of such a long day. It was also much longer than I'd expected – remember, from the summit of Banded Peak you're not much further than halfway through the day! By the time we reached the Elbow River road I was pretty beat and hiking 4 km back to the bikes sure didn't help, but the ride back to the parking lot was absolutely fantastic! Even though we could only use the bikes for 3.5 km each way they are so incredibly worth it. I regret not having bought one years ago.
We celebrated our accomplishment with drinks and junk food, then drove home, tired but very happy! It was a wonderful day that broke my distance, elevation gain, and travel time records and it's nice to know what my 40-year-old body can still do!