canada general hiking trip reports

Climbing the un-climbable mountain

Cascade Mountain isn’t so much un-climbable as un-climbed. It’s been shadowing my every move for years, continuously reminding me that I still haven’t scrambled my way to it’s summit.

So finally this autumn I proclaimed, enough is enough! I shall reach the summit of this magnificent mountain, even if I have to crawl there in a snow storm! (Or more accurately, wait until I finally have a day free with nice weather and not too much wind)

The levels of indecision were high in the morning though, and so by the time I hit the road with Lincoln, it was well after 11am. And we decided to bike to the trailhead despite this (on mountain bikes). And stop at Le Fournil Bakery on the way.

Then we rode the Legacy Trail, with Cascade Mountain sitting and watching us approach. But this time, we had a cunning plan. Also, this time we saw a grizzly bear wandering about below the trail as we got close to Banff – a lucky bear? It didn’t eat us, so perhaps.

After spending hours and hours riding up the Norquay switchbacks, we rode through the resort, then locked the bikes up at the trailhead and started out on foot at about 1.45pm. There really wasn’t a lot of running, more fast marching, as we gained as much altitude as we could as quickly as possible.

The Ampitheatre came and went, in an unimpressive blur. And then we were striking it out uphill through the trees, until there were no more trees, and we were adrift in a cairn-strewn field of talus.

I had a copy of the Scrambler’s Guide to Cascade Mountain with me. I may as well not have bothered, as the instructions were only obvious in hindsight. Between us both we worked out what seemed to be the most logical way to the top though. It’s not too tricky, so long as you pay attention and know roughly where you need to end up next.

There were plenty of the “inexperienced and ill-equipped” groups that are reputed to roam this mountain – they all seemed to be having a good time though, and none appeared to be in imminent danger of falling off the mountain, or taking any awesome shortcuts.

It didn’t take us too long at all to reach the final steep scree slog to the summit. And then suddenly – we were there! And the views were amazing, and there was barely any breeze, and the temperature was perfect, and what a good thing I hadn’t tried to do it on one of those windy days, it would have been miserable.

Following a suitable period for admiring the other mountains (Hello, I see you Assiniboine!) – and chuckling at Tunnel Mountain’s attempt to be a big mountain, just like it’s older brother Mount Rundle – we headed downwards again.

Glorious day, we even made it back to town just on sunset!

And now Cascade Mountain is no longer a taunting presence, but a pleasant reminder of a day well spent.

Distance: 17km on foot, 64km on bike (to and from the trailhead from downtown Canmore)
Max elevation: 3000m
Elevation gain: 500 on bike, 1560m on foot (there’s obviously some upping and downing in there, as we started at 1300m asl)
Round trip time on the Cascade trail: 4hr40min
Moving trip time on the Cascade trail: 3hr20min
Fastest known time for the Cascade round trip: I’m not sure, but I’m guessing under 3 hours total – maybe even under 2 hours? But I can’t find a record online.
Door to door round trip by bike and foot (including bakery stop): 8hr20min

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