Sanson’s Peak

December 23, 2011

2256m

Banff, AB

This is a rather insignificant mountain sandwiched between the long Sundance Range and Mount Rundle, overlooking Banff townsite. However, due to the Banff Gondola, this is also one of the most frequently visited mountains in the entire park. It’s more commonly (or I should say, mistakenly) known as Sulphur Mountain, but its actually just the north end of Sulphur Mountain, and it has a separate name, Sanson’s Peak. The true summit of Sulphur Mountain lies further south and requires scrambling over a few false summits to reach.

Sanson's Peak hiking route

Sanson’s Peak hiking route

The driving to the trail-head was a bit challenging given fact I only had a 2WD and without winter tires, but I made there nonetheless. The trail essentially does endless switch-backs directly up beneath the gondola chairlifts. The grade isn’t steep in particular, but in winter conditions it’s very energy consuming without traction devices. So after one hour, I decided to use snowshoes which had good crampon systems, to save some energy. The trail itself was also boring, because it’s below the treeline (felt very monotonous without the help of views). But when crossing the Gondola line, the view opened up a bit towards Mt. Rundle and Spray River Valley.

Morning view. This was the only time when Aylmer was free of clouds

Morning view. This was the only time when Aylmer was free of clouds

It's almost the shortest day, so sun came out very late

It’s almost the shortest day, so sun came out very late

The peak at center is the true summit of Rundle, which is rarely climbed compared to the classic Banff scramble

The peak at center is the true summit of Rundle, which is rarely climbed compared to the classic Banff scramble

Most people don't bother with the walk. They take the fast way up...

Most people don’t bother with the walk. They take the fast way up…

Typical condition on the trail

Typical condition on the trail

This is the upper station of Banff Gondola

This is the upper station of Banff Gondola

From the top of the Gondola Lift, a 0.6 km boardwalk led me to the summit, where a Cosmic Ray Observation Station was built. You do get a full panorama view from the summit, but since I’ve done Cascade Mountain, Mt. Rundle and the nearby lowly Tunnel Mountain, the summit view offered nothing very spectacular. The weather wasn’t perfect neither, as Mt. Aylmer, Mt. Inglismaldie, Mt. Giouard and peaks in Massive Range were hidden in the clouds.

Sanson's Peak from the Gondola station

Sanson’s Peak from the Gondola station

This is no longer a wilderness area. Glad I came here in winter

This is no longer a wilderness area. Glad I came here in winter

The NW side was soaked. You can see Cory in this photo

The NW side was soaked. You can see Cory in this photo

Cascade Mountain

Cascade Mountain

Tunnel Mountain and Banff townsite

Tunnel Mountain and Banff townsite

Me near the summit

Me near the summit

Mount Rundle from the summit

Mount Rundle from the summit

Looking south towards the other peaks on Sulphur Mountain

Looking south towards the other peaks on Sulphur Mountain

A closer view

A closer view

A panorama view of Banff and Cascade Mountain

A panorama view of Banff and Cascade Mountain

The descent went uneventfully and I made very good on time. Back to the car it was only noon and apparently it was too short as a day trip, so I decided to cross something else off my list in the afternoon.

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