August 29, 2015
After the amazing 3-climbs-in-a-roll with Maury and Robb I must realize it’s almost the time to say Goodbye to my playground – the Canadian Rockies… While wondering around Canmore I made the final commitment with Vern and Ben for a short day-trip on my last day in the Rockies (Aug. 31) but that also meant there’s still one more day in between. I could either rest up (what I’d normally do), or bag another peak by myself. I figured I had to push myself a bit harder but I didn’t really know what I actually wanted to do. There were simply too many “unfinished businesses” in the Canadian Rockies even for just the scrambling objectives, so really I just had to pick one and go for it. Looking around I had my eyes on the Three Sisters – one of the icons in Bow Valley and certainly the most photographed peak around Canmore. I hadn’t been up any of them so yes, a short scramble up Big Sister and that’s it…
Big Sister looks far less intimidating from its back side. After about half an hour’s drive along the dusty Smith Dorrien Road I arrived at the parking lot by a hydrological dam. My pack felt considerably lighter given it’s nothing but a day-trip scramble. The first section of this ascent went up an abandoned ATV road for a few minutes, then crossed a dry creek bed. There’s a trail on the opposite side of this creek and it ascended steeply up the forested slope. I kept a reasonable pace and after a long while the trail started to get rougher and rougher and I started to encounter a few minor rock bands. At near treeline I noticed a few cairns just to the climber’s right so went to check it out. Following a faint path I descended a bit and came to a short down-climb. After that I was in a big gully system with slabs and loose rocks in. The view was very foreshortening and ascending this gully felt very boring and tedious..
Eventually I topped out of the gully and rejoined the ridge crest. To my surprise there’s still a fair amount of height gain yet, on again, slabby terrain covered by loose rocks. Then came to the crux down-climb. It felt a little bit exposed at the start but there were plenty of holds and I soon made it down (Class 2 or 3), then traversed climber’s left of the series of pinnacles. At roughly halfway up the final traverse I picked up a set of tracks and crossed over to the climber’s right side, and minutes later I arrived at the summit. I could see both smoke and clouds starting to roll in so I made good time (that’s also why I woke up at 6 am to do this easy trip)…
The descent also felt tedious and boring and there’s nothing worth noting other than retracing my steps. For the initial 10 meters or so I went down skier’s right of the pinnacles and stayed entirely on that side and it also worked well. Lower down by treeline there were quite a few trails/paths making some confusing route-finding. Thankfully I had my GPS handy so didn’t get distracted by those side branches. My round trip time was roughly 4.5 hours and that’s on a pretty “moderate” pace.
Big Sister is one of those peaks that I really wanted to ascent as I started scrambling 4 years ago. As I progressed through the game of scrambling and mountaineering those peaks had dropped considerably on my to-do list, but nonetheless I felt good to finally have this one completed. And, it’s time to focus on my last trip in the Rockies.