Mount Glasgow

October 11, 2020


Elbow River / Kananaskis Country, AB

Mt. Glasgow is one of the taller peaks in the Elbow River area of the front ranges of Canadian Rockies and is very visible as a “pyramid” from Calgary. Most of the peaks in the Elbow/Sheep areas are well documented in either Alan Kane’s Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies or Andrew Nugara’s More Scrambles, and have a dozen well-written trip reports on various websites and Facebook groups. There’s no secrecy in peak-bagging these summits regarding routes, GPS tracks, timing and conditions whatsoever. In the last decade since the start of this Internet era, peak-baggers and scramblers usually come here to bag Mt. Glasgow together with the nearby Mt. Cornwall, Outlaw Peak and Banded Peak as part of the “Elbow Big 4 Traverse” as logistically it makes perfect sense to combine them. I had also been eyeing on this group of peaks for at least 8 years since 2012 but never came down to do them for one reason or another. The best time is the so-called “shoulder season” when bigger objectives in the main ranges are out for the year.

I had never thought about to drive all the way to Bragg Creek / Elbow River area from Vancouver (11 hours away) just to do Glasglow-Banded Traverse until the last month when Winnie and I were struggling to find a suitable objective for our Thanksgiving long weekend. I had pre-booked three days off because Winnie also had the time. Pre-booking a weekend off is always a risky fare as one never knows the weather and condition until the last minute, and in this particular weekend the only area without significant amount of precipitation was Kamloops, or the eastern slopes of the Rockies. Winnie wasn’t interested in dumpster-diving but was very keen to explore the Rockies so the decision was then easily made. Among the peaks I hadn’t done in the Elbow area we picked this traverse as being able to bag 4 peaks would make this drive more worthwhile than just tagging one summit like Mt. Remus, even though there’s no technical challenge for Glasgow-Banded traverse whatsoever. I swapped my Tacoma for my parents’ Corolla at the last minute in favour for the long drive on pavement.

Glasgow to Banded Traverse route. GPX DL

Winnie and I left Vancouver early in the morning on Saturday and drove through some heavy rain through Coquihalla corridor to Kamloops. The sun briefly came out as we drove into the low-elevation cities of Merritt and Kamloops. We had a proper lunch in the city of Kamloops before resuming the long drive eastwards. I was very tired for some reasons and needed several breaks before crossing the Rogers Pass into Golden. We didn’t stop there this time and instead, pushed all the way to Canmore for a late dinner in a local Subway. The next 1.5 hours of the drive down Bow Valley to Bragg Creek then up the Elbow Valley to the trail-head was very exhausting. We got to the trail-head at almost midnight and still had to set up our tent for the car-camp. It was windy and cold even at the parking lot.

Winnie thinking about her food in Kamloops

We anticipated the day to be around 12 hours so didn’t have to rush in the morning. We did have to pack up the tent and sleeping bags as well as making hot coffee and spicy ramen, but did manage to start the plod with half an hour’s head-lamp time. Navigating the parking lot and a maze of paths and trails at the start was confusing but thankfully we had loaded Matt Clay’s GPS track. After a while we crossed Elbow River on a nice bridge and picked up the long and boring road/trail heading up “Big Elbow”. A couple kilometers down this flat trail we rounded the southeast corner of “Elbow Hill” and left the trail into a long dry creek bed that eventually would go up the valley between Mt. Glasgow and Mt. Cornwall. The plod up this creek bed lasted for a couple hours and felt extremely boring and mundane. At some point the valley narrowed down into what seemed like a small canyon and instead of following the climber’s trail on the north side of the bank we opted to stick in the middle of the canyon. There’s one optional 4th class step assisted with a tree trunk that proved to be the most enjoyable scrambling we had done on this day.

Plodding up the dry creek bed. It’s been like this for a long haul

The creek bed eventually narrowed down

Winnie scrambling in the mini canyon

We did an optional 4th class fun step…

After this short bit of “tree trunk climbing” we left the canyon to pick up the climber’s trail at least 20 vertical meters above the canyon floor. We then followed this trail for a while until it made sense to drop back down to the creek bed again. At this point we weren’t far away from the head of this valley. The weather had turned mixed as we soon got hit by a short period of snow. We persisted to the base of Mt. Glasgow’s SE slopes before calling for a long food/energy break. I also needed to swap footwear from trail-runners to my mountaineering boots.

Back down into the creek bed again. Much higher up in the valley now

Finally starting to touch snow

Smearing up the sticky limestone slabs

The next 500 vertical meters of elevation gain was a shit slog up the SE slopes of Mt. Glasgow on nothing but Rockies’ scree. For some reasons I didn’t find it too terrible probably because I no longer do Rockies’ choss on a regular basis anymore. The wind did pick up considerably as we gained elevation, to the point that it was nearly knocking us off balance as we approached the south ridge at 2750 m elevation. The scrambling on the upper south ridge of Mt. Glasgow was more involved than expected with a few slabby zones that was complicated by the snow, ice and the howling wind. We did bring crampons but never felt the need to actually use them. After a few scrambly zones the terrain levelled out and the next thing we were standing on the first summit of this day.

The foreshortened view of SE slopes of Mt. Glasgow

Looking sideways towards Mt. Cornwall

Winnie on the typical scree plod

A zoomed-in view of Outlaw Peak

Winnie plodding up with Banded Peak behind

Traversing snow-covered ledges on the south ridge of Mt. Glasgow

Our first view of the north side into Little Elbow Valley

We did our own route here. I’m sure this wasn’t “standard”

Back onto the ridge crest battling against the wind

The summit’s in sight

Winnie not far from the summit of Mt. Glasgow

Partial Summit Panorama from Mt. Glasgow. Click to view large size.

Partial Summit Panorama from Mt. Glasgow. Click to view large size.

Looking north over the outlier towards Nihahi Ridge

Mt. Cornwall would be our second objective

Mt. Romulus across Little Elbow River

This is looking east into the prairie and Calgary

Winnie taking in the views

Banded Peak and the incoming weather system

Me on the summit of Mt. Glasgow

Another photo of me on the summit of Mt. Glasgow

After taking some obligatory photos we had to resume the traverse. On the descent we stuck closer to the ridge crest with some route-finding here and there. The weather was rapidly closing in and before reaching Glasgow/Cornwall col we were already soaked in a snow blizzard with zero visibility and wind howling horizontally across the ridge. The condition had become downright unpleasant but we kept our spirit positive towards Mt. Cornwall.

Winnie descending the south ridge of Mt. Glasgow

Mt. Cornwall ahead

As you can see, the weather was closing in rapidly

We were in a blizzard now. This was one cliff band lower down near the col

At Glasgow/Cornwall col plodding ahead