This, my friends, is the majestic Mt. Rundle.
The hubby and I had a mini-getaway to Banff a couple of weekends ago, and along with a beautiful long run along Vermillion Lakes and the Legacy Trail, we decided to do some hiking. You may remember that we attempted the this hike last fall (read the story HERE), but due to snow and ice along the Dragon’s Back, we were unable to climb to the summit. We vowed then that we would come back for the epic hike in the spring/summer – and be able to say, “I’ve been on the top of that mountain!” There are many variations of the Mt. Rundle hike – I’ve read there are 18 summit points! Most popular are the west end (where the First Peak and Main Peak are located and overlooks Banff), and the east end (which overlooks Canmore). We wanted to conquer the Main Peak (the second one from the left).
Mt. Rundle trail info (via: TrailPeak.com)
Distance: 13 km round-trip
Elevation Gain: 5,175 feet / 1,577 meters
Summit: 9,675 feet / 2,949 meters
Time: 6-10 hours
Location: Parking lot at Banff Springs Golf Course. Make your way across the bridge and follow the paved road just past the first fairway to the Spray River trailhead.
We woke up around 7 AM, ate our breakfast, packed our gear/water/snacks, and drove the couple of miles from our hotel to the Banff Springs Hotel Golf Course. The weather was quite comfortable, and the skies were clear, so we started in hiking shorts and a long-sleeve tee, with zip-on pants, toques (toboggans), and gloves stashed in our packs. For fuel, we each carried 2 liters of water, peanut butter sandwiches, beef jerky, and trail mix. We reached the trailhead at 8:54 (this time without a ranger stopping us to warn that a BEAR was on the trail – lol). I wish I had taken more pictures along the trail, but we were focused and feeling good. Last time we hiked, frost covered the plants, and there were pockets of snow in the forest; this time around, we were surrounded by lush greenery and plenty of songbirds. The trail starts off very good – a well-defined, steady climb with beautiful views glimpsed through the forest slopes. About an hour into the climb, we began the aggressive ascent of a dozen or so switchbacks. As you near the last of the switchbacks, you REALLY get to view the valley, Sulphur Mountain across the way, and the stunning castle-esque Banff Springs Hotel below. There are two small gullies along the horizontal traverse following the switchbacks, which is a nice (albeit brief) break from the steep climb!
Upon reaching the large central rock gully (10:28 AM), which marked the end of the “good quality” trail, we were mentally prepared for the steep jungle climb ahead! We steadily climbed the very forested, steep, rough terrain, easily following the trail marked by bright orange and yellow ribbons among the trees. Just like last time, there were parts of this trail where I had to literally jump up to grab a tree trunk as leverage to pull myself up the incline! I felt like a mountain monkey!!! I did take one pic of the hubby at this point, trying to prove just how steep the climb was.
As the trees started to thin, we were getting anxious…the beginning of the “Dragon’s Back” was where we had to stop last time. This time, however, the trail was clear! The view here is so awe-inspiring – you are surrounded by valley views and the enticing mountain peaks in the distance! We reached this section around 11:10 AM and decided to munch on some food to fuel up for the next grueling section – endless loose scree trail to the summit.
We continued to climb, and climb, and climb. It was at this point that we noticed 4 hikers ahead of us. They looked like ants upon the ant hill! We stayed vigilant in looking for the safest passage, as it was pretty much slick rock, loose rock, big rocks – just ROCKS ROCKS ROCKS everywhere! There was one section that was pretty narrow (maybe 5 feet across) with drop-offs on both sides – made my heart pound for sure! Even though the distance to the summit is “short”, it is STEEP, climbing 609 meters (2,000 feet) in 2 km (1.24 m). I think every 15 minutes we were huffing and puffing and trying to steady our shaky legs and short breaths! I cannot stress enough how steep, slow, rocky, and arduous this part of the climb was!
And then…we were there! The highest point just faded away…and each step brought you closer and closer to peeking over the entire valley! We reached the summit at 1:17 PM…just over 2 hours of seemingly endless uphill scramble from the end of the treeline.
And I stood in amazement at the flat little dirt path across the top of the narrow ridge – we literally walked “across” the mountain top! We stood on top of the left ridge and took “King of the World” pictures…then mozied on over to the right a bit to sit down on the rocks, take some breathtaking pictures and videos, absorb the jaw-dropping, absolutely stunning views, and prepare for our descent.
This, my friends, is the oh-so-rewarding view from the summit of Mount Rundle!
The path down was almost brutal on the knees, as you basically “ski on rocks” down the Dragon’s back and towards the tree line. We made it back to this point in surprisingly good time (2:37 PM) – but very careful along the way with the sliding rock. We pushed onward, making our way back over gigantic rocks, and swinging down from tree trunks – reaching the central rock gully in NO TIME (3:13 PM). We stopped at this point to refuel again (PB sandwiches and beef jerky) and took it all in, knowing that we only had the switchbacks and lower trail left. We were in very good spirits – so excited to finally conquer this fantastic trail/scramble combo! We reached the trailhead at 4:47 PM.
Overall, our 13 km (8.1 m) hike took us a total of 7 hours, 45 minutes (including our food and picture breaks). Not too shabby for an “extreme” mountain hike, eh?!
And then we were greeted by these big fellas when we got back to the car! Banff wildlife at it’s finest!
Have you ever hiked a mountain?