C-Level Cirque is an old coal mining location above Bankhead in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.
The hike to C-Level Cirque begins from the clearly signed Upper Bankhead picnic area off Lake Minnewanka Road, north from the first Town of Banff exit on the TransCanada Highway west of Canmore and Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The ascent from the parking area is on consistent grade for 4.2 KM (2⅝ miles) one way with an elevation gain of 450 m (1,475 ft) to maximum elevation of 1,920 m (6,300 ft). The carpool begins from the Petro Canada Station at the intersection of Hwy 1 and Hwy 22. Initially, trail is wide and well-groomed through dense forest enhanced by early day sunbeams on a crisp morning. Soon, an artistically crafted cairn in the middle of the trail is encountered.
Just over a kilometer into the uphill hike, arrival at the most prominent concrete structure from the abandoned mine finds metal bolts in the concrete floor which held heavy equipment in place when the mine was in operation between 1904 and 1922. Modern day art is a recent addition. Within the area there are other foundations and scattered sections of pipe from the original mining operation.
The ascent continues and about 200 m (183 yards) further up the trail a prominent spur to the right leads to the top of a huge, very black, coal slack heap with an outstanding, expansive view over the valley where, in the misty distance, Mount Inglismaldie and Mount Girouard stand tall over Lake Minnewanka. Back on the main trail, the climb passes several fully fenced, gaping holes in the ground. These old ventilation shafts allowed mining operations to refresh mine shaft air.
The trail narrows and remains good with more tree roots and rocks to navigate. Just over 2 KM (1¼ mile) past, and above, the fenced ventilation shafts, the trail tops a viewpoint of C-Level Cirque on the flank of Cascade Mountain. Lunch is excellent in the sunny presence of this magnificent view. Uncharacteristically, there is no evidence of mountain sheep or goats grazing on the mountain's sheer cliffs. A Summit Stone is hidden for a subsequent adventurer to discover. There is a thin, visible trail which continues up the right side of the bowl for a spectacular view over mountain surrounded, Lake Minnewanka.
The descent is swift past familiar scenery and features enjoyed on the ascent, but later day light gives everything a new and fresh perspective.
The Upper Bankhead parking area was the site of the residential area for the mining operation further down the mountain at Lower Bankhead. There are remains of several residential foundations on the trail that links Upper and Lower Bankhead if anyone feels like a short hike to check them out. Seija and I choose to drive down to the Lower Bankhead parking area for a hike down the steep stairs to interpretive trails through the remains of the mining complex structures.
With the car at the Lower Bankhead parking area a short uphill trail finds the site of the Bankhead Holy Trinity Church erected in 1908 and sawn in half for relocation by rail to Calgary, when the mine closed in 1922, where it continued to serve a congregation until its ultimate demise in 1962. Only the concrete foundations remain at the original site.
C-Level Cirque, Upper Bankhead, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
The more one goes into the mountains, the more one realizes they are but a medium for exploration into oneself.
From Summit Stones and Adventure Musings by DSD.
Photographs for this hike to C-Level Cirque at Upper Bankhead in Banff National Park were taken on August 11, 2013.