The East End of Rundle is on the west side of Whitemans Gap above Canmore, Alberta, Canada.
Mount Rundle is a prominent mountain stretching northwest between the Town of Canmore and the Town of Banff, in Banff National Park, along the southwest side of the TransCanada Highway west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
There are seven distinct peaks on the nearly 12 KM (7½ mile) long monolith with the third peak from the west end being the true summit at 2,958 m (9,675 ft). The EEOR summit tops out at 2,545 m (8,350 ft) after a hike and easy scramble on a 2.6 KM (1⅝ mile) gaining 875 m (2,870 ft) trek as documented in the Kananaskis Country Trail Guide, 4th Edition, Volume 3.
The Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies version, by Alan Kane, is to a different, nearby peak further west at 2,950 m (8,497 ft) with slightly longer access. The profile for elevation gain and grade is similar to Ha Ling Peak on the other side of Smith-Dorrien Trail but the hiking experience is substantially different.
Parking is normally at the first parking area past Whitemans Pond dam at the top of Canmore Hill or alternatively, at the Goat Creek Day Use Area. Between them there is a vacant and roomy rise beside Whitemans Pond which is nearest the two flagged trail accesses between two power poles north of Goat Creek.
Today's best quality trail-head seems to be near the northerly power pole where rugged trail gains altitude rapidly but forward progress is soon blocked by dead branches signalling a direction reversal past the sign warning against handling any unexploded bombs. Explosives are used on this slope in winter for avalanche control.
The trail is moderately steep and rugged. Just past the large boulder, the left switchback turns to the right through forest onto more rocky terrain.
Conventional trail switches to a mixture of rocky trail interrupted by sections through, up, over and past rock slab. Hand holds are occasionally expedient for stability. Main trails are marked with occasional bits of flagging tape or small cairns. However, there are several route possibilities with a variety of branches leading to dead ends, no doubt created by previous legions of hikers searching for easier alternatives or an excellent location for photographs. This climb will be most enjoyable for experienced hikers with route finding experience.
Short sections of trail become easy scrambles tracking the east side of the ridge for excellent views of Ha Ling Peak, the Town of Canmore and familiar peaks of the mountain-surrounded Bow Valley Corridor.
Note: It is important to read the definition for the grading of scrambles in Alan Kane's, 'Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies', 'New Addition' Page 22 and 23.
The grading of 'Easy', 'Moderate', and 'Difficult' scrambles apply to ideal surface conditions only and these definitions mean something entirely different than the inexperienced person would assume so It is important to understand what may be encountered and to build experience levels carefully over time and event.
As altitude is gained aggressively, and trees begin to thin out, the summit becomes consistently visible. There is a final forest section on a plateau which provides a welcome bit of a breather on interesting and mixed trail segments before the next ascent section.
The alpine zone provides a consistently clear view to the top after exiting the forest. There are multiple route options between very aggressive and moderately easy. The end target is a fissure in the mountain face because planned time constraints on this day will prevent making the top. This first effort has been a fascinating exploratory mission and the the descent which will be achieved on a alternate route.
Reversing direction provides spectacular views of The Goat on the other side of Goat Creek in the valley to the south below Mount Rundle.
A descent view south along the canal with Goat Pond in the distance from the East End of Mount Rundle above Canmore, Alberta, Canada. Note the bridge over the canal leading to the trail-head for Ha Ling Peak.
Instead of tracking the east side of the ridge, trail segments to the right are chosen which will provide a different route down the mountain. After carefully descending several slabs, a less used trail is selected at the tree line. This is about to become a significant adventure.
Initially, the trail appears somewhat civilized but expected switchbacks do not appear and the lightly or seldom used trail, which shows no signs of recent activity, heads straight down a steep slope. There is a lot of dead fall across the trail and occasionally, thin ground cover over rock slab gives way in spite of leaning heavily on hiking poles. The descent is vigorous and exciting.
Have I found the old trail for 'sheep and goats' as referred to in Gillean Daffern's, 'Kananaskis Country Trail Guide'? Perhaps this is a climbers descent route off the south slope after the technical ascent of a north face route on Mount Rundle. Unknown but it is a lot of fun and the descent is quick.
The rustic trail makes lateral crossings over areas of rockfall. These rugged and short horizontal sections are brief reprieve in the vertical onslaught until this trail mercifully flattens out at the bottom of the valley to end in a swamp. Well, isn't this a lucky day?
Through the trees, the end target is visible and the off trail to get there is moderately challenging but short and reasonably straightforward. The swamp contains dry ridges with openings through dense brush which serve as hiking high points. The swamp contains stunningly beautiful water features and the rich forest aroma is energizing.
Emergence from forest onto the Smith-Dorrien Trail occurs slightly north of the Goat Creek Day Use Area, for a short uphill hike to the car parked beside Whitemans Pond.
The full day mission of the loop around the Daffern and Kane summits will be a future project.
In past years, with younger everything, this mission would have been pushed to get the hike done within the available time. After more than five decades of hiking, most of it in the mountains, this whole experience has little if anything to do with haste. It is about observation and appreciation and wandering and soaking up the experience. Often the most valuable moments of the hike are the ones taken to pause and look about at splendid panoramas. The mountain, like a good friend, will always be there another day.
Photographs for this post of the hike and scramble on the East End of Mount Rundle (EEOR) from Whitemans Gap above Canmore were captured on Wednesday, October 22, 2014 west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.