Rundle (East end to highpoint)

Rundles from east end

Mount Rundle is a long ridge running between Banff and Canmore, separating the Bow and Spray Rivers, with eight numbered summits. While its most photographed part is the Banff end, the highpoint is actually Rundle 3, near the center. There are trails up the east and west ends, and the full Rundle traverse is a popular enough scramble (often with a rope for rappels) that there is a decent use trail along much of the ridge. Because Canmore is home to a bunch of Olympic athletes, I can’t touch any of the nearby records, including the Rundle traverse. And because I didn’t think ahead to stash a bike, and didn’t want to jog the 12-mile dirt road back up from Banff to the Goat Creek trailhead, I ended up just traversing Rundles 8 through 3, which are mostly just a walk.

Dawn on Ha Ling

I drove back up the nasty washboard dirt road out of Canmore toward Spray Lakes and parked at the Goat Creek trailhead. Mine was practically the only car, and I technically wasn’t supposed to park before 7:00 AM, but I ignored the silly rule. Walking back along the road a bit, I easily found the unsigned trail up the east end of Rundle, and began hiking up through the woods with a purpose. I followed various braids of use trail, turning to admire sunrise on Ha Ling and the northern Goat Range behind me. It promised to be a warm day, so I was glad to get the climbing out of the way mostly in the shade.

Rundles from east end

With a bit of a scramble near the top, I reached the east end of Rundle, and looked north along miles of gently-rolling ridge to the craggy highpoint. Fortunately the crest is fairly wide, and there is a decent use trail, so I made easy progress, even jogging some sections. The Bow Valley has long been Canada’s thoroughfare through the Rockies, and there was a steady sound of distant traffic from the east, as well as the intermittent whistle and rumble of Canadian Pacific trains, visible winding their way parallel to the highway. Between the sound and the use trail, Rundle felt much more urban and less wild than the other peaks I had done here, though not as domesticated as Ha Ling or anything behind Boulder.

Rundle 3 up close

I counted down the numbered Rundles, passing a weather monitoring station on one, while Rundle 3 loomed larger and more intimidating ahead. I had not bothered to read anything about it, beyond knowing that it was some sort of scramble from this side, and that there was a descent route into the valley to its southwest. At the final saddle before the thousand-foot climb to its summit, I found bits of trail traversing left, as seemed natural. The route works its way up by traversing left along slanted benches to find breaks in the cliffs, then climbing back up and sometimes right toward the ridge. Most of the climbing is straightforward class 2-3, but often on outward-sloping ledges covered in gravel. At one point I stemmed up a vertical chimney, which proved fun but completely unnecessary. Toward the top, I found some exposed scrambling by staying right along the crest, but this may also have been gratuitous.

North to Banff

The summit register showed several people doing the traverse, mostly much faster than myself. To the north, the character of the mountain changes, with the ridge over Rundles 2 and 1 being split by more cliff bands extending down the west side. I gather that this is the crux of the traverse, and though it can be scrambled with some cleverness, many people rappel in a few places. Rundle 1 looked relatively close, and has a popular use trail descending to Banff, so I was tempted to continue, both to descend quickly on a trail and to get “points” for the traverse. I looked at the map on my phone, though, and saw that it was around twelve miles of tedious trail from that end back to the trailhead, versus only about four if I descended directly. I regretted not having stashed my bike at the north end, since that would have made the traverse the obvious choice.

Descent bowl

Returning south, I stayed below the crest to the west, and found somewhat easier scrambling. I followed bits of use trail to near the saddle, then zig-zagged through the lower layers, seeking clean slabs and sufficiently deep scree. The terrain below was, unfortunately, rubble too large and stable for plunge-stepping, so the remainder of the descent to the creek was slow and tiring. Once at the creek, I drank some cold water bubbling out of the limestone, then took off boulder-hopping the dry bed, ducking the occasional fallen tree. I eventually found a trail on the right side, but lost it when the bank became too steep, returning to the creekbed. When the water reemerged, I took to the right side, trying to find a decent path, but mostly just struggling through shin-high krummholtz. After an unexpectedly long and unpleasant descent, I finally emerged on the trail/road just as two mountain bike bros blazed by on their way to Banff. Fortunately I only had four or so miles of trail, because it was wide and dusty, monotonous and mostly lacking views. I jogged the flats and even some of the climbs, returning to a mostly-full parking lot at Goat Creek. If I had it to do again, I would stash a bike at Goat Creek and start at Banff, so I would avoid the tiring off-trail dismount, and bomb the net-downhill trail on the return.

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