Scramble Mount Rae

Added by James Hueser

Distance: 8 km (5 miles) round trip. Elevation gain: 1050 metres (3410 feet). Duration: 7 hours. Fourth tallest mountain in Kananaskis -- 10550 feet. Big 360 views of Kananaskis. Exhilarating scramble.

Mount Rae has given me the slip a couple times before, so I opted to take it on solo in the hopes of getting a successful attempt in. Damn, this is a good one.

Park at the Highwood Pass parking lot, and start off on the Ptarmigan Cirque Trail. Forested until you get to the cirque, check beforehand for any bear closures. The cirque is nothing to scoff at, but keep heading northwest through the cirque and leave the crowds behind.

The trail continues past the maintained trail and hugs the northern slope of the mountain -- it's pretty obvious until you start getting to the steep part of the scree slope. You'll notice once you're on the scree slope. If your balance is sound, the rock ribs make for an easier ascent rather than the one step forward, two steps back approach on the scree. If you get discouraged on the scree, just keep going -- the view from the col is going to blow your mind. I get chills just thinking about the first time I reached the col and unveiled the other side of the mountain.

Mount Rae is the mountain to the northwest and the only way is up. The paths heading to the top are boot beaten, but noticeable; however, a surprising amount of them take you right to the edge of the ridge, which is a view in itself, but by no means a way to summit this behemoth. The general idea is to stick to the original path, and work your way to just below the ridge and skirt around that heading north. At one point - marked by a cairn! - you'll have to descend down a little bit of a chimney in order to ascend an adjacent chimney. It gets confusing around here, and it takes some courage and some expertise in route finding to get a route to the top. Once up the chimney, the idea is to still skirt around the base of the ridge - some ascending and descending required - until you reach a slabby part right before the summit. Once up the slab, it's a short - and skinny - ridge walk to the summit. Once you're there, congratulations! You're on top of the fourth highest mountain in Kananaskis, and the tallest mountain that can be seen from Calgary!

I just can't say enough good things about what you'll see from the top. It truly is a sea of mountains like you've (maybe) never seen before, and offers enough of a challenge to get the heart racing.

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Tags

Photography
Hiking
Easy Parking
Scenic

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Overall rating: 

Great scramble

Just did this scramble this past weekend (June 26th 2016) with fresh snow and some ice on the rock - this increases the difficulty rating by a magnitude! Dry, solid footholds are key if you take the routes up and down chimneys on the way up. But on the way down, the ridge doesn't look nearly as bad of an option.

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49.585742,-115.757292, Canada

Cranbrook / St. Eugene Koa

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