Cascade Mountain, Alberta – Climbing a “Rockies” icon
Standing guard at the far end of Banff Ave is the imposing pyramid of rock known as Cascade Mountain. This behemoth overlooks the town site of Banff in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. Tourists are satisfied from this vantage point, snapping pictures and marveling at the beauty and symmetry of this iconic Rockies peak
However if you are anything like myself, you can’t resist the temptation of a good scramble and challenge which this mountain certainly provides. If you are looking to escape the hustle of the main drag in town then lace up your hiking boots and get ready for an incredible alpine experience.
The hike up Cascade is noted as a full-day (8hr) round trip. It may take some longer as this hike is a 18km return trek with an elevation gain of 1325 m or (4346 ft) to reach the 2,998 m (9,836 foot) summit. Before starting your journey one should register at the local tourist information center located in town and pick up a map of the scramble.
The trail head starts at the Mt Norquay Ski Lodge, which is a quick drive from town up into the mountains along a steep winding road. From here the trail follows the base of the ski hill and then up though a series of switchbacks for the better part of 2 1/2hrs.
This portion of the hike offers occasional views down the valley and back towards the runs of the Norquay Ski area. Your efforts will soon be rewarded as you eventually exit the trees and upon the ” Cascade Amphitheatre”. A massive crescent shaped scare – the result of a once present hanging glacier that would have clung to the towering rocks walls that you now stand facing, rising towards to the sky.
The clearly visible ridge to the right is the route to the summit which is also visible down at the base of the Amphitheatre. Climbing this ridge offers tremendous views no matter which way you decide to look, just remember to keep an eye on your feet as there are a lot of loose rocks here. Many well known peaks can be spotted from this vantage point – Mt Rundle, Storm Mt, Mt Ball and the Fairholme Range just to name a few.
The steep steady climb past the false peak to the true summit is at times difficult because of loose rock, steep terrain and of course elevation gain. Once at the top all is forgotten with a panoramic view of the Bow Valley, Lake Minnewanka – the largest lake in Banff National Park, and such monstrous peaks as Alymer Mt and the snow capped Mt Temple towards Lake Louise, some 60km in the distance.
If you become tired and overworked from this scramble might I suggest you cool off in the snow patches near the peak. These refreshing patches of snow can last well into the summer months and offer your inner child a chance to have a snow ball fight in mid summer – on top of a mountain mind you – how COOL is that?
Before returning from the same route take a moment to think about the incredible forces of mother nature that shaped these Rockie Mountains and remind yourself how lucky you are to be experiencing some of Canada’s most inspiring scenery.