Yamnuska Summit

Yamnuska Summit is one of the first mountains in the Rocky Mountain range between Calgary, Alberta and Banff National Park. You can see its sheer, wide face and underlying scree from the Trans-Canada Highway.

It is a popular, accessible, challenging hike and scramble to the summit. I have reached the summit three times with three different hiking partners, and each time it took between three and four hours. The weather cooperated each time with air so calm you could actually set a piece of paper on a rock and it wouldn’t fly away. I think I was lucky three times and certainly don’t expect such conditions.

Locally it’s probably best-known for a short traverse that requires you to shimmy along a rock face while holding a chain. It can be intimidating, but aside from requiring a small manoeuvre to get on and off the chain, it actually feels quite easy while you’re on it.

My climbing partner this time was Keri. It was our first real hike together, and her first scramble. We tackled it together, stopping often along the way to soak in the views. We took a few quiet moments together at the summit, giving the crowd of about eight who were there ahead of us a chance to begin their descent.

The spring of 2016 followed an unseasonably warm winter and I found myself at the peak in April under early summer conditions. Clouds rolled in as we scrambled to the summit and we found ourselves at the peak, looking down at the clouds below.

For two prairie kids to be standing above the clouds is a breathtaking moment.

As you walk under the face of Yamnuska toward the scree that is the path down, it feels as if the mountain is leaning over you like a schoolyard bully.

The scree is incredibly steep but if you can keep your balance, it feels like you’re bounding on clouds. Each step covers miles of terrain and counts towards at least a few metres against the 900m elevation, undoing all the hard work on the scramble to the peak. We laughed the whole way down.

This is an excellent day-hike, accessible from the Trans-Canada Highway. It sits outside Banff National Park so even when National Parks aren’t free entry like they are in 2017 (Happy birthday, Canada!), there’s no charge aside from your gas to drive to the trailhead.