June 1, 2019. An enjoyable scramble to a pair of low peaks in the Canmore area.
Distance: 8.6 km according to TopoMaps, 6.4 km according to MotionX – I can’t explain the large discrepancy, but 6.4 km is closer to the distance reported by other blogs
Total Ascent: 1,023 m
Elevation of Objective: 2,123 m
Hiking Time: 5h 40m
I had the chance to join some nice people from the Calgary Outdoor Recreation Association to do some scrambling in the Canmore area. The objective for the day was Anklebiter Ridge. This low peak boasts nice views of the Bow Valley and is easily accessed from the trailhead of the popular Grotto Canyon hike. The ascent can be done as just a steep uphill hike, but there are abundant scrambling options as well. The rock is mostly solid and grippy limestone, resulting in a very enjoyable climb. Once at the top, some parties return via the same route, but we descended the other side of the ridge, making our way to an adjacent low peak called Bluemat Hill. From there we descended through a treed ridge down to the highway and walked a short distance (about 800m) back to the parking area. Everything after the summit of Anklebiter involved some route-finding and bushwhacking. A compass or (preferably) a GPS is highly recommended.
The route begins at the Grotto Canyon trailhead. There’s a large parking lot a short distance west of Exshaw on highway 1A which is well signed and easy to find. We followed the Grotto Canyon trail for a very short distance, then followed an obvious but un-signed fork that headed off to the right. At present (2019), this fork departs the main trail just before a little blue sign directing those heading to Grotto Canyon to continue straight forward across a creek bed. After the fork, we continued until we encountered the foot of Anklebiter’s southwest ridge and began to climb.
Route-finding for this part of the trip was not difficult. The route is simply a steady climb up the ridge. Frequent rocky outcrops allow for some fun scrambling on solid rock with minimal exposure. Adjacent to these outcrops were options for simple steep uphill hiking. The ridge leads to a false summit shortly before concluding at the true summit.
From the summit there were lovely views south across the Bow Valley, as well as north and east along Exshaw Ridge. Gap Peak rose to the northwest, on the other side of a col from Anklebiter’s summit.
After enjoying the views, we dropped over the east side of the ridge and lost some elevation as we traversed towards the summit of Bluemat hill. An exact route is hard to describe since we were in trees and sometimes bushwhacking. Our leader had a GPS map in hand as we proceeded. It has to be said that getting off-route here would be mostly annoying rather than dangerous, but if you didn’t have a GPS or competency with compass and map, you could get lost.
Bluemat Hill boasts some more nice views, and allows you to look back and get a better look at Anklebiter Ridge. The most interesting thing about this location were the remains of the enigmatic Bluemat Cabin. It’s not clear to me who built a little cabin way up here, but it has burned down. A geocacher captured some pictures of it before its demise.
Thereafter, we descended the ridge down towards the highway. Again, there was route-finding and bushwhacking involved. I’d advise against any urge to descend into the gully since it seems to be choked with deadfall.
Overall, this was a great day out. Southern Alberta had been cloaked in smoke from late spring wildfires in the north, but aside from a mild haze Canmore wasn’t impacted. If bushwhacking and route-finding aren’t your cup of tea (if I hadn’t been with a group I would not have been having a good time on the descent), an out-and-back trip to the summit of Anklebiter would definitely be worthwhile.
Click on the pictures below for full-sized images.