Sentry Mountain

June 2, 2021. The easy scrambling route to a popular summit in the Crowsnest Pass.

  • Region: Crowsnest Pass. Traditional territory of the Ktunaxa and Blackfoot First Nations
  • Distance: 11 km
  • Total Ascent: 1155 m
  • Elevation of Objective: 2420 m
  • Time: 4h 43m

For my first trip to Sentry Mountain, I decided to use the eastern slopes approach which Matthew Clay describes on his blog. It’s also the route which Nugara has in his new book Popular Day Hikes: The Castle and Crowsnest. Typically, scramblers use the west ridge approach but that involves crossing a creek and I didn’t feel like doing that on a hot spring day when the flow was potentially problematic. The eastern route proved to be easy to access and provided me with an excellent day on the mountain.

A note on naming: This peak is sometimes called Mount Sentry instead of Sentry Mountain. I’ve gone with the latter since that’s the name that appears in Kane’s book, Nugara’s book, and on the Adventure Guide and Topographic Map of Southwest Alberta which I picked up a few years ago from the tourist information centre in Coleman. Some online maps, including those from Garmin, give the name Sentry Mountain to the peak sitting on the ridge between this peak and Chinook Peak. I’m not sure why that is. In scrambling circles that summit is typically referred to as “Ostracized Peak” – a name which So Nakagawa bestowed upon it several years ago.

Access is from Hwy 3. Driving west from Coleman, just before the highway gets to Crowsnest Lake, there’s an unsigned left turn onto a parallel road. This used to be the access point for a now decommissioned tourist information centre. Turn left off the highway, then immediately right (the only way you can go now, the parking lot to the left is blocked by barriers). About 400 m along this road there’s a barbed wire gate to the south. This apparently used to have a sign on it regarding contacting a leaseholder for access. That is no longer the case and I found it marked with OHV symbols. This is the start of the route. You can park off to the side here or go a little further down the road to another parking area. Click here to see the spot on Google Maps. The gate is not locked, but held closed by some wire loops. Undoing the loops might be a little tricky. Remember to close the gate again when you’re through.

I followed the road up along a broad switchback, past an open barbed wire gate, and finally to a broad east-west cut line where there was a Texas gate. If I had been paying attention and looked to my right as I went through the first open gate I would have seen a narrow cutline heading due south. This would have taken me to the broad cutline in a more direct fashion, though I only lost about 5 minutes by missing it. I did use this narrow cutline on the way back. Once at the broad cutline, I couldn’t remember whether I was supposed to go through the Texas gate so the barbed wire fence was on my right, or if I was supposed to follow along the old road at the edge of the cutline, thus keeping the fence on my left. I decided to take the opportunity to go through the gate. This ended up working out fine, though staying on the road then passing through the barbed wire later on would have allowed move faster.

I walked along in the broad cutline for about 500-600 meters then followed along its right side as it curved south. At this point there was a trail visible in the stones and dirt which was reasonably easy to follow. It eventually entered the trees alongside the clearing and passed through the woods for a short time before emerging back into the open. Here the uphill terrain to the right was also in the open, and I could see a track heading straight up. This ascent was fairly short and I found myself on a low berm which ran in a north-south. Walking on the apex of this berm the views started to open up. I eventually made my way to what Nugara calls Sentry Hill – a clear high point with excellent views all around. This, incidentally, would make for a fine destination for anyone not inclined to ascend the entire mountain – it’s only about 3.5 km from the parking area with about 360 m elevation gain.

From this point the eastern face of Sentry Mountain is clearly in view. I began to ascend, heading to a drainage that still had some snow in it. I kept to the right of this drainage on my way up and boot-skied it on the way down. The ascent is quite steep and leads to a rock face. When I reached there I found a small cave which sits a short distance up the face. I checked out the cave entrance, which was absolutely carpeted by animal droppings, so not really that pleasant a place to visit. After climbing down from the cave I continued up the slope beyond the rock face. The summit rocks came into view above and to the right, but I bore left towards the low point of the col between Mount Sentry and Ostracized Peak. Once on the col, I turned right and enjoyed some easy scrambling to get to the summit. It took 2 hours 24 minutes to ascend.

From the moment I got to the col I was treated to amazing views, culminating in a final northward panorama upon reaching the summit. I had a look at the summit register and noted that the day before Matthew Hobbs from http://www.on-top.ca had visited the summit. Several others had ascended in the previous week, but I had the mountain to myself on that day. My return followed the same route except for using the narrow cutline as mentioned above. I found that the cave was a useful landmark for directing my descent from the col. When I was on the berm looking for the place to descend back to the trail through the woods, I noted that the trail on top of the berm carried on. I suspect I could have just followed it to another spot to descend back to the broad cutline.

Click on the pictures in the gallery below to access full-sized images.

Route overview looking west. The red circle indicates the spot my GPS went a little crazy because I entered the cave mouth.
A closer look at the approach road. On the way up I took the curving road to the broad cutline. On the way back I used the straight path through the narrow cutline.
This is a close-up of the area of the berm. The dotted red line shows the path I probably could have taken instead.
The main ascent of the mountain. The circle shows where the GPS went haywire because I visited the cave. Nugara’s Sentry Hill is at the bottom of the eastern slopes.
The gate at the start of the route. Sentry Mountain’s north aspect is visible in the background.
Chinook Peak, Ostracized Peak, and Sentry Mountain.
A waning moon hung over the ridge in the morning.
The open gate. If I had been paying attention I would have noticed the narrow cutline heading off to the right from the near side of this gate.
Past the Texas gate and into the broad cutline heading west. The barbed wire fence is on my right. You can see there’s a dirt road on the other side of it. It’s better to walk the road then cross over the fence at a convenient spot where the road peters out (carefully).
Here’s where the road peters out. There are scraps of orange flagging on the fence, perhaps indicating that this is where you cross over to the left of the fence if you haven’t already. I do wonder if I could have just climbed the berm here instead of heading left for a while first. In any event I headed left here and followed a visible path through the rocks.
The broad cutline curves left (south), and shows signs of trees starting to regrow. The faint trail enters the trees on the right for a short distance.
The path emerges from the trees and the slope to the right is suddenly clear. I climbed up here to the top of the berm.
Walking south along the top of the berm, I soon reached Sentry Hill. Chinook Peak is in the background.
There are some great views from Sentry Hill. For someone not interested in climbing the mountain, this alone would be a pretty nice destination.
Sentry Mountain’s east face. I ascended along the snow-filled drainage at the centre of the picture. Per Nugara’s advice, I stayed just to the right of it and I ignored the path through the scree.
A prolonged uphill slog eventually got me up to the rock face, where this small cave was readily apparent. The cave interior wasn’t anything too interesting. I just went to the mouth and looked in. There was still some snow in there. The cave seems to plunge downward and there was daylight coming from somewhere below. Copious animal droppings were inside.
Beyond the rock face with the cave, the scree field below the summit is in full view. The summit is on the right, but the best way up is to head left towards the col between Sentry and Ostracized.
Upon reaching the col I looked left and was treated to this spectacular view.
Looking right (north) from the col. A short ridge walk to the summit.
There were no difficulties ascending from here. The ridge offers a few chances to scramble, nothing exposed or difficult.
Fun and easy scrambling on the ridge. If there were a strong west wind blowing I’d have stayed off the ridge-top and stayed to the left.
The summit cairn on Mount Sentry. Mount Phillips and Tecumseh are across the valley to the left. Seven Sisters and Crowsnest Mountain are to the right.
A little more expansive look to the north. Mount Erickson is at the left. Crowsnest Lake is in the valley bottom with Crowsnest Ridge and its telcom tower on the far side. Phillips, Tecumseh, Seven Sisters, and Crowsnest Mountain all visible again. Some of the High Rock Range behind Tecumseh is also visible. I am not completely sure of the names of the distant snow-capped peaks to the left.
Panorama to the west. The distant BC peaks draw the eye. The rocky ridge in the immediate foreground is the top part of the west ridge ascent route. i
Another look at the terminus of the west ridge.
Telephoto shot of one of those distant peaks.
Panorama looking south. The big peaks of the Flathead Range – Chinook Peak, Ostracized Peak, and Mount Ptolemy occupy most of the view. Little Mount McLaren is at the far left. In the distant background on the left is Prairie Bluff/Corner Mountain. The view in this direction was magnificent and I probably took about 20 variations of this shot.
A closer look at Mount Ptolemy.
Chinook Peak
Ostracized Peak
Between Chinook and Ostracized I could see part of Andy Good Peak and Ptolemy SE5.
Obligatory close-up of Crowsnest Mountain.
One more look at the amazing view to the south.
Time to head back down.

8 thoughts on “Sentry Mountain

  1. Thank you once again for sharing your hikes and all the pictures. I truly enjoy reading about your expeditions.

    Like

  2. One more great post from you

    You always have some great photos of various peaks and ridges. I really enjoy scrolling through your posts.

    The close-up of Crowsnest Mountain looks really nice and the view to the south, as you also say, is amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Olympus! I’m going to see if I can climb one or more of those mountains to the south later in the summer.

      Like

  3. Par, thanks for the great write up and pictures! We followed your route up Sentry and it was a great day!!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s