July 20, 2021. An excellent day of scrambling, tagging the 3 summits of Mount Edith.
Region: Banff National Park. Traditional territory of the Tsuu T’ina, Stoney, Ktunaxa, and Blackfoot First Nations
Distance: 15 km
Total Ascent: 1350 m
Elevation of Objective: 2554 m
Total Time: 10h 30m
My GPS went haywire where we lost line-of-sight with the sky, so there are some estimations in the data above
The distance is a little longer than other reports because we had to walk to the trailhead from the Hwy 1A closure
Ascent info accounts for gain and loss of elevation between summits
Regarding time: we struck a very leisurely pace. Kane’s time estimate is 6-10 hours
An opportunity arose for me to join a group of scramblers taking on Mount Edith – one of Kane’s “moderate to difficult” scrambles and one with a reputation for some thrilling terrain. Given that I’m usually solo, and therefore avoiding difficult trips, I was glad to join the group. Mount Edith has 3 distinct summits and each has its own personality. The third summit has a reputation for being difficult, but we found that most difficulties were avoided by paying attention to route-finding and supporting one another during down-climbs
Access is via the Cory Pass Trail, which departs the Fireside picnic area in Banff National Park. Click here for the Google Map. Fireside is a short distance off Hwy 1A (Bow Valley Parkway) but It turned out that there was a seasonal closure of Hwy 1A to motorized traffic, so we parked next to the closed gate and walked to the trailhead. This added about 1 km to the start and end of the day. Following the Cory Pass Trail involved a sustained steep climb through forest up to a long north-south ridge extending from the main bulk of Mount Edith. The trail then climbs more gently in a long traverse going beneath all three summits of Mount Edith, eventually reaching Cory Pass a less than a kilometre west and 200 m below the northern summit.
From there we started the scramble. We went directly up the ridge to the cliff bands below the north summit. Breaching the cliffs were rock chimneys on the northwest and southern aspects. I went to the south aspect where we found the twin chimneys that I’d seen on many trip reports. Since we’d be returning the same way I ditched my poles and pack here to make maneuvering through the narrow cracks easier. At the top of the chimney I turned right and scrambled some moderate terrain to the top. Here we found what Kane describes as a “notch” – a narrow rocky chasm that can be jumped over or circumvented. Jumping was quite popular among the group members. I could just imagine myself twisting an ankle or something so I just went around.
After time spent admiring the view, particularly of Mount Louis to the north, we descended back down the chimneys and traversed around western side of the northern summit to a connecting ridge heading towards the central summit. Some moderate scrambling took us up the first rocky pitch and eventually brought us to the top of a steep southeast facing gully pointing toward the south summit. We stayed left and ascended another bit of moderate rock to reach the central summit.
We then retraced our steps to the top of the gully and very carefully descended. This was potentially the most dangerous part of the trip because of the steep terrain and abundant loose rock. It was best to stay generally to the right. The bottom of the gully brought us out at the col connecting the central and southern summits. We ascended towards a broad gully below a tunnel or keyhole through the rock. Once through the tunnel, we were on the western aspect of the cliffs below the south summit. From here we proceeded south. Numerous cairns were present which helped guide us as we generally traversed and ascended. There’s clearly more than one way to go here, based on the scattered cairns. We then reached and ascended over rock “flakes” – giant flat slabs of strata tilting away from the main part of the mountain. The final obstacle beyond there was either a climb into and out of a small rocky fissure or an exposed walk along the top of the wall adjacent to the fissure. I went through the fissure, and there was a bit of tricky scrambling coming out the other end because of some overhanging rock. After that we were on the south ridge and we climbed to the summit. Smoke from BC wildfires made for hazy views, but the rocky terrain of the mountain itself and the chance too look back along the line of summits we had visited made for some great pictures.
To descend, we returned to the col between the centre and south summits and descended to the Cory Pass trail. There were visible trails to follow which first go right, then left around an outcrop. Below that level the route went straight down a gully before deviating right again to avoid some cliffs. A cairn marked the spot to begin deviating.
In getting ready for this trip, I found that Harlan Fox’s video on YouTube was especially helpful. It featured lots of useful information and no (for want of a better term) posing. Thanks, Harlan!
Click on the pictures in the gallery below to access full-resolution images.