For my second outing in Canmore this month the objective was Middle Sister, the central peak of Canmore’s iconic Three Sisters. The route is known to be a grind. Following the 2013 floods the approach trail along Stewart Creek was destroyed. Instead of a walk along a trail, the approach now involves navigating boulders and rubble along a creek bed for 3-4 km. There’s no way to do this quickly going up or coming down and it has been characterized as a slog. On the other hand, the views from the top are known to be excellent. The weather forecast called for rain in the morning with clearing near noon. We decided to go for it. It was, indeed, a slog. But the views really were excellent.
The route starts just east of an area of active housing development next to Stewart Creek Golf and Country Club. We parked where the Three Sisters Parkway ends. Click here for the Google map. We followed the gravel road southeast for a little over a kilometre, until we passed a roped-off fork heading west. Just past there, in a small clearing, a trail headed off into the trees to the west. We followed this path until it intersected Stewart Creek. This area of the creek bed had been cleared of rubble and there was a small dam across the creek. We crossed over the creek onto a well defined trail on the north side. This trail went through the trees then very soon led us to the rubble and boulders of the creek bed upstream of the cleared area.
From there we followed the creek. Here and there were bits of trail marked by flagging in the trees next to the creek, but most of the trip was in the creek bed. It started to rain on us, eventually getting to the point where we were soaked. There wasn’t much shelter to be found but we did find a boulder that afforded us some relief from the rain. Eventually the rain let up and we were able to continue. We eventually made it up into the rocky bowl below the south face of Big Sister. From there we hooked around the end of a cliff band and ascended north east until we reached the col between Big and Middle Sister. Beyond there we continued to the summit. No scrambling was involved, just a laborious uphill hike.
The views from the top were excellent. The rain clouds had moved away by the time we reached the summit and the wind had picked up a bit. Despite having appropriate gear, we were all still damp from the rain so we were very cold during our time on the summit. After taking in the views for a while I was happy to descend and get out of the wind. Between the weather, the long, challenging day, and the views from the top this trip felt somewhat epic. We definitely felt like we’d accomplished something. It’s just not something I’d want to do again.
Click on the pictures in the gallery below to access higher resolution images.