Mount Edith & Cory Passes

Brilliant green grasses  +  a perfectly triangulated mountain peak upthrust through the landscape the way a child would draw it, its jagged slabs wrenched and lifted upright from the clutches of the earth  +  a steep alpine meadow in full bloom  +  a peaceful and oblivious black bear  +  a series of rock pillars standing like bizarre rocky sentinels… all this made for stellar ingredients in one of my favourite hikes that we did this summer. A 15km trek, it took us up a lush mountain slope, over a rocky pass and down onto the dry side of the mountain. It was a circuit hike full of contrasts and it was spectacular!

Our day began, hiking with great friends through the forest of a mountain slope, a mere spitting distance from the Banff townsite, yet miles away from the spirit of Banff Avenue, a highly congested, highly touristed shopping street in the beautiful mountain town of Banff, Canada. The contrast didn’t escape us, and we were thrilled to have the route seemingly to ourselves.

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It’s a challenge to get the dogs posing for an automatic timer!

We followed the course of a beautiful stream with its lush mosses and almost BC-like humidity and feel. Dappled light broke through the aspen & fir tree canopy, encouraging a lot of plant growth on the forest floor, and the grasses that grew there were surprisingly long and a such brilliant emerald green. Combined with the new leaves leafing out on the trees, it was spectacular: a green-infused landscape that was a forest and a meadow all in one.

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Look  carefully to the right of this photo and you will see the black bear.

As we rounded a corner in the trail, we saw the glossy black fur of a black bear, rooting around through the grasses, feeding away on the roots and shoots and berries that grew there. The contrast of his coal-black fur and the lime green of the forest floor was mesmerizing. The scene was quiet and serene, and though we had dogs with us, we felt peaceful and at ease. In fact, the dogs didn’t even notice the bear (very unusual) and the bear took no notice of us! It was almost surreal!

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At times the trail was steep going.
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When we emerged onto the avalanche path, this is what loomed above us.

The trail emerged through the forest and headed out across steep avalanche slopes and scree fields, and through what was my absolute favourite part… a narrow path in the scree between the mountain peaks of Mount Louis and Mount Edith. It was dramatic. It was above the tree line. It was barren and rugged and ever so beautiful!

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We were heading out along the base of the snow band and in between the peaks on the left of this photo.

The dogs LOVED the spots of snow that remained, even on a hot day, at the end of June, trailside. They’d bite it, roll in it and slide down it, like kids on a toboggan hill. It was so fun to see them play. I loved Mount Louis itself (in the centre of this pic). It was such a tall, triangular, majestic peak, topping out at 2682m. Our path became a winding up & down trail that bent to the left and crossed a massive scree field between the peaks.

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We were heading around the corner and through this pass.
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Our trail  twisted and tuned through the scree along the base of the cliff.
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We are so small in this landscape!
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Heading up to the pass was steep going.

Once we entered the shadow of the mountain, we layered up. It was getting cold up there!

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Looking down into the slopes below us… it was stark and beautiful and still snowy on this late June day.
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Our trail, looking back into the valley we’d ascended, is off, snaking its way through the right of this photo, coming up and across the scree (scree is the rocky debris that has broken off the mountain cliffs above… it can be quite deep and move under your feet, sliding further down the slope, as you walk across it).
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The shape of Mount Louis is amazing!

Part of the Sawback Range, it’s a little like the Dolomites in its shape. I’m always amazed, thinking of the forces involved in turning massive rock layers that were once horizontal, up onto their end like those in this mountain! Wow.

 

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Even in this barren, high landscape there were small flowers. Can you see the wee white one in this photo? It’s smaller that a pebble, and ever so fragile with a fine, hair-like stem.
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Above us loomed rocks of the peak that looked like this… fragile, jagged fingers reaching for the sky, but large enough to leave the entire slope, and our path, in shadow.
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Here we are on the push to the pass itself. Just a few more steps to go.
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It was such an incredibly beautiful environment… this was off to the side and below us.
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Looking back down the valley we’d ascended. It was such an amazing trail.

This pic gives a sense of the immensity of this incredible landscape! And if you look closely, you can see the trail, snaking off into the distance on the right hand side of the photo.

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Some of the rock formations, just as we were entering the pass itself, were so neat.
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They call the valley we’d just hiked up through “Gargoyle Valley.” Seeing these rocky sentinels guarding the pass, you can see why.
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And then we were there! This is the view over the pass to the other side of the mountains.

The Rundle Range with its slanted, skyward reaching slabbed peaks is off to the far left. If you’ve seen promotional photos of Banff, you’ve seen this mountain and its recognizable ramp-like shape. Then come the green slopes of Sulphur Mountain in the middle (a gondola can take you up to its peak). I loved the way the valleys and peaks stretched out as far as the eye could see from this spot. The slopes of those valleys can look so graceful, from a distance.

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A perfect place to have a picnic lunch (with tea & chocolate, of course!) and orient ourselves to the contours of the landscape on the map.

We came out at Cory Pass and stopped to have lunch, taking in the incredible views. We’d gained 1000m of elevation and, feeling on top of the world, could see Banff and Sulphur Mountain, far below us.

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After a wonderful lunch break, we headed back down the more popular in-and-out trail (we had made this trip a loop by doing the more difficult scree trail first), down a knee-punishing grade on the much drier side of the mountain.
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Looking back in this photo, you can see the pass… the low point between the peaks, that we’d emerged through. Just above the green trees at the V-shaped dip is where we stopped to have lunch.
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As we descended, the flowers and grasses got bigger and the splashes of colour were so beautiful!
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The forest on this side of the mountain was much drier than the forest we encountered on our way in, but it was well built and good going.
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The Banff townsite lies at the base of the mountain in this picture, and we could see it through a break in the trees on the way down.

The mountains looked different from down slope, about two thirds of the way down the mountain (that’s the Rundle Range in the middle… seen from the backside like this, I always think it looks like a cresting surf wave, just starting to break). The green snake in the middle of the pic is the Bow River.

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A summit/pass hike like this can be hot going for the dogs. At the end, they loved a dip in the stream at the bottom of the trail.

This was such a super fun day. Just over 15km, 1000m of elevation gain, and about 6 hours to do, with breaks. A terrific circuit hike. 


Click here for more terrific hikes in Banff National ParkAnd check out more hikes from Canada and our adventures around the world here.

7 Comments on “Mount Edith & Cory Passes

  1. Just wow. What a gorgeous place to take a walk. I am overwhelmed by the scenery merely reading this post and seeing these wonderful photos. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Sheri. What do you think of doing this hike as a reverse of what you did, by going up the dry side and coming down through the scree section? How is the footing if we descent through the scree section? We don’t mind steep hikes but generally avoid loose-footing trails. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I wouldn’t do it the reverse way. On the dry side there is a moderate scramble that you need to do to get over a small rocky cliff band where you use your hands and feet. It is always easier and safer to scramble up something than down.

        That being said, the majority of people ONLY do the dry side as an “in and out” hike for both directions, seeing the scree trail and the rocky sentinels only from the pass, so it is certainly do-able. But missing the scree trail would be a shame as it’s the most dramatic part of the hike, with Mount Louis looming above you.

        The trail is also not that loose as it has been packed down by foot traffic over time. It really wasn’t that bad.

        Liked by 1 person

      • One other thing… do you hike with poles? On scree, we find they really do help… both with balance and because it’s like you have 4 feet on the ground so you have much better footing. You’d think, because they can’t grip or dig in to stable ground, they’d make it harder, but they don’t. Poles are not necessary for this hike’s scree, but they are for Cirque Peak (see my very first blog post) and for another hike, Guinn’s Pass, that I plan to talk about later on.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for the info. Yes, we always have poles with us on a hike. I’ll check out your other post. Thanks again.

        Like

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