Trailhead: Park at the Yamnuska parking lot located 45 minutes west of Calgary on the #114 Seebe turnoff. Bow Valley Provincial Park.
Description: Yamnuska Mountain is located on the edge of the Rocky Mountains and foothills in Bow Valley Provincial Park. It’s the first mountain on your right when entering the Canadian Rockies from Calgary. It’s most prominent feature is it’s wide south facing 152m cliff face that is very popular with local rock climbers.
Locate the trail towards Mount Yamnuska continue on about 1/2km until you reach a signed junction that reads climbers to the left and hikers to the right. Hikers and scramblers have two options for summiting. If you’re afraid of heights and want to avoid dangerous exposure then take the easier west left side route (sign shows climbers) that traverses along the bottom of the cliff face and then works it’s way up around the backside towards the summit. Climbers take this route however they branch of this trail towards several climbing routes.
Be prepared for a strenuous grind up several steep and loose scree slopes. Once you arrive near the top of the summit ridge avoid all temptation to look over as a fall from here would lead down the 152m cliff face.
The second option is for experienced scramblers only and requires caution. Route finding skills and being comfortable while traversing small cliff ledges is a must. Avoid Mount Yamnuska if it is snow covered. When you reach the signed intersection showing climbers left and hikers (scramblers) right, take the right hand route. The trail works its way up through an aspen and spruce forest towards the bottom of the east side of the cliff face. From here you will see a large cut in the rock with a boulder blocking the middle section.
Work your way around the right side of the boulder then through the cut. Keep following a well worn scree trail up the slope then pass between a spine like buttress. Keep on the trail as it gains elevation until you come to a cliff with a bolted chain on your left. This narrow ledge is approximately 35ms long with a bolted chain that one can hang onto while traversing the ledge. The ledge disappears in spots and requires a side step to the next foot hold.
Once you traverse the chain ledge locate the trail again and work your way across and up to the summit. Route finding skills are needed here and you may find yourself above very steep loose slopes that lead to cliffs further below. There are no chains here so once again caution is needed. Views from the summit are stunning. Seebe dam and the Bow River are in view below. The prairies open towards the east and the Rocky Mountains rise to the west.
Expect to see climbers top out over the summit ridge. From the summit the fastest way down is by the west route. Follow the summit trail down the steep scree slopes that lead down the northwest side of the mountain. You’ll quickly arrive at a small spine that would make a nice bivy site. The trail turns left here as it descends around the west side of the cliff face. Stay on the well worn trail as it works it’s away along the bottom of the cliff face. Not a good idea to stop here due to falling rock.
Keep going avoiding a few smaller trails that drop down to the valley on your right. Lots of fun here as you run and hop straight down loose scree. The trail then enters the tree’s again and arrives at the signed intersection. Follow your way down to the parking lot. Interesting to note that the official mountains name is Mount Laurie. Before 1961 the mountain was called Yamnuska, derived from the Stoney Indian word “yamnathka” that describes steep cliffs or “the flat faced mountain”. The Stoney Indians renamed the mountain in honor of the founder of the Indian Association of Alberta, John Laurie.