The Big One 2019: Mount Assiniboine and Section C of the Great Divide Trail

The Big Hike 2019: Mount Assiniboine

I would love to hike more but taking care of family still holds me back. Last summer I planned to hike Section A of the Great Divide Trail (Waterton Lakes National Park to the Crowsnest Pass), but my hiking partner had to back out last minute… so I visited Haida Gwaii instead. A decent tradeoff, but not a hike.

This year I am working on a plan that involves many other hikers, so hopefully even if a few back out I’ll have some people to go with. And the destination: Mount Assiniboine!

No, I won’t be climbing it. That’s a little too technical for me (and I have a rather substantial fear of heights) but I’d love to see it up close, especially since it is nestled in between national parks in the Canadian Rockies, and absolutely bereft of road access… the only people who get to see it are those with the means to fly, or those with the feet to walk!

I have a plan worked out to take us from Kananaskis Lakes through the park and finishing at Sunshine Village in Banff – 7 days of hiking peaking out at 25km per day… though most days will be shorter. This amounts to most of section C of the Great Divide Trail, and probably the most developed section of the whole trail, so definitely the most amenities. An example: only two of our six campsites won’t have pit toilets, and only one won’t have steel-sided food caches to use! Despite the amenities, there will still be a lot of elevation gain – we will pass through three alpine passes before we get to the end: Palliser Pass, Wonder Pass and Citadel Pass.

I’ll lay out the itinerary if you’re interested, read on!

Day 1

Turbine Canyon: borrowed from Jenny’s Mountain Adventures – check her blog out!

Arrive at Kananaskis Lakes, and set off up the trail to the north, towards North Kananaskis Pass. Camp at its foot, Turbine Canyon Campground. 20km.

Day 2

Crest North Kananaskis Pass and the Great Divide (2400m, 7874 feet) and enter British Columbia, descend to the Palliser River, camp at the Palliser Pass Campground. 21km.

Day 3

Conquer Palliser Pass (2084m, 6837 ft) , re-entering Alberta, look down on the backcountry of Banff National Park and observe Mount King Albert and Mount Queen Elizabeth on the left. Proceed down the valley to Spray Lake, then past to camp the night in Banff – specifically at Big Springs Campground. 24km, our longest day.

Day 4

Courtesy of Albertawow.com

Head up to the Wonder Pass/Assiniboine Pass junction and hang a left to cruise by Marvel Lake. Then turn north and begin the ascent up Wonder Pass (2380m) with Mount Assiniboine on our left. Crossing the Pass, we will once again conquer the Great Divide and enter into BC – Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. Camp at Lake Magog. 17km.

Day 5

Maintain our camp at Lake Magog and go day-hiking. Two possibilities – if we get up early enough and have the energy we might do both! 1. Nub Peak (2743m, 9000 feet, 11.7km round trip); 2. Windy Ridge – 15-16km round trip.

Day 6

Heading out of Mount Assiniboine, via Sunshine Village, we won’t make it out in one day. Cruise past Og Lake, and camp again at the base of another pass – this time Citadel Pass, at Porcupine Campground. Easy 15km day.

Citadel Pass courtesy of Ron Foreman – check his stuff out for more!

Day 7

Up early to get to Banff early. Crest Citadel Pass, pass Howard Douglas Lake, touch Simpson Pass, then turn east towards the ski hill. Catch a ride from Sunshine down to Banff, and proceed directly for a post-hike soak in Banff Upper Hotsprings… get cleaned up and head for home. 15km to finish.

I can’t wait to start this hike. For the challenge, for the pristine wilderness, for the fellowship of the trail and other hikers.

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