Elevation Gain: 1,741m
Total Time: 7 hours 59 minutes
Date: July 14th, 2021
If you have been around Banff, Rundle 1 is a mountain that needs no introduction. It’s one of the most popular scrambles in the area and is prominently visible from downtown Banff and many parts of the area. It seems historically, this route was called the “Mount Rundle” scramble, however it does not actually reach the true summit of Mount Rundle. From what I gather, the Mount Rundle name initially encompassed the entire 12km range of sub peaks, but that has since changed. Each sub peak has now been given a separate name as they all meet the criteria of separate summits anyhow. In this case, the old Mount Rundle scramble route now actually ascends the named peak of Rundle 1. With subsequent peaks being named Rundle 2, 3, etc and the highest peak retaining the Mount Rundle name.
My brother, Simon, and I were out in Banff for the week and we wanted to send a bigger objective after completing Mt. 7. I initially wanted to do Mount Temple, as it was in shape a whole month early due to the recent heat wave. However, I read about significant rock fall hazard and Simon did not have a climbing helmet so I scratched that idea. Then the idea of Rundle 1 came into my head, as it’s right by Banff and is not too technical. It would be the single biggest day of hiking for Simon at 17km and ~1700m of elevation gain, so I figured this would be a good peak to test his limits out on.
We decided on an early start to beat the sun and crowds as a major part of the road provides no reprieve from the sun at all. At 4am I woke up and got Simon out of his tent. We left from the campground at Two Jack Main and drove to the trail head parking lot. I cooked us some breakfast on the back of the tailgate and then we grabbed our gear and started down the road for around 5:48am.
The trail starts on along a paved road and then detours around a golf course, before hitting the forest. Then it’s a long, moderately sloped trail up the western forested slopes of Rundle 1. The mosquitos in this area were hell bent on total annihilation and we dared not pause for long to avoid the onslaught. Other than that there wasn’t much to speak of here as it was just putting one foot after the next. Just below the upper slopes, we decided to ditch some of Simon’s gear as it was weighing him down and put some of the needed items in my bag to help him out. With a lighter pack he was feeling more alive again and continued on. Around the 6km part we started to ascend directly up the forest and shortly after broke out of the trees onto the barren upper slopes to the summit.
Once out of the trees the route narrowed onto a long ridge that ran up to the final summit slopes. It was a mix of scree, slabs and some dirt trails that involves a significant amount of elevation gain. There were a few steep sections with scree covered slabs next to a large cliff that kept you on your toes a bit, but otherwise it was a straightforward slog. At around 2650m, the ridge rejoins with the slope below the summit and then it becomes a major scree treadmill. Each foot forward is a half step back, but that’s to be expected for the Rockies.
We continued our push up past a steep rock outcropping up to the ridge. Here we saw one other person coming down, who had started just before us. Once we reached the ridge, we followed the well-worn foot path just below the ridge line all the way to the summit. There was one step to downclimb mid way along the ridge and then it was easy going again. We reached the summit shortly after and took on the vertigo inducing task of peering over the ridge. On the other side was a 900m free fall to the valley floor. Arguably the most exciting part of the scramble. At the top we rested for awhile, ate snacks and took a few photos. Due to thick fire smoke, there were limited views, but it was still an overall cool ascent.
Coming down, we just retraced our steps along the ridge. When we reached the scree slopes, we hunted out the smaller looser sections enabling us to run down a ways back to the descent ridge. Once on the ridge, things got a bit trickier as the scree covered slabs next to cliffs required more attention. Simon even had a couple of scary slips, but avoided any surly demises. Not long after we were past the ridge and the continued back through the forest into the mosquito war zone. The forest was again uneventful and made it back to the truck after an 8 hour round trip.
On a clear day, Rundle 1 likely provides amazing views, but unfortunately for us we were shrouded in forest fire smoke. That made the overall ascent not terribly entertaining, as it’s mostly a grind up non-technical terrain all the way to the top. I think it’s still worth doing to say you’ve done it, but from a fun perspective, it should be low on most people’s lists.