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Mount Aylmer
Banff National Park, Alberta
August 31, 2004

The day before Dinah and I planned to climb, we were warned not to attempt Mount Aylmer, the highest peak in Banff National Park. Dinah phoned Banff Park for the conditions, and a parks interpreter told her there was too much snow on the mountain for an attempt. But we went anyway.

First we had to bike 8.5 km of rough trail along Lake Minnewanka to Aylmer campground. After stashing our bikes, we headed up the trail that goes to Aylmer Pass. Before the pass, however, we left the trail and hiked up a gully. Although it wasn't in the forecast, it started raining. As we climbed higher, it would eventually turn to snow. It grew colder as we climbed and we kept adding layers. At about 400 m below the summit, visibility was reduced to a few dozen metres and we reached the first snow patches. Here we were hit by strong winds. At this point we doubted we could make the summit hidden in clouds: if the weather didn't stop us, snow on the summit might.

With about 200 m to go, miraculously it stopped snowing and the summit mist began to dissipate. Soon we were greeted with blue sky. The snow on the slope became more substantial and unavoidable, but it was soft and easy to kick-step up the final steep few dozen metres to the top.

It was too cold to stay long on the summit and we soon headed back down. From the summit to our bikes it took only 2 hours and 10 minutes, including a 20-minute break below the peak. As we quickly dropped nearly 1700 m we shed layer after layer so that we were in shorts and T-shirts when we reached our bikes.

While cycling back, we encountered a parks interpreter who stopped us. It turned to be the same one that Dinah had spoken to the day before. When the interpreter realized who we were, she immediately reprimanded us. She said she had cautioned Dinah about snow conditions on the mountain. But when Dinah explained we had in fact reached the summit, the interpreter changed her tune. She exclaimed, "You have my complete respect!"

MOVIE (posted on YouTube)

KML Track

Riding by Lake Minnewanka

Riding through the trees

After stashing our bikes we set off up the trail

After leaving the trail we ascended this gully

The drainage becomes a walkway

We soon encountered water running down the gully

The junction where the two trails meet

At the junction: the rock band is on the left and the summit is obscured by cloud. We chose to stay below the rock band rather than follow the crest and do the downclimb.

Traversing below the rock band

Looking back at the downclimb

Same spot looking ahead at the summit
, 400 m above us

We could only see scree and mist

The view north clears as we ascended the final few hundred metres

Endless scree all the way to the top

Looking back down the ridge

Below us, the alternate ridge trail from the lookout looks appealing although long

The summit cloud disappears as we near the summit

On the summit

Looking back at the summit now free of clouds

On the descent, the clouds lifted giving us a clear view of Lake Minnewanka (click for a larger image)

On the return, black scree next to the gully makes for a fast descent. Note the trail at the valley bottom that leads to the pass.

82 O/6 Lake Minnewanka

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