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Mount Collembola
Kananaskis, Alberta
June 25, 2016

Distance: 19.2 km
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 1394 m

While getting ready Saturday morning, I eyed the rain pounding on my windows and kept checking my cell phone, expecting – hoping really – to see a text from Sonny Bou saying he was cancelling our hike up Mount Collembola. But it didn’t happen, so I knew we were committed to at least driving to the mountains. After meeting Sonny and picking up his friend Zosia Zgolak, we were on our way, driving down the highway, windshield wipers working to clear away the rain.

But when we made a pit stop at Deadman’s Flats near the trailhead, we could find no excuse in the weather. It appeared to be clearing up. It wasn’t raining, and blue sky punched holes in the clouds. The trip was on.

Unlike my 2001 trip, a loop that encompassed both Mount Collembola and Mount Allan, we would do a loop of a different sort, ascending Collembola before dropping down to the cirque between Allan and Collembola to visit Jubilee Tarns. We used the same long approach as the loop, Centennial Trail.

We followed the trail for nearly two hours before taking the little side trail to Collembola. After a few minutes, we broke out of the trees, trudged up grassy slopes and climbed a couple of minor cliff bands. The pleasant ascent of Collembola’s north ridge brought us to the base of the daunting east face below the summit. But hidden in the steep rock is a surprisingly easy ascent. We scrambled 3 m up to a grassy ledge and started walking along it. After passing a couple of vertical chutes, we came to one that angled right, a steep hike that regained the ridge crest just a couple of minutes from the summit.

The sunshine cut through the chill on the top, so we relaxed for nearly an hour before continuing along the ridge. We hiked down to the south col and ran down some wonderful scree to the charming cirque between Mount Collembola and Mount Allan. The cirque holds three tarns, but the largest one, Queen’s Tarn, caught our attention. Sporting a tiny picture-perfect island, it was a natural centrepiece and we naturally aimed for it.

At the edge of Queen Tarn, we shucked our boots, crossed shallow water warmed by the sun, and climbed the little island summit. Then it was time to go. We hiked down the valley to Centennial Trail and followed it back to the car.

Other than a few drops of rain at the end of our trip, we had good weather, but on returning to Calgary we were met with rainfall. It just shows you can't judge the weather in the mountains by looking out your window.

KML and GPX Tracks
Sonny's Trip Report

Hiking up Centennial Trail

There are few views from the trail, but here we got a glimpse of Pigeon Mountain

An hour and half into our trip, we had a clear view of the north end of Collembola

On the side trail leading to Collembola

Heading up the north ridge

Sonny is happy to be out of the trees

We encountered a couple of minor cliff bands near the start of the ridge

A pleasant grassy section extends before the summit

Zosia stops to take a photo while the summit beckons

We hiked to the notch above Sonny and then kept left to reach the east face (hidden in mist)

Mount Allan and two of the Jubilee Tarns

The east face: we scrambled up to the grassy ledge above us and traversed to an easy-angled chute

Looking back along the ledge from the bottom of the chute

We easily made our way up the chute

From the top of the chute, it's five minutes to the summit

Posing on the summit

Starting down from the summit

Our next stop is the tiny island in Queen's Tarn below

We ran down soft scree

After leaving the scree we dropped down grassy slopes

Zosia and Sonny ascend a huge boulder in the cirque

After shucking our boots we waded to the island. The water was warm, but the soft mud underfoot was both a blessing and a curse: pleasant to walk on but hard to clean off our feet afterwards.

Zosia and Sonny on the island summit

On our way back, we passed another tarn

Looking down the valley

It may not look like it, but we're actually following an animal trail

Back on Centennial Trail

Crossing the new footbridge near the trailhead

82 O/3 Canmore, 82 J/14 Spray Lakes Reservoir

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