Crowsnest Pass, Alberta
October 30, 2005
I've always been curious about Bluff Mountain. Driving through Crowsnest Pass, it's easily overlooked because of the slightly higher historic Turtle Mountain on the other side of the highway.
Looking at the map, it looks possible to ascend it by either the SE or SW ridge from the highway in Blairmore. The SE ridge appears to be more straightforward so we ascended it. Aside from reaching the summit we also were hoping to find pictographs that I read about on the web: " ... the prehistoric people who mined high altitude chert across the valley as much as 5000 years ago left pictographs near timberline on adjacent Bluff Mountain." We didn't come across any pictographs and since trees reached the summit I don't know where the "timberline" could be.
We parked at a cemetery (fitting for the eve of Halloween!) and hiked a short way up a road before we started climbing. Oddly, the lower slopes were more interesting than the upper slopes. Here there were open spaces and rock outcrops. Higher up we hiked in trees and there was little to see. On the other hand, the trees offered us protection from the cold wind and there was little to be seen anyway because of the cloud cover.
We were also denied a view from the summit. There was no break in the forest at the top, save for some trees that had been chopped down. Dinah spotted a pile of rocks about 10 m from the top and thought it might be a cairn. I thought it was a pile of rocks.
We reached the summit in just over two hours so we decided to try descending the SE ridge. After dropping down 200 m, we ran into difficult terrain and cliff bands. Rather than spend time routefinding and risk hitting a dead end, we turned back and retraced our steps back to the car.If it weren't for the lack of a viewpoint on the summit, I'd be tempted to return and do Bluff Mountain as a loop: ascend the SE ridge and descend the SW ridge.
Bluff Mountain from the highway
The trailhead. An ironic start considering it was the day before Halloween!
Bushwhacking up the slope. Blairmore is visible on the far left.
We start to get some views
Interesting rocks near the start
On the far right are the cliff bands on the SE ridge where we turned back
More interesting rocks
Last of the wide open spaces on the ascent
Turtle Mountain behind us
Standing on two tree stumps on the summit, it's the highest point I reached
Heading down the SE ridge
Heading back up the SE ridge. Note the treed summit on the left.
Crowsnest Mountain and the Seven Sisters
Blairmore 82 G/9