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Thunder Mountain

Summit Elevation (m): 2355
Elevation Gain (m): 975
Trip Time (hr): 5
Total Trip Distance (km): 11
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain something
Difficulty Notes: Mostly hiking and easy scrambling with some loose terrain and minor exposure along ridges.
Technical Rating: SC5; YDS (Hiking)
Map: Google Maps


Taking advantage of my temporary bachelor status, I took Thursday July 10 2008 off work and drove down to the Crowsnest Pass area to do an interesting and short scramble – Thunder Mountain. Why is this mountain interesting? Well, it’s the first mountain in the Canadian Rockies climbed by a non-aboriginal. I thought that was cool. Thanks to Bob Spirko’s trip report and first hand accounts from Wietse and Keith, I knew that it was a good solo objective too. First of all, it’s not a super-long trip. Secondly, it’s not very difficult and thirdly, it’s mostly a ridge walk so there’s less chance of running into angry mammals on the way.

Thunder Mountain Route Map

Since I left home pretty early, I managed to get to the trail head at around 08:15 under a pretty clear sky. The forecast didn’t look to bright anywhere else in the Rockies, which is the other reason I drove 2 hours to do a short scramble. By 08:30 I was hoofing it up a thin trail to the crest of the ridge. The trick is to drive past the ridge and then turn around a park on the side of the road. You should spot a line trending up to the ridge crest from here. There’s a plaque on a rock right near the top of this line.

Breaking out of the trees, this is the wonderful view of the ridge ahead.
Great views north to Livingstone Ridge – Thrift Peak (L) and Camp Creek Ridge (R).
Getting higher on the ridge. The rock was generally very solid till about this point and even then, I’ve had much, much worse!

From here to the summit there are multiple lines and many cairns to follow. I would rate some of the terrain as moderate but mostly it can be avoided. This was a terrific scramble on fairly decent rock with great views. The wind was actually much stronger on the ridge than closer to the summit which was a rare gift in the Crowsnest area! I took almost an hour at the summit to take pictures, look around and catch a quick nap before heading back down. It was a considerably hotter descent than the ascent and the wind felt good.

Looking south along the spine of the Livingstone peaks towards Center and Caldron.
The north ridge and Livingstone Ridge (Thrift Peak) and Camp Creek Ridge to the north at left.
L to R, Center, Coulthard, MacLaren, Andy Good, Parrish, Chinook, Sentry, Ma Butte, Crowsnest, Seven Sisters, Phillips, Tecumseh, Erickson, Window, Allison, Ward, Racehorse, Domke, Secord, Erris, Gould Dome, Funnel, Tornado, Elevators, Beehive, Sugarloaf, Lyall, Gass, O’Rourke, Pasque, Twin Peaks, Monad, Isola, Livingstone, Coffin, Thrift & Camp Creek Ridge.

A highly recommended scramble, especially if you’re solo or looking for a short, leisure day. I took my time and was down within 5 hours.

Thunder Mountain
There are more treed sections than I was expecting on the lower ridge - but a good trail made it easy to find the right way up.
There are more treed sections than I was expecting on the lower ridge - but a good trail made it easy to find the right way up.
Breaking out of the trees, this is the wonderful view of the ridge ahead.
Breaking out of the trees, this is the wonderful view of the ridge ahead.
A local is curious about who is sharing her trail this morning.
A local is curious about who is sharing her trail this morning.
Great views north to Thrift Peak and Camp Creek Ridge (R).
Great views north to Thrift Peak and Camp Creek Ridge (R).
Easy hiking on fairly good rock.
Easy hiking on fairly good rock.
View off the ridge looking back down at the ascent route.
View off the ridge looking back down at the ascent route.
View off the ridge looking back down at the ascent route.
View off the ridge looking back down at the ascent route.
Incredible views and easy hiking keep me entertained as I look ahead to the summit.
Incredible views and easy hiking keep me entertained as I look ahead to the summit.
The rock was generally very solid till about this point and even then, I've had much, much worse!
The rock was generally very solid till about this point and even then, I've had much, much worse!
This is a popular peak with both sheep and humans and there are trails in the scree to prove it.
This is a popular peak with both sheep and humans and there are trails in the scree to prove it.
Summit views east over the prairies.
Summit views east over the prairies.
Looking towards Crowsnest Mountain and Pass.
Looking towards Crowsnest Mountain and Pass.
Looking south along the spine of the Livingstone peaks towards Center and Caudron.
Looking south along the spine of the Livingstone peaks towards Center and Caudron.
Livingstone Ridge (Thrift Peak) and Camp Creek Ridge to the north.
Livingstone Ridge (Thrift Peak) and Camp Creek Ridge to the north.
Vern on Thunder Mountain.
Vern on Thunder Mountain.
Vern on Thunder Mountain.
Vern on Thunder Mountain.
From left to right there is Livingstone Ridge, Camp Creek Ridge, Miles Coulee, Whaleback Ridge, Black Mountain.
From left to right there is Livingstone Ridge, Camp Creek Ridge, Miles Coulee, Whaleback Ridge, Black Mountain.
Telephoto of the helicopter landing area in the valley.
Telephoto of the helicopter landing area in the valley.
Livingstone Ridge to the north across the Oldman River. This ridge can be ascended from the south, west and east.
Livingstone Ridge to the north across the Oldman River. This ridge can be ascended from the south, west and east.
Tornado, The Elevators and Beehive (L to R). Sugarloaf rising to the right just out of the photo.
Tornado, The Elevators and Beehive (L to R). Sugarloaf rising to the right just out of the photo.
Centennial display on the side of ridge down in the Oldman River valley.
Centennial display on the side of ridge down in the Oldman River valley.
Telephoto towards Andy Good, Parrish, MacLaren and Coulthard.
Telephoto towards Andy Good, Parrish, MacLaren and Coulthard.
Gorgeous, lush green valleys to the east.
Gorgeous, lush green valleys to the east.
Gorgeous, lush green valleys to the east.
Gorgeous, lush green valleys to the east.
Crowsnest Mountain and Seven Sisters (R) steal the show.
Crowsnest Mountain and Seven Sisters (R) steal the show.
Gorgeous, lush green valleys to the east.
Gorgeous, lush green valleys to the east.
Center, Coulthard, Parrish, Chinook, Sentry, Ma Butte, Crowsnest, Phillips, Tecumseh, Erickson, Alli
Center, Coulthard, Parrish, Chinook, Sentry, Ma Butte, Crowsnest, Phillips, Tecumseh, Erickson, Alli
Descending the north ridge.
Descending the north ridge.
Descending the north ridge.
Descending the north ridge.
Descending the north ridge.
Descending the north ridge.
It was the Calgary Stampede back in the city, and this reminded me of what I was *not* missing!
It was the Calgary Stampede back in the city, and this reminded me of what I was *not* missing!
Interesting boulders on the descent ridge.
Interesting boulders on the descent ridge.
Lovely views of the Oldman River snaking away from the mountains. Camp Ridge rising to the left here.
Lovely views of the Oldman River snaking away from the mountains. Camp Ridge rising to the left here.
A memorial plaque.
A memorial plaque.
Foothills views from the ride home.
Foothills views from the ride home.

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