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Aylmer, Mount

Summit Elevation (m): 3162
Elevation Gain (m): 1680
Trip Time (hr): 10
Total Trip Distance (km): 33
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2/3 – you fall, you sprain or break something
Difficulty Notes: The difficult crux can be bypassed making this a simple mountain hike ‘n bike – note we took the crux.
Technical Rating: SC6; YDS (3rd)
Map: Google Maps


After scrambling up Commonwealth Peak the day before, Keith and I found ourselves driving to the Mount Aylmer trailhead at Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park on Saturday morning, June 27 2009. I should point out that we were fairly tired. And it wasn’t because we did Commonwealth Peak in 3.45 hours the night before. It was because of the rude neighbors we had at the Spray Lakes campground! Keith and I are both very tolerant guys. We were fine with the youthful antics of our 20 year old neighbors till about midnight. After that the games of ‘truth or dare’, ‘jackpot’ and other drunken distractions got a little bit old. Our neighbors on the other side were actually pretty good till they started up a BONGO DRUM at 1AM FFS! I’m disappointed in the campground management, who should develop a sense of responsibility and courage to at least drive around at midnight and out of courtesy, shut down these inconsiderate idiots. Ah well. Who really needs sleep before doing a 30+ km day right? And that vertical mile of height gain? You don’t need more than around 4 hours of shut-eye for that right? 😉 I was a bit concerned about the bike ride since the ride in and out of Commonwealth the previous evening had been my first time on a bike for the year. My butt was definitely not happy with me for the first few minutes of the Minnewanka trail! We met Heather and Parry in the parking lot just before heading out. They were waiting for a couple of friends before embarking on the same trip so we bid them a “cya later” and sped off down the trail.

Mount Aylmer Route Map

I’ve always enjoyed the Lake Minnewanka single track and this was no exception. My legs were surprisingly cooperative and Keith and I enjoyed the 8 km ride to LM8 – the campsite where we ditched the bikes and prepared for our 15 km hike into Mount Aylmer. After a paranoid Keith (he thinks everyone is out to steal his bike) walked our bikes into the middle of the bush and locked them to a massive tree, we started up the steep Aylmer pass trail at around 09:00, an hour after leaving the parking lot. The trail from here to the turn off gully is set at an unrelenting angle – UP. This is a good thing because even though the bike ride has gained you about 100-150 vertical meters you have also lost all that height gain and are looking at over a vertical mile from the bike stash to the summit! Trust me. It feels like a vertical mile too.

The Aylmer Pass trail is inviting and relentlessly takes you up from the lake shore.

After 2.3km we came across the trail branching to our right to the Aylmer Lookout. About 10 or 15 minutes past this spot we finally took our first real break of the day on some rocks near the trail. This was the first time we really had any good views since the bike ride as well. A cute Pika kept us entertained and the warm sun almost made us regret the fact that we still had so far to go. A bit further and we were at the drainage where scramblers must leave the trail to gain the ridge that runs from Aylmer’s upper slopes to the lookout. The drainage and the slopes above were riddled with Grizzly diggings. As we hiked up the slope we were amazed at how aggressive this bear was! S/he was on the hunt for gophers and must have been pretty hungry judging from the size of the holes! I would not hike this area alone during it’s restricted season (July 15th to September) judging by the looks of these slopes this is one very active bear area.

Great scenery back down our approach valley – you can see why Grizzlies love this area. Mount Girouard and Inglismaldie at distant left and an outlier of Astley at right.

After finally topping out on the ridge we could hear the voices of Parry and Heather’s party down on the trail below. We caught a quick glimpse of them before tramping on up the ridge. We chose the moderate / difficult scramble route over the scree bashing hiking route to the high col from the ridge. It turns out that this was a great decision because the quality of rock on the ridge was much more enjoyable than the loose, wet scree on the hiking route.

Keith heads up the brown shale, we decided to stick to the ridge.

After reaching the downclimb we could see why it’s rated moderate / difficult. The exposure isn’t too bad (you probably won’t die if you fall here), but it’s very steep and over-hanging at the bottom. I was very happy with my 6ft frame as I stretched through the bottom move and exited the difficult down climb. Keith breezed down the climb in short order and after another moderate down climb we joined up with the easy route and trudged up to the high col. Did I mention how long this bloody scramble is?!

Keith at the top of the second moderate down climb.

From the high col I knew we still had about 350 vertical meters to go – thanks to my altimeter watch I didn’t get lulled into thinking we were closer than we were. The final section is nothing but a scree slog but thankfully we had a well-defined trail and some firm snow to assist our ascent. The summit sported an impressive view, although the thickening cloud cover was a bit disappointing – as was the cold breeze. We didn’t spend a lot of time at the summit, choosing to do our relaxing on the way down in a warm spot out of the wind.

Saddle (L), Carrot, Stenton, Townsend, Charles Stewart, Peechee, Girouard, Inglismaldie, Rundle, Cascade, Astley, Spectral, Brocks, Puma and Revenant (R).
Looking east and south off the summit of Aylmer. Costigan and Orient Point in the distance at left with Saddle, Carrot, Stenton, Townsend, Charles Stuart, Peechee, Girouard, Inglismaldie and Rundle to the right of them.
Puma at distant left (snow) with Revenant and Apparition at foreground left with a small tarn. At right we have Davidson, Astral, Castle Rock, Poltergeist and Devils Head.

Back near the high col we ran into Heather and Parry’s party and after a brief chat continued down. All the way up we were debating taking the ridge descent to the Aylmer Lookout. My legs were feeling tired and sore and I wasn’t sure about but it looked so pleasant and the day was so nice we decided to do it. It was a great decision! The ridge walk to the lookout is very pleasant. You have much better views than the hike on the Aylmer Pass trail and for much longer too.

Beautiful environs of Lake Minnewanka as we head down to the ridge leading to the Aylmer Lookout.

The only key to finding the lookout (despite what the Gemtrek map shows) is to stick on the sheep track all the way along the ridge. The few times we dipped off it to skier’s right we almost got in trouble. You will eventually come to a very steep drop off into a rocky drainage, just after the weird burnt area. If you go on the skier’s left of the ridge there is an easy trail around the drainage on the east side of the ridge. Follow this trail another 10 minutes and you’ll see the obvious lookout.

More gorgeous scenery as we hiking along the ridge.

I was expecting a fire lookout building but only the stone foundation remains. We hiked up to the lookout and spent about 2 minutes taking in the excellent views before heading down the trail again. The ‘endless switchbacks’ actually aren’t too bad – there’s only around 4 or 5 of them. It’s the walking back towards Aylmer Pass up hill that’s the issue! I’m not sure why there’s a section of the lookout trail that goes in the wrong direction and up hill but it’s a bit disconcerting. We eventually did reach the main trail and hoofed it back to our bikes.

Lake Minnewanka from the Aylmer Lookout – Cascade rising in the distance at right.

The bike ride out was fast and furious. We passed two other bikers who had packs about the size of my scrambling boots. Maybe I have to start bringing less crap on long scrambles… A great trip and a nice mountain to have done but I won’t be back for more of this one.

Mount Aylmer
58 photos
The Aylmer Pass trail is inviting and relentlessly takes you up from the lake shore.
The Aylmer Pass trail is inviting and relentlessly takes you up from the lake shore.
The Aylmer Pass trail is inviting and relentlessly takes you up from the lake shore.
The Aylmer Pass trail is inviting and relentlessly takes you up from the lake shore.
Clematis
Clematis
Pika's are extremely curious and very cute.
Pika's are extremely curious and very cute.
What a glorious morning to be out in the hills!
What a glorious morning to be out in the hills!
Grizzly diggings.
Grizzly diggings.
Great scenery back down our approach valley - you can see why Grizzlies love this area.
Great scenery back down our approach valley - you can see why Grizzlies love this area.
At the ridge. You have two choices here. You can contour up the ridge or go left around the crux.
At the ridge. You have two choices here. You can contour up the ridge or go left around the crux.
On the ridge enjoying the views. Inglismaldie and Girouard are visible in the distant background above Lake Minnewanka.
On the ridge enjoying the views. Inglismaldie and Girouard are visible in the distant background above Lake Minnewanka.
Keith heads up the brown shale, we decided to stick to the ridge.
Keith heads up the brown shale, we decided to stick to the ridge.
Awesome scenery continues on the brown shale. This is looking towards the Palliser Range which only has one named summit
Awesome scenery continues on the brown shale. This is looking towards the Palliser Range which only has one named summit
Ascending the lower ridge.
Ascending the lower ridge.
Views towards Spectral Peak.
Views towards Spectral Peak.
Keith nears the first (and hardest) down climb. The summit looks so close but it's still over 400 vertical meters away from this point!
Keith nears the first (and hardest) down climb. The summit looks so close but it's still over 400 vertical meters away from this point!
Views towards Spectral Peak.
Views towards Spectral Peak.
Mount Assiniboine.
Mount Assiniboine.
Keith approaches the crux down climb.
Keith approaches the crux down climb.
Looking down the crux.
Looking down the crux.
Keith prepares to downclimb.
Keith prepares to downclimb.
Keith on the top of the difficult / moderate down climb.
Keith on the top of the difficult / moderate down climb.
Keith at the top of the second moderate down climb.
Keith at the top of the second moderate down climb.
Find Keith for scale.
Find Keith for scale.
From a bit further on Aylmer's ridge you can see the entire difficult / moderate section of the ridge behind us and the impressive valleys to the north
From a bit further on Aylmer's ridge you can see the entire difficult / moderate section of the ridge behind us and the impressive valleys to the north
A heckuva scree grunt left!
A heckuva scree grunt left!
Can't get enough of the Palliser Range and valleys to the north!
Can't get enough of the Palliser Range and valleys to the north!
Using snow to make the final 300 vertical meters easier.
Using snow to make the final 300 vertical meters easier.
Views over our long ascent route and back to Lake Minnewanka.
Views over our long ascent route and back to Lake Minnewanka.
Up and up and up...
Up and up and up...
Peechee, Girouard and Inglismaldie (L), Cascade and Astley (C), Apparition at right.
Peechee, Girouard and Inglismaldie (L), Cascade and Astley (C), Apparition at right.
Costigan, Orient Point and Saddle.
Costigan, Orient Point and Saddle.
Costigan, Saddle, Carrot, Stenton, Townsend, Peechee, Girouard, Inglismaldie and Rundle (R).
Costigan, Saddle, Carrot, Stenton, Townsend, Peechee, Girouard, Inglismaldie and Rundle (R).
Astral, Castle Rock, Poltergeist, Devils Head and Kink Peak.
Astral, Castle Rock, Poltergeist, Devils Head and Kink Peak.
Puma, Revenant, Apparition, Astral, Castle Rock, Poltergeist, Devils Head.
Puma, Revenant, Apparition, Astral, Castle Rock, Poltergeist, Devils Head.
Hector (L), St. Bride and Douglas (R).
Hector (L), St. Bride and Douglas (R).
Looking back over Mount Astley.
Looking back over Mount Astley.
Looking towards Spectral Peak.
Looking towards Spectral Peak.
Lake Minnewanka with our descent ridge at lower center.
Lake Minnewanka with our descent ridge at lower center.
Girouard and Inglismaldie.
Girouard and Inglismaldie.
Looking back at the summit from the scree traverse that bypasses the crux.
Looking back at the summit from the scree traverse that bypasses the crux.
More scenery on the way down showing our ridge that we descended at center.
More scenery on the way down showing our ridge that we descended at center.
Starting the pleasant ridge hike back.
Starting the pleasant ridge hike back.
Forget-me-nots
Forget-me-nots
Hiking the Aylmer Lookout Ridge.
Hiking the Aylmer Lookout Ridge.
Hiking the Aylmer Lookout Ridge.
Hiking the Aylmer Lookout Ridge.
Hiking the Aylmer Lookout Ridge.
Hiking the Aylmer Lookout Ridge.
Hiking the Aylmer Lookout Ridge.
Hiking the Aylmer Lookout Ridge.
Hiking the Aylmer Lookout Ridge.
Hiking the Aylmer Lookout Ridge.
Hiking the Aylmer Lookout Ridge.
Hiking the Aylmer Lookout Ridge.
Hiking the Aylmer Lookout Ridge.
Hiking the Aylmer Lookout Ridge.
Hiking the Aylmer Lookout Ridge.
Hiking the Aylmer Lookout Ridge.
Where now?! There is a bit of route finding on the ridge.
Where now?! There is a bit of route finding on the ridge.
A pleasant stroll through dead forest - an old burn site.
A pleasant stroll through dead forest - an old burn site.
The fire lookout is just ahead with Peechee looming above.
The fire lookout is just ahead with Peechee looming above.
The foundations of the lookout.
The foundations of the lookout.
Looking back at Aylmer from the lookout.
Looking back at Aylmer from the lookout.
Great views up Lake Minnewanka towards Banff from the fire lookout.
Great views up Lake Minnewanka towards Banff from the fire lookout.
Descending the lookout to Lake Minnewanka.
Descending the lookout to Lake Minnewanka.

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