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Storm Mountain (Kananaskis)

Summit Elevation (m): 3095
Elevation Gain (m): 975 
Trip Time (hr): 4.5 
Total Trip Distance (km): 7
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3 – you fall, you sprain or break something 
Difficulty Notes: Moderate scrambling with enough loose terrain and exposure to keep it moderate.
Technical Rating: SC6; YDS (3rd)
GPS Track: Download
Map: Google Maps


After scrambling up and down Burstall Mountain in 3 hours on September 01 2009 I was sitting in my car driving back to my camp in Elkwood thinking, “now what do I do the rest of the day?!”. Since I had scrambled Brett and Pilot the day before I thought I would want a short and easy day but I strangely felt myself wondering if I could possibly still bag another peak since the rain clouds from the morning had dissipated and I was left with a warm and sunny afternoon.

Storm Mountain Route Map

I decided that since I still had Storm Mountain to complete the Highwood Pass area in Kane’s book I would try that one. I told myself not to rush it as I had already done 3500 meters of height gain in the last 1.5 days but the weather had other plans for that idea. I found the trail head no problem after parking at the suggested spot. The afternoon was hot and soon I was sweating my way up the excellent access trail to the pristine meadows southwest of Storm. I felt very privileged to be out there on that particular afternoon with the whole mountain to myself.

The upper hanging valley beneath Storm is gorgeous. It’s hard to keep going once you get to such a nice ‘lollygagging’ opportunity!

I followed the trail as it stayed high above the stream on my right – Storm is a great solo objective simply because the trail keeps you away from any trouble including bear habitat. The trail stays a bit too high and eventually you can either choose to descent to the valley bottom and a great little stream or stay high on climber’s left of the stream. I chose to stay high but knew that my luck would eventually run out and it did. I had to either traverse tricky terrain for essentially no reason or lose about 30 meters of height so I chose the later and soon was tramping up scree to the high ridge on Storm.

Arg. Slabs, scree and heat. At least the views are great!

This part sucked. Big time. There is no nice things to say about the scree bash on Storm. The terrain is slightly grippy slab but mostly it’s just one scree field after another for about 400 vertical meters. In the heat of the afternoon sun with tired legs this wasn’t cool. Plus there was a small, threatening cloud building up to the south and I knew that the afternoon weather forecast was calling for thunderstorms. I kept my pace at a good clip because of this.

Looking back (south) from the false summit towards Mist Mountain. Hwy 40 snaking along at bottom right.

Once on the ridge I still had a long ways to go. Looking up at the south (false) summit I almost turned around! I just knew that the cloud was getting closer and bigger and when I looked, sure enough! It was gaining momentum and size. I told myself that I had to be near the summit within an hour or it was game over for this peak. An hour later I was staring up at the difficult terrain just east of the summit asking how this was a ‘moderate’ peak. It turns out, on hindsight, that I should have gained the ridge sooner but all the trails led me to where I was standing. I reluctantly put myself back on difficult terrain and soon stood on the summit.

From the false summit, still a ways to go and some tricky terrain. You can clearly see the traverse on the right side of the ridge and it’s pretty obvious why this ledge system has to be snow / ice free to be safe scrambling.
Incredible summit panorama looking south, west and north includes, Mist Creek and the Highwood Range at left, Mist left of center and Storelk, Tyrwhitt, Pocaterra, Highwood Ridge, Arethusa and Mount Rae.

Great views kept me around for a few minutes but then the gathering storm (how appropriate for this particular mountain) chased me back down. I down climbed the steep and loose summit block and traversed back to my ascent slopes. I didn’t want to risk a different descent but I should have – it would have been quicker and most likely safer.

The scree ledge traverse with the steep summit block rising on the right.

Descending my ascent route was loose and involved sending tons of rocks down. Don’t do Storm with a big group!

Storm Mountain
Looking back at Storm's approach from the parking lot. The ascent valley is on the right and the alternate descent on the left of the triangular hill.
Looking back at Storm's approach from the parking lot. The ascent valley is on the right and the alternate descent on the left of the triangular hill.
The upper hanging valley beneath Storm is gorgeous. It's hard to keep going once you get to such a nice 'lollygagging' opportunity!
The upper hanging valley beneath Storm is gorgeous. It's hard to keep going once you get to such a nice 'lollygagging' opportunity!
Looking back at the short / easy approach - note the trail in the scree behind me here.
Looking back at the short / easy approach - note the trail in the scree behind me here.
Continuing towards the back bowl before turning climber's left up some nasty scree!
Continuing towards the back bowl before turning climber's left up some nasty scree!
I went up on climbers left of the rock out cropping. You can see how much fun this terrain was!
I went up on climbers left of the rock out cropping. You can see how much fun this terrain was!
Arg. Slabs, scree and heat. At least the views are great!
Arg. Slabs, scree and heat. At least the views are great!
At the col, looking west at the Elk Range.
At the col, looking west at the Elk Range.
Looking up from the col, false summit at right, summit at left.
Looking up from the col, false summit at right, summit at left.
Looking back (south) from the false summit towards Mist Mountain. Hwy 40 snaking along at bottom right.
Looking back (south) from the false summit towards Mist Mountain. Hwy 40 snaking along at bottom right.
You can clearly see the traverse on the right side of the ridge and it's pretty obvious why this ledge system has to be snow / ice free
You can clearly see the traverse on the right side of the ridge and it's pretty obvious why this ledge system has to be snow / ice free
Note the dust cloud below me? This is a rock slide that I kicked off on ascent. You don't want a large group on this mountain.
Note the dust cloud below me? This is a rock slide that I kicked off on ascent. You don't want a large group on this mountain.
The route continues along the scree bench that I'm on pretty much to skyline ridge and then climber's left to the summit.
The route continues along the scree bench that I'm on pretty much to skyline ridge and then climber's left to the summit.
Mist Creek and the Highwood Range at left, Mist left of center and Storelk, Tyrwhitt, Pocaterra, Highwood Ridge, Arethusa and Mount Rae.
Mist Creek and the Highwood Range at left, Mist left of center and Storelk, Tyrwhitt, Pocaterra, Highwood Ridge, Arethusa and Mount Rae.
Great views over Mist Mountain.
Great views over Mist Mountain.
Mount Rae is impressive. I love the character of the folded ridges in the Misty Range.
Mount Rae is impressive. I love the character of the folded ridges in the Misty Range.
Mount Rae.
Mount Rae.
Looking down the short approach across hwy 40 to Storelk.
Looking down the short approach across hwy 40 to Storelk.
Looking towards Highwood Pass and Grizzly Ridge.
Looking towards Highwood Pass and Grizzly Ridge.
Vern stands on his second peak of the day - I was on Burstall earlier and ironically got chased by rain on that one too!
Vern stands on his second peak of the day - I was on Burstall earlier and ironically got chased by rain on that one too!
Looking up the loose / steep section under the summit.
Looking up the loose / steep section under the summit.
Looking along the steep east wall that leads to the summit - this is where route finding is important.
Looking along the steep east wall that leads to the summit - this is where route finding is important.
The scree ledge traverse with the steep summit block rising on the right.
The scree ledge traverse with the steep summit block rising on the right.
A good thunderstorm is building to the south over Mist Mountain as I descend the nasty scree slope to the hanging valley below.
A good thunderstorm is building to the south over Mist Mountain as I descend the nasty scree slope to the hanging valley below.
The day goes dark as I rush down to beat the storms.
The day goes dark as I rush down to beat the storms.
The sky turns blue again as the storm misses me.
The sky turns blue again as the storm misses me.

2 thoughts on Storm Mountain (Kananaskis)

  1. Hi Vern,
    I think some of your photo captions may be mixed up a bit on this page; for instance, the photo with Rae/Arethusa has “Mist Mountain is impressive too”, and a photo of Mist Mnt. has “Great view over Arethusa..”
    As always, I appreciate your work here- it helps a lot for planning adventures.

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