Summit Elevation (m): 2964
Elevation Gain (m): 1450
Trip Time (hr): 8
Total Trip Distance (km): 16
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3 – you fall, you sprain or break something
Difficulty Notes: Howard is mostly an off trail hike with some easy scrambling. Can be done in the off season if the approach road is open.
GPS Track Download: Download GPX File
Technical Rating: SC6; YDS (3rd)
Map: Google Maps
Mount Inglismaldie has held my interest for quite some time already. I’ve intended to scramble up it every spring before all the snow melts, presumably to make the descent a little more tolerable but thank goodness that plan never worked out! When Harvey Kwan suggested we do a scramble together some time in late September I took him up on his offer and threw out Mount Inglismaldie as a possible destination. To my great surprise he agreed to join me! “Why a great surprise?“, you ask. Let me tell you why.
Inglismaldie is known for being a very unpleasant outing. It is rumored to have no real trail, lots of painful bushwhacking and to top it all off, piles and piles of miserable scree. The only thing rumored to be worth all of the suffering is the view from the top. This reputation had me even more interested than I usually am in a new mountain. I figured that hardly anyone must summit this mountain and wanted to see how bad it was for myself. Apparently Harvey also has some self-punishing tendencies because he agreed to join me. I really didn’t know what to expect from Inglismaldie. Some trip reports state a 4 hour approach just to clear the bush and others claim a 6.5 hour round trip time! I decided to give us 8 hours as a rough estimate.
Unfortunately for Harvey, he must have ticked off some trees somewhere along the line because it was NOT his day for bushwhacking. We started off at around 7:30 from the parking spot under a clear, cool sky. There is a sign right at the bushes on the way into the trail asking for cooperation in staying out of the area. We decided not to cooperate on such a lovely day (we both readily agreed to cooperate once we passed the sign again at the end of the day… ;-)) Right off the bat we found ourselves on a pretty decent trail. We followed the overgrown, decommissioned x-country ski trail for exactly 10 minutes as Kane describes.
We weren’t at any sort of stream yet but we decided to follow a faint trail branching up a dry drainage to climber’s left and this got us off to a great start and soon we could see the stream bed on our right. Like I said, a great start! Except for Harvey. He nearly killed himself on the first tree he stepped on. Apparently it fought back and for the rest of the day Harvey and any type of tree, living or dead, were at odds. It was fun to watch but probably not as much fun to experience… 😉 We simply kept to this faint, but obvious, trail most of the rest of the way up the left (northwest) side of the creek. Kane cautions to stay close to the creek but we spent a good bit of our time high above the creek on climber’s left. I would highly recommend anyone to take this trail for at least the first 1 – 1.5 hours of hiking. The bush started off very light and for the first hour we were commenting constantly how pleasant the hiking was compared to what we were expecting.
After about 1 hour the bush got a bit thicker and the trail was harder to find / follow. We found very fresh (and large!) bear scat on the trail and yelled our whole way up it as this is a wildlife protected area and it teeming with bears, cougars, squirrels and many other friendly creatures of the forest that scare the scat out of us. We also started getting a bit nervous regarding our distance from the stream. Kane mentions cliffs higher up and we were definitely getting higher now. We decided to take the first obvious way down to the stream and to stop gaining more height above it. After a bit we came on a gully which looked promising and descended about 75 meters to the stream bed. Within 2 minutes we spotted our first cairn in the stream and started following a faint trail on climber’s left of the stream bed that dipped into the stream bed every once in a while. Thankfully the stream was mostly dry.
(This brings me to my earlier observation regarding doing Inglismaldie in the Spring – don’t! If the stream is running high this could turn into a pretty nasty bushwhack. IMHO this is a mountain to do in the fall when the vegetation is dead or dying and the stream is pretty much dry.)
After another 15 minutes or so we could see the end of the ‘bushwhack’ in sight! The gully became rocky and we were looking at the split between the ascent and descent routes. The bushwhack had thankfully not quite lived up to its reputation for us. Within 2 hours we were at the ascent/descent route junction and left with 850 vertical meters to go. Yep! This is still a pretty big mountain at 1450 vertical meters.
The rest of the ascent was straight forward. We both really enjoyed the hike up to the traverse beneath the summit. If you stick more to climber’s left than right you will enjoy fantastic views towards the town of Banff and the remote valley next to Inglismaldie. The terrain is ascent-friendly grass / solid scree and there are even a few moderate scrambling opportunities higher up if you stick right to the ridge.
Taking the obvious ramp to climber’s left took us around the nose of the summit and we were left with moderate terrain to the top. I would not want to do this with snow or rain on it – we both commented that it was a ‘solid’ moderate, not an easy one.
The views of Lake Minnewanka and it’s environs lived up to the reputation and were simply fantastic! The cold wind made our summit stay shorter than we would have liked. One thing that surprised (and disappointed) me was the number of ascents. We were the 9th party of the year! To be honest, 2009 was the most popular year for Inglismaldie with other years only showing 2-4 ascents. For such a prominent Banff peak I guess this really isn’t very many but I expected far fewer ascents. Oh well, I guess that explains the faint trail.
The alternate descent route is straight forward and very quick. Near the rejoining to the ascent route you go through two ‘gates’ in the mountain which is pretty cool scenery. We finally found a spot out of the wind down there and ate a very relaxing lunch.
We decided to go further down the stream bed to see what the bushwhack was all about. After the spot where we joined on the ascent we continued to find smatterings of trail on both the left and right side of the stream. Basically, you should be on an obvious trail about 85% of the time. If you find yourself bushwhacking you have lost the trail and should find it on the other side of the stream. Like I said, don’t do Inglismaldie when the stream is running moderately high or you’re in for an adventure – and not the good kind either. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
Near the end of the stream we took a trail out of the stream bed, up the bank about 15 meters and rejoined our trail from the morning. After about 15 minutes we were back at the car. Our round trip time of 8 hours included a nice lunch break and time at the summit and didn’t feel rushed to me at all. I would recommend this peak as a late season objective when there is good weather. You don’t want to waste the effort this peak requires only to be denied a summit or even worse any views once you finally get there!