Sentry Peak (Banff)

Summit Elevation (m): 
Trip Date
: Sunday, May 23 2021
Elevation Gain (m): 850 from camp along the Clearwater Trail
Round Trip Time (hr): 4 from camp along the Clearwater Trail
Reference Trip: 33 hours along the Clearwater River
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall you sprain something.
Difficulty Notes: A remote but fairly straightforward hike and scramble.
Technical Rating: SC5; RE5
GPS Track: Gaia
Map: Google Maps

After waking up at our remote campsite along the Clearwater River, Phil and I made preparations to ascend the easy looking Sentry Peak. By 06:00 we were hiking up the Clearwater Trail through the eastern Banff backcountry towards our peak which looked nice and dry. Our plan was to hike up the Indianhead Pass Trail from the Clearwater Trail as it curved around to the open west aspect of Sentry. From there we hoped the route would lead easily to the small summit with big views. The Indianhead Pass Trail was obvious – although the sign at the junction was pretty much illegible. We followed old horse divots around the SW end of the peak before turning north and uphill to a low col. Just before the col we turned up grassy west slopes.

As we ascended the lovely, open west slopes of Sentry Peak our views up the Clearwater River valley were sublime in the early morning lighting. Mount Malloch, Mamen Peak and views back to Indianhead Pass kept us entertained as we slowly worked our way up to the distant high col just under the summit ridge. There was evidence of many sheep here – this would be ungulate paradise!

Stunning morning views from the west slopes of Sentry Peak include (L to R), Snarl, Whimper and Mount Malloch (R).

We were still feeling the effects of the day before – or anyway I know I was! – but as we finally crested the upper col just below the summit we received a giant bolt of energy from the incredible scene that presented itself down the Clearwater River to the east. Morning clouds combined with shafts of sunlight glistening off the river and reflecting from giant, snowy peaks combined into one of the more incredible visual experiences I’ve had in quite some time. We continued a short ways up an easy to moderate ridge before stepping onto the summit with views in every direction.

Stunning views east down the Clearwater River to a distant Scalp Peak. Lost Guide Peak at left and Forbidden Peak at right.
The Clearwater River runs from deep in the Rockies at right near Devon Lakes down past Scalp Peak at distant left. Peaks include (L to R), Indian Lookout, Lost Guide, Scalp, Forbidden, Peters, Condor, Bellow, Howl, Smoky, Snarl, Whimper and Harris (R).
Stunning views to the upper Clearwater River Valley include (L to R), Bellow, Howl, Smoky, Whimper, Unnamed, South Tower, Crown and Mount Harris and Malloch (R). Lakes visible include Trident at mid center with Martin Lake to its right. Barely visible above Trident Lake lies Clearwater Lake.
Views north over a distant Indianhead Pass include (L to R), Mamen, Caterpillar, Dodo and Wampum Peak at right.

For descent we decided to try an open SW ridge to treeline and hope that the bushwhack down to the Indianhead Pass Trail wouldn’t be too awful. This route worked well and before long we were thrashing our way through some moderate bush and breaking back onto our approach trail.

Descending a south ridge / gully with the summit cairn just visible at upper left. Bellow, Howl, Smoky, Snarl and Whimper in the bg.

Soon we were back at out camp and ready for the long trek back to the Cutoff Creek staging area.

5 thoughts on Sentry Peak (Banff)

  1. Awesome scenery and great photos Vern as always. I’ve done over the years some bivouacs in the Alpine where there is no concern to store food. How do you store your food when your in remote areas in the valleys where there is no bear poles like in backcountry campsites? Thanks.

    • Thx Leon, the honest answer is that we don’t really worry about it much – and I never have. We hang our food bags on a tree or place them on a nearby rock. Most of our food is packaged and doesn’t smell. Most of the concern about food and bears comes from “civilized” bears who are used to human presence and food. In the deep backcountry most bears want nothing to do with us or our strange, dried food. That being said a smart person would likely be a bit more careful. 🙂

      • Thanks for the feedback Vern. Some good points that you’ve pointed out. So true about the ”civilized” bear.

  2. Those ruts made by the horses are really something. Never seen those before. Do you suppose those were made by the wheels of a wagon pulled by horses over the years?

    • Hey Brandon,

      No, horses tend to step into the same spot each time. I’ve seen these ruts before on more front country horse trails too. Over the years they end up producing these large divots in the trail.

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