Gap Mountain (not to be confused with Gap Peak near Mount Fable) is located in the gap over Kananaskis Trail (Highway 40) between the Misty and the Opal Mountain Ranges, therefore, officially named such in 1978. Gap Mountain is part of the Highwood Pass group in Kananaskis Provincial Park which encompasses over 4,000 square kilometers of foothills and mountains bordering Banff National Park in the central Canadian Rockies.
The only published route up Gap Mountain is the moderate to difficult scramble from the pass shared with Mount Elpoca. It is a short day scramble due to proximity to the road and height gain, but must be free of snow at the crux. Gap Mountain’s grassy slope approach is a great area to spot Mountain Sheep in their domain verses on the road. You are treated to great views of the Height of Rockies group, including Mount Joffre to the southwest (non-route side), Mts. Pocaterra and Tyrwhitt to the south as well as the Misty Range of Mount Rae, Storm Mountain and Mount Arethusa to the east.
In my opinion, this Highwood Pass area serves up the most scenic and accessible high alpine foliage in all of the Canadian Rockies.
Take the Kananaskis Trail (Highway 40) exit off of the Trans-Canada Highway between Calgary and Canmore. Drive to the Little Highwood Pass day parking area 10.5 km south of the gate at Kings Creek (Canyon). Kananaskis Trail is closed from December 1 through June 15, and I do mean with a gate. The closure is at Kings Creek (Canyon), meaning no access to any of the Highwood area mountains prior to June 15th.
There are no permit requirements to enter, climb and/or park in Kananaskis Provincial Park. This is active grizzly country however. Take bear spray. As of July, 2005, we have current trail closures in this area of Kananaskis due to a mountain lion (protecting its kill) and grizzly with cubs (bluff charge). Therefore it is prudent to check recent notices posted on the bulletin board outside of park headquarters which you drive by on Highway 40 (Kananaskis Trail). If they are open, check in with the ranger staff, they have tons of beta and are always friendly.
When To Climb
As with most climbs in the Canadian Rockies, the driest time is from June through September. I climbed Gap Mountain in June and the route was free of snow where it needed to be free of snow. There are no published backcountry ski routes on Gap Mountain nor would I suspect this to be a mountain worth trying to put up a ski route.
The closest camping is a backcountry site at Elbow Lake, 1.3 km in on Big Elbow Trail several kilometers south off of Hwy 40. There are tons of camping options further north at Kananaskis Lakes. You cannot camp outside of the marked specific camping areas in Kananaskis. Refer to the Kananaskis Provincial Park website for more information regarding camping and/or lodging.
The Kananaskis Provincial Park website is a very thorough park website, including trail conditions or closures, wildlife notices, weather conditions, avalanche conditions, camping permits, whitewater conditions, etc. It is an excellent source if you are going to spend any time here and comparable to any National Park website I have used. Outside of the parks web site, Canadian Avalanche Association is also useful, particularly for winter travel.
""You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.""