Mount Buller is connected to the long Kananaskis Range located just north of Kananaskis Lakes in the center of Kananaskis Country, a provincial park which encompasses over 4,000 square kilometers of foothills and mountains bordering Banff National Park in the central Canadian Rockies. Mount Buller shares the range with many other climbs including: Mount Galatea, Gusty Peak, Mount Engadine, The Fortress, Mount Chester and Mount Lawson. Mount Buller was officially named in 1922 after a WWI colonel, typical of peaks in this section of Kananaskis. The first ascent to the summit was made in 1956 by Fraser, Hicks and Gorril.
There is one published route up Mount Buller, the moderate scramble via the west ridge. The route is easily accessed and can make for a short day, but rewarding views. One person has perished on this route due to rock fall. The views encompass Mount Sir Douglas and Mount Birdwood to the south, Mount Bogart and Mount Kidd to the east and Mount Nestor fills up the northern sky.
From the Canmore Nordic Center, drive 32 km south on the Spray Lakes/Smith Dorrien Road (gravel). Turn right at signs for the Buller Mountain Day Use parking lot. You are guaranteed mountain sheep on the road and once in a blue moon, a moose or two. Watch for hazardous rock fall on the switchbacks above Canmore.
There are no permit requirements to enter, climb and/or park in Kananaskis Provincial Park. This is active grizzly country however. Take bear spray. I discovered a fresh lamb kill (photo included) on the descent of Mount Buller. There has also been a large male black bear frequenting the area in 2005. There have been numerous 2005 trail closures in Kananaskis due to mountain lions and grizzlies. We just had our third serious grizzly attack in the Canmore area for 2005. Therefore it would be prudent to check recent notices posted on the park’s website. The park headquarters is actually located on Highway 40 (Kananaskis Trail) several kilometers south of the Trans-Canada. Notices are posted outside if they are closed. This is a solid information center with good staff and beta.
When To Climb
As with most climbs in the Canadian Rockies, the driest time is from June through September. I did the scramble up the west ridge of Mount Buller in August, 2005 and conditions were dry. There are no published backcountry ski routes on Mount Buller, however, I can envision making a ski summit with little room for error at the top of the west ridge.
The closest camping is located back at the north end of Spray Lakes Reservoir across the dam at random campsites located on the west shore of the lake. 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.""