Mount Burstall resides in the middle of the Spray Mountain Range just north of Mount Murray in Kananaskis Provincial Park along with such notables as Shark Mountain and The Fist hemmed in to the west by the 11,172' Mount Sir Douglas on the Continental Divide. Mount Burstall was officially named (as most mountains in the area) after a WWI Lt. General in 1918. It was first ascended in 1972 by Brown, Carruthers, Cobb, Seyforth and Schiesser.
The only published route up Mount Burstall is the difficult rated scramble. It is one of the shortest routes in Kananaskis and one of the more pleasant in terms of footing. Although rated difficult by one of the local guidebooks, it definitely is on the easier side of difficult if not a more moderate climb. I took the summit on a stormy fall day, but was still afforded dramatic views into the French and Robertson glaciers. On a clear day, the views would be similar to Mount Murray and therefore include the big three in Kananaskis, Mount Sir Douglas, Mount Joffre and Mount Assiniboine. To the north are views of Mount Engadine and Mount Chester.
The Burstall Pass trail is a common one for summer and winter activities. I have hiked, biked and skied the trail. Burstall Pass itself gives access to the larger peaks of Kananaskis and Banff National Park.
From the Canmore Nordic Center, drive 40 km south on the Spray Lakes/Smith Dorrien Road (gravel). Turn right at signs for the Burstall Pass day use parking lot. You are guaranteed mountain sheep on the Spray Lakes Road and once in a blue moon, a moose or two. Watch for hazardous rock fall on the switchbacks above Canmore. At times this road will be closed due to rock and/or mud slides.
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 have seen a black bear on the Burstall Pass trail in the past. There are no park headquarters on this road. Kananaskis Park headquarters are located on Highway 40 east of Canmore. Any recent notices will be posted on the bulletin board at that location. 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 scrambles in the Canadian Rockies, the driest time is from June through September. I climbed Mount Burstall in September and dealt with considerable fresh snow on the route, but not an impeding amount. There are no published backcountry ski routes on Burstall, nor would it be conducive to ski to the summit although skiing to the pass is quite popular.
The closest camping is located back at the north end of Spray Lakes Reservoir across the damn 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. A premium accommodation is the Engadine Lodge (back at Spray Lake Road) which is only several kilometers north on Spray Lake Road.
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.""