Mount Cline is one of the coveted 54 11,000’+ summits in the Canadian Rockies. Its main claim to fame amongst this group is that it is one of if not the driest of all mountains at this height being located well east of the Continental Divide between the Saskatchewan and Cline rivers just outside of Banff National Park.
Mount Owen shares a connecting ridge line with Mount Cline. It cost a mere 1000'+ in additional elevation gain to bag Mount Owen en-route to the summit of Mount Cline via Mount Owen's broad south ridge. However, I did find it necessary to completely retrace my steps back down to the beginning of Mount Cline's snow/glacier slope crossing. The rime and verglas (early August) on Mount Owen's steep north face did not show a reasonable way down to the ridge so as to continue to Mount Cline from its summit. There was a summit log on Mount Owen, albeit I was only the second entry in 2011. One guides website does mention it as a twin peak bag with Mount Cline if the clients energy level and weather permit. The scree trail leading up to Mount Owen's summit ridge was also well traveled.
For me and others, Mount Cline’s (and thus Mount Owen's) main attraction could be its bivy site below the final approach for its southwest ridge route. Although I could have climbed these mountains in a push from car to car with a light pack, which would be my typical choice, I coveted the opportunity to enjoy a night at the north end of several beautiful small tarns hemmed in by slab thrusts on both sides. Although Bill Corbett’s guide book references a 4-5 hour approach to this bivy, I made it in 2:45. However, I did chose to solo these mountains without any technical gear whatsoever, no alpine ax, no crampons, no rope nor harness. Just boots, poles, a bivy sack and some food. I saw one grizzly track the size of my hand just below the bivy site, so there are bears in the area (2011). Total elevation gain from the parking area for all routes will involve over 6000’ gain. Make it 7000'+ if you are going to tag Mount Owen in conjuction with Mount Cline as I did.
Bill Corbett’s approach directions were less than stellar. He starts out by referencing a trail on the left side of Thompson Creek from the north west side of Highway 11 (David Thompson Highway). In reality, it starts on the right side of Thompson Creek. At about 20 minutes cross two log bridges back to back which will land you on the left side of the left fork at the split in the creek. In 2011 I found the first bridge in good condition, the second in bad condition. If this second bridge is washed out at the lower falls of this left branch, there will be safer crossings up stream. Once on the left side of the left fork, follow it for quite a few kilometers up stream following a trail sometimes through downed trees, other times on the rocky creek bank.
Before you reach a much larger fall in the left fork, look for a well cairned (2011) trail leading up left on moraine. Follow the left side of this moraine gully until about half way up to the steep wall above. Look for a flagged trail (2011) that crosses the moraine gully to the treed side (right) and continue up through trees angling right to reach a long open traverse on larger scree slopes. Corbett’s notes are quite unclear about when to leave the moraine gully, but it is actually below what looks like an obvious treed ramp which is what he mentions. That treed ramp will go, it is just not as well traveled. The trail will traverse several large scree slopes well up hill from the drainage exiting a twin waterfall ahead. Aim for the upper left corner of the twin waterfall headwall. That is where I encountered grizzly bear prints about the size of my hand (photo) and a lot of dug up ground consistent with bear habitat. Continue up the drainage that feeds those waterfalls until you reach another much shorter headwall. Scramble up it on its right side. Then continue up stream until you reach the pristine tarns/lakes Corbett mentions as one of the more scenic bivys of any of the 11,000’+ group. Bivy at the north end of the main lake where there is a small inlet of good underground flow water.
Route DescriptionFollow Mount Cline's southwest ridge route description and veer off to follow the broad south scree ridge of Mount Owen from the col it forms with an unnamed glaciated peak to the southwest. As the ridge narrows, you will soon reach the summit. Retrace your steps and continue on to Mount Cline.
When to ClimbMount Cline and Mount Owen are well east of the Continental divide typically giving them a decent sized climbing season from July through September.
External Links100’s of Canmore and Banff National Park multi-pitch rock climbs, ice climbs, alpine climbs and scrambles, just scroll down to routes
Banff National Park, Parks Canada
Best Eats in Canmore: Iron Goat, tons of organic/free range fare, my favorite is the game meat loaf. As good as prices as anywhere really and the staff is made up of a few aspiring climbers. The main man works his heart out making everything run smooth, not a given in Canmore. Best dining views (and sunny outdoor seating) in town bar none, from Mount Lougheed to Mount Rundle traverses, two of my trademark beta contributions near the town of Canmore. True best of the best mountain local dining experience.
Best Eats in Banff: The Bison, all organic/free range fare, with a detailed description of their suppliers. Recently expanded (2010), I recommend sticking with the downstairs. Better menu, prices and social ambience. Maybe retire to the bar upstairs for sunset or late night. Bison chili is amazing!
Best Coffee in Canmore: Beamers, the locals favorite, super wholesome lunch stuff, local guys, no attitude on service
Best Climbers Hangout: Summit Café, most likely place to find me or my brethren shooting the bull about beta. Best breakfast place in town, good coffee as well, serve Mennonite meats from Valbella, which is the best place to buy free range products anywhere in the world, right here in Canmore.
Climbing Gear: All way too expensive in the Bow Valley, but if you must, Mountain Magic in Banff is far superior to service and actual knowledge about climbing than the two in Canmore.