Mount Pocaterra is part of the Elk Range located on the continental divide in Kananaskis Provincial Park (encompassing over 4,000 square kilometers of foothills and mountains bordering Banff National Park). It is connected via a long col (ridge) to Mount Tyrwhitt to the south (which is a turning point for the continental divide) and both are normally climbed together. Mount Pocaterra was unofficially named after a local explorer in the area.
The only published route up Mount Pocaterra is the moderate traverse scramble via Mount Tyrwhitt. The elevated start at Highwood Pass (7239’) and approach through golden Larches makes for a good recommendation. The most unique feature of the Pocaterra side of the route is a fascinating gendarme on its south ridge. The traverse over from Mount Tyrwhitt and then descending the route down Pocaterra’s eastern flanks makes for a true cirque. You are treated to great views of the Height of Rockies group, including Mount Joffre to the west 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 Highwood Pass day parking area at 7239’ (Highwood Pass Interpretive Trail) and park. Restrooms are at this location. 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 Mount Pocaterra in September and the route was free of snow. There are no published backcountry ski routes on Mount Pocaterra, nor would I suspect this to be a mountain worth skiing.
The closest camping is a backcountry site at Elbow Lake, 1.3 km in on Big Elbow Trail back north a few kilometers 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.""