OverviewMount Sir Douglas is one of the most aesthetic mountains in the heart of the southern Canadian Rockies. It is located on the continental divide, split evenly between British Columbia (BC) and Alberta. Its summit actually straddles three parks, Banff National Park, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park and Height of the Rockies Provincial Park. Belonging to the 11,000’+ group, it ranks high on technical objective lists along with Assiniboine and Joffre in the southern Canadian Rockies. However, Sir Douglas is not as popular due to significant rock fall hazard on the routes.
Mount Sir Douglas was officially named in 1916 after an infamous British WWI field commander (Sir Douglas Haig). Most mountains in the Spray Mountain Range on the border of Banff National Park were named after WWI battleships and commanders. Sir Douglas was first ascended in 1919 by Hickson and Feuz, no doubt a feat for the time. It is draped by glaciers from all sides, including the massive (relatively speaking) Haig Glacier on its eastern flank. The mass and consistency of this glacier particularly impressed me from the summit.
Sir Douglas is a hard mountain to get a good gook at. The best view I have found is from the final summit ridge of Big Sister. The routes don’t come into view until you practically reach the ascent bivy site.
Getting ThereFrom the Canmore Nordic Center (Canmore, Alberta), drive 42 km south on the Spray Lakes Road (gravel). Turn right into the trailhead at signs for the Burstall Pass Trail.
Red TapePeter Lougheed Provincial Park is part of the Kananaskis Alberta Provincial Park System. You are not required to obtain a climbing permit or parking pass and I did not obtain a camping permit to bivy at the foot of the northwest glacier. Park headquarters is located on Highway 40 which is an exit off of the Trans-Canada between Calgary and Canmore.
Here is a map of the park.
This is active grizzly country, therefore, you should always have bear spray on your person. We just had a grizzly fatality in Canmore, June, 2005 as well as a recent mountain lion attack.
When To ClimbThe West Ridge is best contemplated in the summer months, but most of the Alpine Routes on Sir Douglas are accomplished in winter due to above normal rock fall from above. The Smith-Dorrien Highway (Spray Lakes Road) is open year-around, making winter climbs possible.
CampingClimbers should bivy on the west side of Sir Douglas. There are spots already laid out with a good water source close by just above the foot of the right most northwest glacier. The closest official campsite is in Banff National Park, Burstall US 18, and it is not close or relative to this objective.
Mountain ConditionsPeter Lougheed Provincial Park has weather, wildlife reports, trail closures, etc. Outside of the parks web site, Canadian Avalanche Association is also useful, particularly for winter travel.
RoutesWest Ridge, Alpine III, 5.5
Straight forward route up the small northwest glacier below some objective hazard (ice fall), intersecting and taking the west ridge. Loose rock and patchy snow dominate the route.
North-West Face, Alpine III
Good route and if the Direct is out of shape (rockfall ,etc.) it provides an excellent alternative up the face.
North-West Face Direct Alpine IV
This route, when icy presents a sustained climb. Falling rock can be a problem.
East Ridge III 5.6
A great line. The positions on the ridge look magnificent. But they say the rock is pretty rank as goes for the other routes as well.
South-East Face IV 5.6-7
Route takes the prominent couloir and ramp system on the south side of the peak. Although it has been attempted many times, it is still awaiting a winter ascent! Rockfall can be a problem in the lower couloir so cold conditions are an asset.