OverviewMount Burney is near the centre of the Opal Range in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada. It is one of the many highpoints along the main range of the Opals that runs from Mount Evan-Thomas south to Elpoca Mountain. This attractive peak is subtle and hard to distinguish from the long Opal Range ridgeline. The summit reaches a height of 2934 metres (9,626 ft.) and is the second summit south of Mount Blane, excluding ‘The Blade’.
Like most Opal Range summits, this peak has named to honour the Battle of Jutland. Named in 1922 for Vice Admiral Sir Cecil Burney (1858-1929) who was a British admiral of the First World War. During the Battle of Jutland, his flagship, HMS Marlborough was hit, but not sank, by German torpedoes. First ascent in 1956 solo by R. Lofthouse via the West Face.
Easy highway access from Highway 40 along the western edge of the Opal Range provides the best approach. Highway 40 does provide access from the Trans Canada Highway in the north, and continues south to the Longview area, but the southern section is closed for wildlife protection from December 1 to June 15 each winter/spring. Best vehicle access from Canmore/Banff or Calgary is via the Trans Canada Highway, south along Highway 40.
An excellent trail heads up King Creek, but the trail does not have any permanent bridges. After about 1.5 kilometres from the parking lot, the creek splits into two branches, turn south (right) and stay low, close to the creek using game trails with some light bushwhacking. After about 1.5 kilometres from the forks, access the West Face or the South West Ridge from tree line below the West Face.
When to ClimbTypical Canadian Rockies situation with July and August providing the best conditions for high elevation climbing. Mount Burney’s relatively low elevation and position in the dry front ranges extends the summer season and is usually dry from June to late October.
- South West Ridge, Alpine II, 5.5First recorded ascent by Kevin Barton and Andrew Nugara August 7, 2007.
We first headed up the loose rubble and steep slabs of the West Face, but it appeared the top of the face was blocked by a tall vertical wall along the ridge crest. We could not spy any easy way to access the North Ridge or the summit block from the west side, so we headed to the prominent prow of the South West Ridge.
We gained the SW ridge near 2650 metres (8700 ft.). First section on the ridge was Fourth Class climbing (difficult scrambling), steep, exposed with loose rock and the odd step of 5.2 to 5.3. Once about 70 vertical metres from the summit, ridge becomes sharper and more steep. We climbed two pitches of 30 metres each with belay stations to the summit. Mostly good quality rock with good protection, all gear with various sizes of nuts and cams, no fixed gear placed. Final belay station on loose summit plateau. Generally easy climbing about 5.3, with the odd move of 5.5.
Just south of the first summit we reached there was an interesting antenna array along with a small hut and it looked like a primitive helicopter landing area. Although a fair distance away, to the south, there were two summits which looked taller from our perspective. We took a GPS reading to determine if we were on the summit, our reading was NTS UTM 369194 and an elevation of 2933 metres. We decided to traverse south to make sure we got our summit.
The second summit was steep and loose below the top, and I did sling a pile of rocks for a belay. The GPS reading was a similar elevation, 2935 metres. To the south, the third summit looked higher and we were compelled to reach it. The third summit was tricky; loose, exposed, no chance of protection and about 5.3 slab with pebbles to the final summit. We took a hasty GPS at the summit since we find could not find a solid belay station and the perch was very small; reading 2935 metres. The descent off the final summit was tricky and scary, no protection, loose and any fall would have been disastrous.
Happy to traverse to larger ground we headed to the hut and helipad to determine our descent. We opted to try the South Face. It was clear the face had steep ribs and gullies, but we observed deep gullies that looked low angled, so we headed down. Soon our gully ended in a vertical drop off. I built a solid two piton rappel anchor, a full 30 metre rappel to easy ground. Terrain quickly became steep and required faced in downclimbing. Two additional rappels were required, then tricky downclimbing to reach easy terrain. Long slog north back to the parking lot.
Essential Gear60 metre climbing rope, a full set of wires and a small set of cams. Depending on descent, pitons and a hammer are required. Likely cord or webbing for rappel stations. Helmet of course.
Rain/snow storm shell, warm jacket, waterproof climbing boots and good food as required, based on weather or season.