Commonwealth Peak was not named until recently. At 9104’ it really is more of an extension of Mount Birdwood
in Kananaskis Country
. I considered Commonwealth a short and easy scramble despite the moderate rating Alan Kane gives it in his guide book, “Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies”. That being said, I did do some real climbing as I got off route and found quite a few rappel stations meaning others have made the same mistake (climbing a water worn gully to the left versus ascending a scree gully further east).
My excuse was snow. I assume there is a better trail to follow with cairns if conditions are dry. The views of The Fist
and Mount Smuts
routes to the north and Mount Burstall
and Mount Sir Dougas
to the south are the main events.
This is a 2800+/- total ascent day.
Park at the Burstall Pass parking area and bike along the Burstall Pass Trail past a large boulder and towards the gravel outwash flats for approximately 3.5kms. Before you get to the flats, you will notice a bike rack on your right (this is a common trail by Canadian Rocky standards). Dump the bike and look for any number of trails that descend through the thick brush down into the large swamp formed by Burstall Creek and Burstall Lakes downstream.
Commonwealth Peak, Pigstail and Mount Birdwood are in clear view from this swampy marsh. This is your best perspective (photo) to study the ascent gully between Pigstail and Commonwealth Peak. Cross the marsh, attempting to keep your feet dry, until you come to a running creek at the edge of the forest coming down from Commonwealth. Cross at any number of locations via logs, etc. and bushwhack your way left on ascent through the thick forest to the avalanche gully you spotted earlier that runs down from the col between Pigstail and Commonwealth.
Alan mentions several items in his guide book I disagree with. First, if you cross the marsh earlier on the Burstall Pass Trail as I did, I found no need for extra shoes.
My boots kept plenty dry. Second, I ascended the avalanche gully coming straight down from the Pigstail col on the left as he suggested and descended down the other side. I recommend ascending and descending the east side of this gully.
Either way will involve some bushwhacking, there is no established trail. Continue up past tree line and to the col.
From the col, you get a clear view of a boulder gully running up the right side of Commonwealth Peak. Start up this gully staying to the wall to your left and continue past a major water worn gully on your left and cross over the next little ridge. I actually climbed the waterworn gully and it was enjoyable rock, but it also involves some 5th class climbing.
There are several bail rappels left on that route and if you are an experienced scrambler/climber, it is worth doing. That being said, the easy way up is the next scree filled gully that leads up to a mini col and then turn right and climb up an easy hands on gully up the left side of the final summit ridge. Continue along the ridge to the summit cairn.
Where do I start with the views? Mount Assiniboine
, Mount Smuts
, etc. The views are really kind of endless like most summits low and high in this portion of Kananaskis.
The descent is the same and you will quite enjoy the 3.5kms bike ride back down Burstall Pass trail. Although this can be a common trail, if you pick a mid-week day in the fall you can most likely have the entire area to yourself as I did. Look for moose in the Burstall Creek marsh.
Bike, Helmet, Hiking Boots (waterproof for the marsh),
Poles, Appropriate Clothing, Bear Spray/Alpine Axe if late or early season