Copper Mountain sits isolated just north of the massive range (Mount Bourgeau,
Massive Mountain, Pilot Mountain
and Mount Brett). Copper appears to belong to this group but is cut off via the Redearth Creek Valley leading back to Mount Ball and Isabelle Peak
. Copper Mountain is also situated on the south side of the Bow Valley which is the main transportation route in Banff National Park
, one of four connecting national parks in the heart of the Canadian Rockies.
Copper Mountain received its official name in 1884 due to copper being found near its summit. It was first ascended by the Macoun brothers in 1885 (miners at heart no doubt). A little bit of history tying Copper Mountain into one of the more famous mountains in the Canadian Rockies, is that Mount Assiniboine was named by Dr. Dawson when he first saw it from a mine on Copper Mountain.
The only published route up Copper Mountain is the moderate scramble. It is not a highly popular objective. I ascended it in poor visibility and therefore have no views to report, although I assume nearby Pilot
Mountains shine bright.
The Trans-Canada Highway dissects Banff National Park east to west as you come in from Calgary. Continue past the Banff and Sunshine Ski Resort exits. Trans-Canada is a four lane interstate type of highway, but it will let you turn left across traffic into several different trailheads. The second one you come to at 30+/-kms beyond Banff is the Redearth Creek Trailhead. There are restrooms at this location.
You will be required to purchase a national park pass as you enter the park. This pass is good for all four national parks. If you plan many visits to Canadian National Parks within one year, you should purchase an annual pass. There are no permit requirements to climb in Banff National Park, but all camping is regulated. There is also a backcountry permit required if you plan on spending a night in the backcountry. Even if you use a hut, you will need this permit. This can be obtained via the parks website which is included in the camping section below. Park headquarters are located in Banff and you will drive through the manned kiosks as you enter the park.
This is active grizzly country, therefore, you should always have bear spray on your person. I advise checking with Parks Canada
for any area and/or trail closures.
When To Climb
As with most climbs in the Canadian Rockies, the driest time is from June through September. I did Copper Mountain in August, 2004 and the route had fresh snow. As I type this, it is August, 2005 and Copper probably has a foot of fresh snow just from today. In any regard, summer snow should not be a problem. There are no published backcountry ski routes on Copper Mountain and I don’t imagine skiing to its summit is feasible.
The closest camp site would be the Lost Horse Creek, RE6, backcountry site in Banff National Park and it is actually where you leave the trail to start the scramble. Obviously, this site makes for a great base camp if you wanted to bag Pilot Mountain, Mount Brett and/or Copper Mountain on separate days. It is 7.2kms in on Redearth Creek Trail. You could really live it up with a reservation at Shadow Lake Lodge
another 6kms west on Redearth Creek Trail. They feed you well and even have a homemade sauna (live fire) which I have experienced on a winter ski trip. There are several more backcountry sites in the area. You can go on line at Banff National Park
to pick a camp site and obtain your camping permit. You will also be required to obtain your backcountry permit which is separate, but can be obtained simultaneously if you plan on camping at a backcountry site.
The Banff National Park website
has weather, wildlife reports, trail closures, etc. Outside of the parks web site, Canadian Avalanche Association
is also useful, particularly for winter travel.
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