Mount Birdwood is normally clearly visible from the road. In the above image it is viewed from Commonwealth Creek. Birdwood is a very mixed bunch of rocks. The lower flanks of the mountain as well as the west slabs are excellent compact limestone. Top quality. The upper chunk of the mountain is very rotten. A lot of scree and large loose rocks.
There is no non-technical route on this mountain. The SSE ridge (Lizzie's Ridge) is featured in Sean Dougherty's 'Selected Alpine Climbs in the Canadian Rockies'. It takes the most prominent line on the mountain. A line that looks very aesthetic from the Burstall Pass Trail.
The descent from the Birdwood is down the west side of the mountain. The guidebook describes this as moderate to 5.4 downclimbing, but I experienced a lot of snow and a very complicated descent with 6 different raps (30-40m long). We saw NO fixed stations on the descent. Another note about the rock. The seams and crack on this mountain seem to be very thin, flaring and sometimes in bad rock. Gear placements are fairly difficult.
The picture below (left) shows the SSE Ridge (Lizzie's Ridge) very vell. It is the ridge sweeping up to the right, looking very elegant. You can see where the ridge seems to stop at a notch. That is were one begins climbing the SE face. Easy gullies, possibly with snow, make up the first 150 meters, but it soon developes into horrible rock. We had a rock incident that resulted in losing 20 meters off one of our ropes.
The smooth wall, the 'Burstall Slabs'. There are atleast 6 or 7 routes there up to 5 pitches long. They range from 5.9 to 5.11.
To start the approach to Mount Birdwood you must get to the Burstall Pass parking lot. From Canmore it's a 45 km drive along the Smith-Dorrien highway, a wonderful, bumpy dirt road. The parking lot is on the right side of the road.
There is no requirement for backcountry permits in Kananskis.
Peter Lougheed Provincal Park and Bow Valley Provincal Park take up a fair amount of Kananaskis country, so posted signs should be obeyed.
This is an extremly beautiful part of the Canadian Rockies. Please do your part to keep garbage out of the trees and off the ground. There are washroom facilities at some of the parking lots along the road, try and use these is possible.
When To Climb
The summer season is the best time for an ascent. Snow free is ideal. Any amount of snow creates a huge amount of danger to avalanches. The mountain is very steep creating many gullies that end with a huge drop. Not a fun way to end the day. A winter ascent would be extremely challenging.
Camping is allowed anywhere as long as it is 1 km from the road. Be respectful to the area though and try to use desginated campgrounds.
There are other campgrounds in the area if desired.
Spray Lakes West Shore Campground has 50 sites (403) 591-7226
There is also the Alpine Club of Canada lodge with rooms and excellent facilities of 19$ CDN a night. The Alpine Club of Canada (403) 678-3200, ext 1
Engadine Lodge is a good base camp if you want some comfort at the end of the day.
Box 40025 Canmore, Alberta T1W 3H9
Tel.: (403) 678-4080
E mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Web address www.mountengadine.com
www.weatheroffice.com for a weather forecast
Kananaskis Country Emergency phone # is 591-7767
Spray Lake Ranger Station. (403) 678-5533
Alberta Tourist Visitor Centre (403) 678-5277
The Alpine Club of Canada (403) 678-3200, ext 1
or (403) 762-2088 for weather conditions
The summer months would be the most popular. June to end of September.
The Alpine Club of Canada
Joining a club such as The Alpine Club of Canada is recommended when climbing in Canada. While it is not obligatory, useful information can be had at any of their Clubhouse in Canmore, or at their website which is open to everyone.
Staying at the club in Canmore is 19$ Canadian for members and a little more for non-members. It can get quite crowded in the summer so a reservation is recommended.
- Burstall Pass backpacking trip images
Burstall Pass is the on boundary between Kananaskis Provincial Park and Banff National Park. Birdwood is 3/4 of the way up the trail to Burstall Pass from the parking lot.
- Burstall Pass dayhike images
On a separate occasion, we dayhiked to Burstall Pass, and scrambled up the 8300' ridge southwest of the Pass. I can say with a straight face that the views were the most impressive I've ever had the privilege of beholding. Absolutely unbelieveable. A nice view of Birdwood, but especially of Mount Sir Douglas.