Mount Black Prince is located in the Spray Mountain Range of Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. Peter Lougheed is a part of Kananaskis Country
which encompasses over 4,000 square kilometers of foothills and mountains bordering Banff National Park in the central Canadian Rockies. Black Prince is adjacent to Mount Warspite
and holds down the middle section of the Spray Mountain Range located just north of Upper Kananaskis Lake. These two mountains share the range with several other objectives including: Mount Murray
(bolstering the northern end of the range), Mount Invincible and Mount Indefatigable
(ending the range to the south). Mount Black Prince was officially named in 1917 after a WWI battleship, typical of peaks in this section of Kananaskis. (this particular Royal Navy cruiser was sunk in battle and 750 sailors perished as a result). The ship was named after an English prince who wore black armor when he fought against the French in the Hundred Years War. Black Prince was first ascended by Fraser, Gorril and Hicks in 1956.
Your main views on an eastern ascent of Mount Black Prince include the Kananaskis Range to the north: Mount Buller, Mount Galatea, Gusty Peak
, Mount Engadine, The Fortress, Mount Chester
and Mount Lawson
Mount Black Prince routes are not listed in either the local scramble or select alpine guide. However, a backcountry ski objective on Black Prince is listed in Chic Scott’s “Summits and Icefields, Canadian Rockies.” I triggered a Class 3 avalanche, 500 meters wide and down to an October rain crust on an associated slope March 1, 2006. Photos of this event are included.
You have two options. From the Canmore Nordic Center, drive 52kms south which is almost to the end of the Spray Lakes/Smith Dorrien Road (gravel or in winter, snow laden, maybe not even plowed depending how early you are getting started- we had to dig out one stranded party on this trip)
at Kananaskis Lakes. Turn right at a sign for the Mount Black Prince Day Use Area. You are most likely to see mountain sheep in the summer and coyotes in the winter using the road and once in awhile a moose or two. Watch for hazardous rock or snow fall on the switchbacks above Canmore.
The other option: Take the Kananaskis Highway (Highway 40) exit off of the Trans-Canada Highway between Calgary and Canmore. Travel past Kananaskis Park headquarters
and Barrier Lake on your right and continue quite a distance to the intersection with the Kananaskis Lakes Trail road on your right. There will be a winter gate in front of you (closed from December 1-June 15). Turn right and take another right on the Spray Lakes/Smith Dorrien Road. Travel 8kms and pull into the Mount Black Prince Day Use Area on the left. There are restrooms at this location.
There are no permit requirements to enter, climb and/or park in Kananaskis Country
. This is active grizzly country however. Take bear spray during non-hibernation months. This is avalanche terrain during the winter. Therefore it would be prudent to check recent notices posted on the park’s website regarding that issue. The park headquarters is actually located on Highway 40 (Kananaskis Trail) several kilometers south of the Trans-Canada. Notices are posted outside if they are closed. This is a solid information center with good staff and beta and are open all year.
There are campsites galore in the Kananaskis Lakes complex, backcountry and camper sites. You cannot camp outside of the marked specific camping areas in Kananaskis. Refer to the Kananaskis Provincial Park website
for more information regarding camping and/or lodging.
When to Climb
As with most climbs in the Canadian Rockies, the driest time for alpine climbs is from June through September. As I mentioned before, the only published route is the back country ski route. I did this ski in March, 2006 and triggered a serious avalanche event that is detailed in the photos. Avalanche conditions were high for that day.
The Kananaskis Provincial Park website
is a very thorough park website, including trail conditions or closures, wildlife notices, weather conditions, avalanche conditions, camping permits, whitewater conditions, etc. It is an excellent source if you are going to spend any time here and comparable to any National Park website I have used. Outside of the parks web site, Canadian Avalanche Association
is also useful, particularly for winter travel. Canadian Alpine Accident Reports
are also extremely useful.