Mount Brock belongs to a unique set of three mountains that are part of the Opal Range, hidden from the Kananaskis River Valley to the east by King Creek Ridge and Mount Wintour. The approach through King Creek Canyon, an ice climbing mecca called King Creek Seepages, is nothing short of spectacular.
This is one of my favorite approaches in all of Kananaskis.
Kananaskis Provincial Park encompasses over 4,000 square kilometers of foothills and mountains bordering Banff National Park in the central Canadian Rockies. The Opal Range is rather extensive including Mount Evan-Thomas to the north running down to Mount Elpoca
and Gap Mountain
to the south. The other two mountains that sit with Mount Brock are Mount Blane
and Mount Hood. Mount Blane is the highest of the three. I have climbed all three of these mountains.
Mount Brock was officially named in 1922 after a WWI Royal Navy commander, typical for peaks in the area. It was first ascended in 1954 by Duffy and Ingold. The alpine route we climbed, the South-East Pillar of the West Rib, was first ascended by Toft and Mitchell in 1976. The only published route on Mount Brock is this route and is published in the Selected Alpine Climbs in the Canadian Rockies (SAC)
and is rated an Alpine II, 5.6. However, I will not pass on this rating with my beta. I will rate this route a 5.8+ as well as classify the descent as a technical one, not a down climb or scramble.
Understand that my risk tolerance level is actually much higher than most when considering these statements. The beta contained in SAC is incoherent regarding this route. In fact I will go so far as to state that in my opinion, Colin Nell’s death in 2004 might have been avoided if there was more accurate beta available regarding Mount Brock.
I can assure you that my route description and wherever Sean Dougherty sourced his are in complete conflict with one another regarding several aspects of the route description. Use caution climbing this mountain if you choose to use this book's beta re-published in 1999. I too, could have easily made the same fatal error Mr. Nell made in 2004 if I followed SAC’s route description. Few climbers reach the summit of this objective if the summit log of 2006 is any indicator. You will also find little if any beta outside of what is mentioned above as of 2006.
There are no viable ski routes up the mountain. Neither ridge is the “quality” limestone suggested in SAC.
I stated this previously regarding Mount Blane
as well. It is as large and loose as any ridge climb I have been on. The descent itself is perilous and unclean as this mountain is rarely climbed.
Once high up on the west rib, the big three of the region come into extraordinary view, Mount Sir Douglas
, Mount Joffre
and Mount Assiniboine
. Mount Remus
, Mount Romulus, Mount Cornwall and Mount Glasgow fill up the eastern skies once on the summit and descending the south ridge.
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 and King Creek Day Use parking area will be on your left. Pull into this trailhead parking lot. There are restrooms at this location.
There are no permit requirements to enter, climb and/or park in Kananaskis Provincial Park.
This is active grizzly country however. Take bear spray. The grassy slopes leading up to the climb are prime bear habitat and I have seen prints every time I have been on them. There are numerous trail closures in Kananaskis due to mountain lions and grizzlies. Therefore it would be prudent to check recent notices posted on the park’s website.
You will pass the park headquarters en route on Highway 40 (Kananaskis Trail) several kilometers south of the Trans-Canada (on your right). Notices are posted outside if they are closed. This is a solid information center with good staff and beta.
When to Climb
As with most climbs in the Canadian Rockies, the driest time is from June through September. We did this climb in May and conditions were dry on the technical portions of the climb. There are no published backcountry ski routes on Mount Brock, nor would it be conducive to skiing.
There are campsites galore in the Kananaskis Lakes complex across Highway 40, 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.
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. There are two modern day accident reports involving Mount Brock. I myself had to bivy on the mountain. This can be a long day.