Peter Valchev has added the four summits individually that make up this infamous traverse as well as some individual ascent beta via his “Glasgow group traverse”. He also highlights an Outlaw to Glasgow traverse, from south to north, leaving out Banded Peak. Kane (in his guidebook) references a traverse from valley to valley. His option leads to much more hiking along the wide gravel trails (roads) of this area than most would appreciate. Unless scramblers traverse in opposite direction and utilize each other’s bikes, this is not a desirable option to pursue if wanting to knock these four peaks off in a day. The more common and modern approach to traversing all four peaks is to bike approximately 3 kms on Big Elbow Trail to South Glasgow Creek
and ascend the traverse in a horseshoe fashion from Glasgow to Banded Peak
, exiting back out on Cornwall Creek onto the Big Elbow trail approximately 7kms
from the parking area and approximately 4kms from where you stashed your bikes. Despite this being the most efficient approach to the traverse, and can be done in 10hrs by a competent experienced scrambler, many still take two days to complete it. The total elevation gain is approximately 7000’ and the total ground covered quite exceptional.
Where the Cornwall Creek exit is mostly done via a horse trail below Banded Peak’s headwall, the South Glasgow Creek approach can be considerably more difficult than just following a trail. Park at the trailhead parking lot directly across from the suspension bridge. Bike across the bridge and continue on the wide path for approximately 3kms to a typically washed out trail at South Glasgow Creek. Follow the well-flowing creek proper as it ascends into the steep canyon towards the col between Mount Glasgow and Mount Cornwall. If water is flowing rapid, you will be forced to bypass at least one significant waterfall by ascending either hill side.
Eventually you will make the headwaters of the creek. Before the actual headwall below the Cornwall-Glasgow col, ascend talus slopes northwest toward the final east summit ridge of Mount Glasgow.
None of the objectives involved in the traverse offer much in the way of obstacles. We ascended a huge scree slope to the eastern ridge of Mount Glasgow and appreciated the solid rock ascent up the final east ridge for the last hundred meters or so. All summit registers were ruined by moisture in July 2012. Another interesting phenomenon was the rabid mosquito population awaiting at all summit cairns and along the ridges. On a relatively calm day, we were bitten more at the summits than on approach or descent. 2012 will end up being one of the worst mosquito years in recent memory for the Canadian Rockies.
From Mount Glasgow, descend its southern ridge to Mount Cornwall, offering perhaps the most technical scrambling (although not much) during the whole traverse. The loss of elevation between Mount Glasgow and Mount Cornwall is also the most disheartening of the traverse.
Mount Cornwall is the highest of the objectives but offers the easiest ascent along the traverse. From the col, simply trudge up the right side of the east face, hit the ridge and walk south to the summit. The elevation from Mount Cornwall to Outlaw Peak involves the least amount of elevation loss. A few hands on sections await the quick ascent of Outlaw Peak. Descend large scree to the Outlaw and Banded Peaks col. This spot offers by far the best bivy along the traverse.
Banded Peak had running water draining close to the col and the ground was quite soft. A decent wind break was in place in 2012.
The ascent up Banded Peak’s west face is a trudge on loose scree. There is a light switchback trail packed into the scree on the right side. This summit had two cairns just meters apart. Your exit valley is straight below the north face.
Descend back the west face to below the summit block. Then move to the northwest ridge
and follow large scree down the ridge until you can make the north face scree field. Follow smaller more amiable scree down the center of the north face and angle to your right so you can circumvent the vertical headwall below.
Follow slabs across drainage to the far right to exit down
into the valley below the headwall. Continue to follow the main drainage through a beautiful flora rich alpine environment until you cross a creek to the left. Continue heading east looking for a horse trail up and left on a rise. Once you hook into this horse trail, you are home free down to Big Elbow Trail. The trail becomes more prominent the longer you stay on it. At one point it will gain elevation up the left side to avoid the raging creek below offering a very scenic exit along the upper ridge of a deep cut canyon. Once you hit Big Elbow Trail, follow it back to your bikes, approximately 4kms.
Two hiking poles a must. One of the largest (total) scree slog scrambles in the Canadian Rockies. Gaiters to protect your boots from said scree. Light boots advised versus approach shoes due to the scree bashing. Water is plentiful coming and going obviously, and there is another running source (July) at the base of Banded Peak. You could run with as low capacity as one liter. Mosquitos in July can be horrific in this area, including the summits.
All summit registers were destroyed by moisture in 2012, except for maybe Banded Peak.
External Links100’s of Canmore and Banff National Park multi-pitch rock climbs, ice climbs, alpine climbs and scrambles, just scroll down to routes
Banff National Park, Parks Canada
Best Eats in Banff:
The Bison, all organic/free range fare, with a detailed description of their suppliers. Recently expanded (2010), I recommend sticking with the downstairs. Better menu, prices and social ambience. Maybe retire to the bar upstairs for sunset or late night. Bison chili is amazing!
Best Coffee in Canmore:
Beamers, the locals favorite, super wholesome lunch stuff, local guys, no attitude on service
Best Climbers Hangout: Summit Café
, most likely place to find me or my brethren shooting the bull about beta. Best breakfast place in town, good coffee as well, serve Mennonite meats from
Valbella, which is the best place to buy free range products anywhere in the world, right here in Canmore.
OR: Best True Technical Clothing and Accessories in the Outdoor Industry
Scarpa, has surpassed La Sportiva in terms of quality, function, value
Osprey Backpacks, Not a Second Choice
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Cascade Designs (MSR; Thermarest; Platypus)