Most of the people who work here at the hostel have been here for a while or are planning to stay for the summer. Therefore, their motivation to get out and explore the area was not the same as mine. If I would stay longer, I probably would have waited for better weather as well. But I didn’t, so quite a few times I put on my coat and went out into the cold on my own.
However, I wasn’t alone on my very first hike. Katrina, whom I had met already during my first week in Calgary, was in Banff for the weekend and together we decided to climb the locals’ favorite mountain – “Tunnel Mountain”. The walk up is pretty easy and short, which is why most locals run all the way to the top to exercise. From there we had a great overview of Banff and all the places I planned to visit during the next few weeks.
A few days later we had a big dump of snow and my hopes for spring had been dampened once more. But instead of hiding inside, I went on a hike through the winter wonderland, which took me along the base of “Tunnel Mountain” to the “Surprise Corner”. The name can be taken quite literally, because the “Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel” can only be seen after turning the corner. The luxury hotel was opened in 1888, but has been remodeled in the early 20th century. At the base of the hotel are the “Bow Falls”, a series of cascades, after which the river lost about 9m in altitude.
The reason for building the luxury hotel was not only the beautiful mountain scenery, but also the discovery of the hot springs at the bottom of “Sulphur Mountain” during the construction of the Canadian railway. To prevent the exploitation of the hot springs, a protected area was set up around them and Canada’s first national park was born. The original cave with the hot springs can still be visited today and is now specially protected as the “Cave and Basin National Historic Site”.
Another day I set out to climb up “Sanson Peak” on “Sulphur Mountain”. I had originally planned to go with Tristan, but he was sick that day. Instead I went with Endija and his three Spanish friends Tatiana, Marta and Diana, who happened to be going the same day just a bit later. The way up was pretty straight forward, as the path was zigzagging underneath the expensive gondola. Although it had been warm for a few days, there was still a lot of snow, making it quite slippery.
We reached the top just on time. After taking in the great view of Banff and the surrounding mountains we had a quick look at the old meteorological observatory building from 1903. Then the rain showers really started and urged us to seek refuge in the summit station of the gondola, where we witnessed a perfect rainbow over the “Banff Springs Hotel”. Eventually it was time to go back and this time we used the gondola, as the descent is for free.
One more trail that I discovered on my own was the “Bow Valley Trail”, which I hiked on a nice spring day. First it leads through the forest and along the “Bow River”, but later on it climbs up to a little ridge overlooking the river valley and the majestic “Mount Rundle” in the back. It definitely looked like one of the mountains I would love to climb, but not alone. A little later I had reached the “Hodoos”, pillar-like rock formations, where I left the trail and headed back to the hostel.
With just a few days left in Banff I had almost given up on the idea of climbing “Mount Rundle”. But then I met three Canadians at the hostel bar – Adreon, Curtis and TJ – who wanted to climb it the next day. That fitted perfectly with my work schedule, as my shift was starting in the late afternoon. The plan was to go up from Canmore to the “East end of Rundle”. With its 2530m it is about 400m lower than the top of “Mount Rundle” and the chances of snow are therefore much lower.
The total ascend is still about 900m from the “Whitemans Pond”, where our car was parked. It may not seem like a lot, but neither Curtis nor TJ had ever climbed a mountain before. The steep trail and the exposed scramble at the ridge close to the top added to the difficulty. However, with sufficient breaks, snacks and “special drinks” all of us made it to the summit in one piece. At that point the wind died down and the sun came out, allowing us to fully enjoy the rewarding view.