I'd been in this cirque three times before - two easy trips, and one failed attempt at Mount Rae.
This time we had perfect weather, and made the summit. 3218m! - This will be an altitude record for a while.
Click to view full map
Mount Rae is a fairly easy scramble. Starting in the Highwood Pass means you can break 3200m with only 1000m gain.
Once you leave the interpretive trail, there is no real path, but one is not necessary.
The headwall at the back of the cirque is comprised of scree interspersed with a few relatively solid ribs
- making an easy way up and down. Once you gain the col, it's a ridgewalk to the summit.
The ridge gets fairly skinny at times, but never truly knife-edge, and most of it can be bypassed by lower routes if desired.
We stayed too low at the beginning, and found ourselves essentially climbing some concerningly loose bits
- staying on or near the ridge eliminates this trouble.
Before setting off on the hike, we saw a mother grizzly with cub wander along the west side of the valley, just off the parking lot.
Unfortunately, my camera is not really suited for wildlife photography.
The beginning of the route to Mount Rae's summit begins on the Ptarmigan Cirque interpretive trail - a nice short loop for non-hikers.
It quickly gains elevation from the already 2,206m Highwood Pass.
This trail is high enough that by late August, it's already running out of growing time.
The small plants and shrubberies were turning red, but the larch were still in full summer green.
At the end of the official Ptarmigan Cirque loop, the route continues to the very back and up
the cirque's headwall to a col connecting to rae cirque.
The view of Mount Rae from the trailhead.
Laurier breaks treeline below Ptarmigan Cirque.
Outlier of Mount Rae from the Ptarmigan Cirque trail.
The path starting into the cirque.
The brief 4.5km Ptarmigan Cirque ends at a small waterfall - our hike is just starting.
Starting up the cirque at the very back.
Hiking up ribs over the loose scree in the back of the cirque.
Looking back down the cirque from below the col.
Little Arethusa (peak), and Highwood and Grizzly ridges in the background.
Rae Glacier, from the col.
This dissolving piece of ice is the ultimate water source for the lower half of Calgary.
East peak of Mount Rae from summit ridge
Mixed up banding in a ridge on Mount Rae
-if following the trail from col, watch for this spot.
Close view of small pinnacle at rib - turn right to ridge at this point.
Staying low beyond this point puts you in some nasty territory.
Ridge to summit from col.
Looking back down ridge to col from partway to summit.
At 3,218m, Mount Rae is higher than anything immediately surrounding, giving an excellent view south over the small misty range,
east straight back to Calgary (viewable as a smidge on the horizon, but not capturable with my camera), and northwest over the
Kananaskis Lakes valley to the snowy Mount Sir Douglas and other high peaks surrounding the Haig and associated glaciers.
Mount Assiniboine is also visible a ways to the north. (see highest peak in pano image.)
Pano from the summit of Mount Rae.
Mounts Romulus and Remus, 19km north up the valley.
(I believe) The Banded group to northeast, Moose Mountain beyond.
The way down goes a lot faster - straight 400m of scree in no time.
We followed the creek into a small canyon and the open end of the cirque before finishing the way down.
Laurier on the scree below col.
Laurier ended up about an inch thick in dirt from this method
- I'm staying on my feet!.
Watching Laurier bound back to Ptarmigan Cirque.
Creek in Ptarmigan Cirque.
Highwood Ridge, Grizzly Ridge, and Mount Tyrwhitt behind.
Looking back up the cirque to King's Ridge.
Piglet checks out a waterfall on the creek.
Perhaps a Ptarmigan?
Laurier on the canyon wall.
Opal Range late in the day.
Larch tree silhouetted against the still cloudless blue sky.
Fossils!! It was too late in the short alpine growing season for any flowers, but we found a ton of fossils.
The little corals and tracks were everywhere - we'd come upon a couple when sitting down for a snack.
The following are some of the more impressive ones seen.
a colonial rugose coral.
paleozoic rugose coral - top view
paleozoic rugose coral - side view
*likely* a paleozoic brachiopod.
fossilized print or some sort of fern.
Photos taken by Rachel.
Back to Photos on Foot Index
Back to Photos Index