Canadian Rockies: to the top of Tunnel Mountain

Tunnel Mountain used to be called ‘Sleeping Buffalo’ by the indigenous Nakoda people because from certain directions it looks like ………. a sleeping buffalo.  Knew a thing or two about naming places did the original inhabitants of North America.  Now it’s called Tunnel Mountain …………… because there isn’t a tunnel.

In 1882 a 275 metre long tunnel was proposed by a team of surveyors to keep the route of the Canadian Pacific Railway along the line of the Bow River.  The General Manager of the company went nuts at the proposal, unwilling to commit to a scheme which would cause considerable cost and delay.  An alternative route was followed but the name stuck to the mountain.

At 1,692 m (5,551 ft) it is one of the smaller mountains near Banff but rising 1000 feet straight out of the town the Tunnel Mountain Trail is much used by locals and visitors.  That’s what I did with the afternoon of my day off from skiing.

It’s a sustained climb 2 miles straight up from the hotel at a good gradient but slower going than I would have liked because I’m not yet fully acclimatised to the altitude.  Under almost flawless blue sky and with a little heat in the sun a month after the solstice it was fabulous short trek with views down to the Bow Valley 1000 feet below and up to adjacent commanding peaks such as Mount Rundle, Sulphur Mountain and Cascade Mountain.

As ever I was reluctant to leave the top, seductively warm on sunned sloping rock slabs.  I was joined by a French Canadian and his Japanese lady friend and we squatted on the ground for over an hour drawing maps of Britain and Ireland in the snow, discussing national culture and the complex and still unfolding political histories of our homelands.

The gradient of the path gentles towards the top, the summit of Mount Rundle in view, rock slabs stripped bare of snow by strong winds

The gradient of the path gentles towards the top, the summit of Mount Rundle in view, rock slabs stripped bare of snow by strong winds

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Snow blown into drifts in the lee of the wind with added hieroglyphs

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Some drifts sensuously rounded

Photographer on the wind-stripped looking towards Cascade Mountain

Photographer on the wind-stripped top looking towards Cascade Mountain

On the top looking towards Mount Rundle

On the top looking towards Mount Rundle

Looking over Banff and upstream along the Bow Valley

Looking over Banff and upstream along the Bow Valley

Looking downstream along the Bow Valley towards the Fairholme Range in the distance

Looking downstream along the Bow Valley towards the Fairholme Range in the distance

Zooming in on the Hoodoos, rock pinnacles along the further bend in the Bow River

Zooming in on the Hoodoos, rock pinnacles along the further bend in the Bow River

The well trodden trail leads between gnarly trees

The well trodden trail leads between gnarly trees

On the downhill leg

On the downhill leg

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3 Responses to Canadian Rockies: to the top of Tunnel Mountain

  1. phillippa lee says:

    Hi Barry, it looks like you are having a fantastic time – your pictures remind me of how beautiful Banff is. I know that bears hibernate now but what about in the summer. Would they be on the local trail? I saw a stuffed bear in Banff – I couldn’t believe how big it was! Mind you I also saw a stuffed buffalo in the museum in Calgary about the native peoples and I couldn’t believe how big that was either…..

    • BarryH says:

      Hi Phillippa. Bears are indeed hibernating now, thankfully. When they emerge as the weather warms up in spring they are very hungry and apparently can be dangerous if startled or feel their cubs are threatened. The main threats from wildlife when out walking round here in winter are coyotes and cougar but I’m told that caribou can turn nasty too. I came across coyotes along the Hoodoos Trail alongside the Bow River a couple of years ago but they seemed more interested in howling at each other than in attacking me.

  2. Pingback: Canadian Rockies: Winter trails around Banff. | Barry's Ramblings

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