The Three Sisters are a prominent landmark along Highway #1 near Canmore. It is hard to drive by without noticing the 3 tall peaks that look descending in size. The range of 3 peaks is a popular one found in many paintings and photographs. They have also been used in a couple movies such as “the Edge” with Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin. In the movie the Big Sister appears behind Alec Baldwin's character as he is modeling his newly made bear skin coat after slaying the “rogue bruin”. The camp in the movie is near a spot known as “Old Camp” on the Bow River.
The Three Sisters were named in 1883 by the nephew of the Major Rogers who discovered Rogers Pass in the Selkirk Mountains, Albert Rogers. As Albert Rogers recalls the story he said:
“There had been quite a heavy snowstorm in the night, and when we got up in the morning and looked out of the tent I noticed each of the three peaks had a heavy veil of snow on the north side and I said to the boys, 'Look at the Three Nuns.' They were called the Three Nuns for quite a while but later were called the 'Three Sisters,' more Protestant like I suppose.”
In 1886, the Three Sisters name first appeared on a map by George Dawson, a Canadian scientist and surveyor.
The Big Sister is a moderate scramble that is ascended from the southwestern slopes. The mountain peak is joined with the Middle Sister that happens to be an easy scramble from Stewart Creek and the Little Sister that is more of a technical scramble and difficult ascent that requires technical climbing skill.
Big Sister Trip Log
From the parking area follow the rather obvious path into the forest. You will spend the majority of the time above tree line so this portion wont take you long.
Once the trees start thinning out you have two ways of getting onto the main slab. The popular way and the way listed in Kane's book is to stay on the right side and down climb a bit. This part is marked with a small cairn. I found it to be a lot faster if you stay on the trail your going and scramble over the rock ahead. If you follow this, it takes you a little left before joining back on the slab.
If you go left you simply walk off onto the main part of the slab up top. Whereas if you down climb you are walking up crumby rock and parts of loose rock to get to the same spot.
The route takes you to the first hump which still offers a nice view of the bow valley parkway. From here it veers left and the route is pretty straight forward upwards due to the cliffs on either side.
When the ground in front of you starts to disappear, you have nearly reached the summit. The down climb is basically all that is standing in your way.
The 'crux' of the route would probably be the down climb. It is a nice change of pace from all the walking. It does offer a few good small ledges to get your feet on and good hand holds as well.
Once you have reach the bottom, all you have left is to hike up loose rock to the summit. The last few vertical meters do not really have a very obvious route so it looks like small beaten in paths all over the place.
Once you reach the summit there are a few rock shelters to get out of the wind for a little. Being one of the tallest mountains in the area it allows you have an uninterrupted view of your surroundings. On a clear day Mount Assiniboine is visible to the south west and Canmore is nearly always visible.
Return is the same way. Make sure to gain the ridge at one point on the way down or the rock gets a lot harder to climb up without rope which might force you to head back up a ways.
GPS Plotted Route
What were your experiences scrambling Big Sister?
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