Rubble... rubble... and more rubble. If you enjoy the peace and serenity of a hardly visited peak then this is a gem. It's recommended to bike in the 7km from the west end of Little Elbow Recreation Area to make your day a bit shorter. While route finding itself is not needed since it would be very difficult to get yourself lost, it is a bit difficult to 'see' the route at times on your way up in all the rubble since it does not see that many visitors = no clearly defined beaten path. Unless you have a bad fear of heights this peak should not pose any problems.
Located between the Little Elbow River to the north and the Elbow River to the south, lies a small mountain range with 4 distinctive peaks; Banded Peak, Outlaw Peak, Mount Cornwall and Mount Glasgow. This mountain range sees a lot of snow year round. Where it will be raining on mountains nearby, these peaks see freshly fallen snow in the late spring and early summer.
Out of the 4 peaks, Mount Glasgow is the most distinctive peak that stands out and can be seen near and in the Calgary area in the prairies. The best view of the rising peak is said to be seen on Richmond Road in the southwest of Calgary because of the road's orientation.
Canadian Rockies and its Vast Pyramids
The first recorded ascent of Mount Glasgow was Arnold Choquette's ski ascent in 1949. However, the peak was actually was of the earliest named peaks in the Canadian Rockies. In 1792, a man by the name of Peter Fidler was the first European to enter the Canadian Rockies. He was the first man to name a peak in the Rockies and climb a peak as well. When Peter visited southern Alberta, he noted in his journal on December 7, 1792 of, “a remarkable high cliff, very much resembling a Pyramid from which very near resemblance I shall call it by that name.” Now Mount Glasgow was then first named “Pyramid” but since Peter Fidler did not note the name on any maps, no one referred to the peak by that name. Peter used the distinctive peak to measure his bearings and calculate his position as he traveled across the prairies from Calgary to the Highwood River.
Mount Glasgow was not the only peak to be given the name “Pyramid”. There are at least 7 mountain peaks within the Canadian Rockies that carry the same name. Currently there are only 2 peaks that are named “Pyramid” officially.
Mount Assiniboine was once named “Pyramid”. In 1845, Pierre-Jean De Smet, an explorer who happened to be a Catholic priest as well, was traveling near White Man Pass in the Bow River headquarters and noted the pyramid shaped peaks in his journal. He commented, “The valley is bounded on either side by a succession of picturesque rocks, whose lofty summits, rising in the form of pyramids, lose themselves in the clouds” and on his map named Mount Assisniboine “The Pyramid”.
9km north of Jasper is another known mountain peak that was named as “Pyramid”. It is one of the more popular known “Pyramids of the Canadian Rockies”. During the Palliser Expedition in 1859, James Hector came across a mountain with a profile that when viewed from the east looked nearly perfectly triangular. James named it “Pyramid”. Even though the peak lacked the three dimensional aspect of a pyramid, the mountain's slopes from the east looked similar to the slopes of Egyptian Pyramids.
In 1897, Norman Collie named the now Mount Chephren as “Pyramid Mountain” and the neighboring peak “White Pyramid” since at the time it was covered in snow. Since the peak in Jasper named by James Hector was still named “Pyramid”, the Interprovincial Boundary Commission decided to change the peak named as “Pyramid Mountain” by Norman Collie to avoid confusion with the peak in Jasper in 1918. The peak unnamed again was soon called Mount Chephren by J. Monroe Thorington who was an avid and prominent mountaineer and author of the era. Thorington, who was inspired by the Egyptian pyramids and liked associating the Canadian Rockies with them, recommended the named Chephren after the fourth pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty of Egypt.
The prominent Glasgow peak along with the other 3 peaks of the small range were inspiring and sketched by the Marquis of Lorne during a cross country trip he made when he was the Governor General of Canada (1878-1883). An interesting fact is that his wife, the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria, Princess Louise Alberta is where the province of Alberta received its name from.
Battleships and Cruisers - History Behind the Peak's Name
The name Glasgow itself is one of the dozen of names that were given to peaks in Kananaskis and named after British warships of World War I. Mount Cornwall, one of the residing peaks next to Mount Glasgow, was also named after the battleship in the war.
HMS Glasgow and HMS Cornwall were cruisers that were significant in the 1914 Battle of the Falkland Islands. The battle began with the recent raiding of commercial shipping in the south Atlantic by the German naval forces. A large British Royal Navy was sent to the area and the end result was Britain's trade and troop transport routes being free again from surface raiders.
The roles of HMS Glasgow and HMS Cornwall in the battle were to pursue the 3 German warships that were trying to escape. Together with HMS Kent, the cruisers were able to catch the fleeing German cruiser Leipzig and after some hits suffered by Glasgow, the Leipzig sank and only 18 out of 286 German sailors were rescued by the British.
Although there is no exact date on when the mountains were named after HMS Glasgow and HMS Cornwall, at least we know the story behind the names. From Egyptian pyramids to the British battle cruisers, the peaks have been named after a vast and intriguing amount of history throughout the world.
Mount Glasgow Trip Log
Unless you are staying at the campground, parking is just on the left as your enter the campground area. There is a sign that says 'Trailhead Parking'.
You have to follow 'Little Elbow Trail' which is basically the road you came in on. It heads south through the campground and comes to a gate. The trail for Mount Glasgow is about 7.2km from this gate. This is done preferably on a bike as it is a lot quicker then hiking the 7km there and 7km back. Once you pass a blue bridge, stop at the first drainage you come across.
Look out for two cairns and a piece of flagging tape hanging off a tree when you come across the drainage. It is hard to miss since both cairns have large sticks sticking out of them.
Once you lock your bike(s) up to a tree, head up the trail that rises steeply right off the bat. This is about 80m south-east of the road.
From this point the trail the starts to turn into rubble and loose rock as it heads up a drainage point. When you reach a small rock wall at the top, turn right.
The trail breaks the tree line very quickly and you are soon traversing south-east under the towering cliffs above. This is some of the best trail underyour feet you will encounter along this scramble so enjoy it while you can.
As your traversing you will pass over a few small drainage points and the trail will seemingly start to scatter in all directions. You have two choices from here. You can either drop down a little bit into the stream bed below, or continue heading upwards on the rock. They both come out to the same area.
IF you do drop down these two pictures are what you will see, you basically boulder hop your way to the end where a wall of loose rubble is awaiting that you have to get up.
If you do not drop down and you continue upwards then you eventually come to a rocky point that you can mostly by pass by going on your left and it almost makes steps down. From there you will end up on a large slop of rubble. It is decently steep so you will probably appreciate your poles if you brought them.
Next is to walk across this pile to reach the point where the ridge on the right meets with the rubble. There is a trail there that makes life a little easier but you can bet on loosing it on occasion as it is not very beaten in at parts.
Once you get up the slope you will want to stick closer to the edge then further on the backside. If you pay close attention there are pieces of trail that make it easier as you head up but it is pretty broken up. Once you pass the first hump you will see the last large portion of what is left. The trail here heads slightly to the left as it heads up.
Once you come to a small rock band that is in your way, head to the right and there will be a path that takes you around it and up some more loose rock to the summit.
Once you reach the summit, the view from up top is a superb, making you momentarily forget about all that rubble you had to head up. On a clear day you can see as far as Calgary and the larger ranges to the west. Unfortunately on this day a storm was rolling in which lowered the visibility a fair bit.
For those folks that are interested there is also a geocache on the summit cairn. For more information about what geocaching is you can check out the official Geocaching website.
Return is the same way. It will be a little easier since you can see parts of the trail better from uptop then from below.
GPS Plotted Route
From vehicle to vehicle, a little over 17km of the route was done by bike which saved a lot of time. Walking is another option but does not compare time wise.
You do not gain much elevation on the bike ride in so most of it will be done by walking. There are still enough hills that make your legs thankful on the way back that your freely coasting downhill.
Click here to download the GPS route in GPX format. You may have to right click and select "Save Link As" if your browser does not download it automatically. Be sure to save it as a .gpx file.
What were your experiences scrambling Mount Glasgow?
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