The Rimwall Summit has a variety of ascent routes for a variety of people. From scree slopes to bushwhacking, scrambling to ridge walks and all the way back to an exciting drainage that will test your flexibility ... The Rimwall has a little bit of everything. With panoramic views from the top of the Kananaskis valley, the summit provides a perfect relief from the hectic city life on a day to day basis.
The trail offers great views of the Spray Lakes Reservoir along the way and more panoramic views towards Canmore and the high mountain peaks that surround the gorgeous Kananaskis and Canmore area.
400 meters above Canmore, the Spray Lakes Reservoir lies in a narrow mountain valley. The origin of the reservoir’s name comes from a combination of the Upper Spray Lake and Lower Spray Lake.
The Spray Lakes Reservoir is home one of the 3 of TransAlta’s hydroelectric facilities of the Bow River Electric System. The Spray Lakes storage reservoir is created by the Canyon Dam, to the south and the Three Sister Damn, to the north. Although it too many years for Calgary Power to acquire a legal license to divert and store water in the Spray Lakes Reservoir, eventually Calgary Power eventually won the fight over whether it was worth sacrificing the fish for power.
The history of Spray Lakes is a colourful one. James Sinclair was the first white man to visit the Spray Lakes area. In 1841, James left what is now Winnipeg with 23 families with resolve to head to Oregon territory. When he and his group reached Fort Edmonton, they became under the guide of the chief of Wetaskiwin Cree, Maskepetoon. He guided them along Lake MInnewanka into the Canmore area and up to the Spray Lakes area.
Reverend Robert Rundle was said to be the second white man to explore the Spray Lakes area in 1841 as well. He camped at the confluence of the Bow and Spray Rivers and explored the Spray Lakes area to where the Rundle Mountain bears his name and further into Banff National Park.
A few years later in 1845, a Jesuit priest by the name of Father Pierre Jean de Smet, traveled from the Kootenay area, east from Lake Windermere to the summit of White Man’s Pass where he recorded in his journal, “where all was wild sublimity”. On the pass, he put a large cross which is how the river that drains the west side of the pass received the name “Cross River”. He then traveled down the Spray River which he commented, “was jeweled with enameled beads”.
The Rimwall’s distinctive appearance gave the summit its name. From the Bow Valley, you can see the wall of cliffs that rim the 2 sides of the summit. The Rimwall Summit is, however, an unofficial name for the peak and therefore there is not too much history on early exploration of the mountain peak.
Rimwall Summit Trip Log
Once parked the trail starts directly across the parking area on the east side of the road, and just to the left of the creek. A yellow sign is visible noting the area has seasonal closures. This is the trail.
The first option which I found to be quicker but less enjoyable due to no scrambling initially ... is a few hundred meters into the hike; it looks like there is a very tiny resemblance of a trail that starts to your left. I decided to take this the second time around and it is actually the bottom point of the ridge. It goes immediately uphill and turns into a small cliff band. If you stick to the edge you can stay out of the trees and the bushwhacking is kept to a minimal.
The second option is more common and does offer you the opportunity to get actual scrambling in. Hike nearly all the way to West Wind Pass, just as your approaching it you can see the cliffs of the Rimwall to your left. You can pick your preferred route and start scrambling upwards. If you would still prefer something a bit easier, you can follow the cliff to the left and it eventually meets up with the ground you are standing on. At that point you can simply walk onto the ridge to gain it.
Regardless of the route you took, they both meet up on the backside of the mountain. At this point you have to zig zag through a field of uncomfortably shaped rocks. Not too big and not too small, just the right size to make walking on a chore. There is no visible trail at this point for the majority of this section.
Once you ascend past the larger rocks, you reach the ball bearing scree. At this point there is a visible trail that leads you up to the top of the ridge.
As you reach the top of the ridge, you finally get to see the complete view to the north. The wind greatly picks up at this point as well as it is now freely flowing over the top unobstructed. The trail to the summit is now visible as well. You have the choice of following the trail as it traverse to the left through the rock bands, or to follow the ridge as you scramble the spine to the summit.
Which ever direction you decide to go, the idea is basically the same. Scramble over the numerous rock bands and reach the summit. There are a few spots to get up and over on each band so if conditions are making one particularly hard to ascend or descend, you can always move higher up or lower down and try again.
The Rimwall Summit doesn't have a large summit, but there is still plenty of room for a group of some size due to its length.
Once you have taken in the views from the summit it's time to head back down. You can either head back the way you came, or take the quicker way down. This involves heading down the scree slopes to the drainage that funnels below. There are funnel points you notice as you traverse to the summit. One is close to your ascent route, and the other is almost directly under the summit if your look at the Google Earth preview below. The trip through the drainage is also exciting in its own way.
Depending on where you drop in ... there are a few obstacles to overcome. A lot of it is simple friction slab that you have to make your way down. It is very slick as many years of water running over it has smoothed it down to a shine. There are a few drops that you encounter that used to be old waterfalls, one of which is of substantial size, when you approach these you can by pass on the left usually through the trees. Avoid going to the edge as there is only friction holding you. If you slip, the ground beneath you is so smooth there is nothing to catch you before you take a fall of your own. Depending on how much water is still lingering throughout, that can also create some trouble. While it shouldn't do more then just slow you down, the deep holes, some a couple feet deep, did make me pull some interesting stretches to get over as the trees around the drainage are too thick to bother going through at times.
Once the drainage stars to level out, it begins to branch out into tiny streams and eventually disappears underneath a blanket of moss. The ground is relatively flat at this point, continue in the direction you were headed and a few a few hundred meters later you will reach the road. If you parked in the clearing near the trailhead, hang a left and continue for a couple hundred meters until you reach your vehicle.
GPS Plotted Route
Blue is the route I took (right is ascent, left is decent). Red line is where the hiking trail is (approximately) and yellow is the other option of summiting the Rimwall. The first time I was on this mountain I did as most and went all the way to the pass before scrambling up the rock. The second time I didn't feel like hiking all the way to pass so I gained the ridge shortly after the hiking started on the Wind Pass trail. Both times I took the drainage to descend and both times were different. First time the drainage was bone dry, and no complications. The second time nearly all the low spots had water in them, some of the pot holes had a few feet of water, snow was still in parts and lots of deadfall.
Besides the established hiking trail at the start, the route is rather steady upwards.
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 Rimwall Summit?
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