Oh Middle Sister.
What wondrous views from your summit. Atop your vantage point, I feel like I can conquer anything. But alas, I will never hike you again.
Just outside of Canmore, there’s a trio of mountains known as the Three Sisters. Iconic and symbolic, they’re hard to ignore. Of the three, Middle Sister is the easiest scramble, and I’ve wanted to hike to the peak since 2010. Since Dan was in town, I knew we needed to hike something intense. Paul was free as well, and when the three of us get together, there’s all kinds of ridiculous. One of Alberta’s famous snow storms in August decided to pass through the day before, which thwarted our original hiking plans. After humming and hah-ing, we decided on Middle Sister.
First, getting there. Where the heck are you supposed to go? Well, you want to take the Three Sisters Blvd exit and turn left onto Three Sisters Parkway. Go straight through the roundabout until you can’t go any further. At this time, there’s a dirt parking lot before the end of the road, but as this area is under constant construction, who knows what it will look like in time. Then in some fashion, we walked around the golf course until we hit the Stewart Creek creek bed.
From there, we had no idea what we were getting into, but basically we knew to hike up the creek. Hiking through the creek bed isn’t particularly difficult. Someone has marked the way with ribbons, and many cairns are built up on the rocks. But the 2013 floods did quite a number here. So for the first 3 hours or so of the hike, expect to climb over boulders, step on loose rocks, duck and climb under and over fallen trees, and exhaust mental energy while you think carefully about where to step. Luckily, as I mentioned, it’s always a fun time hiking with Paul and Dan, so there was no shortage of jokes, laughter, and shenanigans. The final 2 hours of the ascent finds you hiking and scrambling up scree. At this point, we were pooched. It’s been a while since I’ve been THAT exhausted from a hike before getting to the summit. It seemed like every step sucked the remaining energy out of us. There were lots of pauses and rests. We passed many folks descending and the consensus was that the ascent would take 5 hours… and 5 hours it did. Five freaking hours for an ascent. Mind you, Sparrowhawk, which I did a few weeks back, was also a 5 hour ascent. But I truly feel that the 3 hour creek bed add a sense of foreverness to this hike.
That said, the view from the summit is quite incredible. Canmore looks tiny, and there are so many surrounding mountains. Big Sister and Little Sister are equally as impressive. We were pretty much delirious at the top, so we took a few fierce photos, because why not!
The descent was painful. You’re at that stage when fatigue has set in, and so the scree down and the boulder hopping through the creek bed feel like an eternity. There were a few rolled ankles, stepping on loose rocks, and general fatigue-induced errors that added to the fun of it. Someone afterwards asked if the hike is worth doing. I think most hikes are worth doing because it gets you out and into the mountains. But even though the views from the summit are amazing, there are much quicker hikes that reward similar panoramas. But if you want something interesting and really long… then definitely consider it.
In total, the hike took us 9.5 hours, about 17 km, and had an elevation gain of 1485 metres. As we neared the end, conversations got weird. Irish, Trini and unknown accents came out. Reinventions of our bear calls were screamed into the air. We discussed how real men like fast cars, fast anything, and cry fast. It was all a bunch of nonsense at that point. But it made me realize something. I absolutely love the ridiculousness that Dan, Paul and I share, but our mountain adventures are few and far between these days. I guess what I’m saying is that I realize how much I miss doing these epic hikes with them, and there are some sentiments and emotions there.
And real men show emotions.