Every time I drive through Canmore I stare at the Three Sisters as I have wanted to climb to the top of Middle Sister for such a long time. It was something I’ve wanted to do for a while but with it being four and a half hours away I just didn’t make it down to that area as much as I wanted in the summer! In Alberta we had such a wonderful October with mild temperatures and very little precipitation, which meant the summer hiking season could be extended just a little bit! It only took until October 31 but I managed to climb the Middle Sister this year!
I am not a super experienced hiker by any means, so it was great to have a family friend, Barry, be our hiking guide for the day! My dad and I met up with him at the Cochrane turnoff and took his truck into Canmore. Up the Three Sisters Parkway we went and parked at the bottom of a gravel road, just below the Stewart Creek golf course. It was about a 1-2km walk up the gravel road to the trail.
All of the information I read said there would be a clearly marked trailhead for Middle Sister. We didn’t find anything of that sorts and basically just started walking up the creek bed. A LOT of the trail was washed away in the floods that happened a few years ago so we stayed in the creek bed the whole time. It was pretty easy going up the creek bed on the large rocks.
The flowing water ended and the creek bed ran dry after a couple of kilometres of hiking. It is basically 100% uphill so if you are looking for an easy or short hike, this isn’t it! We continued up the creek until we got to a saddle between the Big sister mountain and the Middle sister. This part was almost all shale and really hard to walk on and really steep! This was the only parts that I just had to stop and catch my breath at one point because I felt super lightheaded and definitely did NOT want to fall.
At that point I knew I hadn’t had enough water so I made sure to stop and drink more after that rest break. We trucked on up to the top, which entailed following a little “trail” along the shale to the peak. It began to snow as we got to the top. We had a good view for about 3.5 seconds and then the low clouds surrounded us and the wind picked up with the snow. It was pretty chilly with the wind so we made our peak stop short, grabbed a quick bite, and then began the trek down. It took us about 3.5 hours to reach the peak.
I think going down the mountain was possibly harder than going up. It wasn’t small enough scree that you could just run down the mountain and there wasn’t a thick enough layer of small rock to do that. It was also a little to steep for me so I took my time and we slowly made our way back down to the gully that led to the creek bed.
We took about the same time going down as we did going up, just over three and a half hours. In total, with breaks, we made it back to the truck in 8 hours. It was snowing for the majority of our hike down, which made the creek bed rocks super slippery and a little tougher to navigate than it should have been, but it was really fun hiking back along the creek bed. We were sheltered from the wind and the snowflakes gently falling just felt like perfection. I can think of no better way to spend a Saturday!
With a washed out trail, icy rocks, some steep and awkward scree, and lots of maneuvering through the creek bed, I would certainly classify this hike as moderate. It’s pretty lengthy at just under 20km, with a total of over 4500ft of elevation gain. We were exhausted by the time we reached the truck, and as we drove back to Airdrie we knew we would be sore the next day! My aunt had made us homemade pizza for dinner and we enjoyed some pizza, beer, and hockey for the remainder of the evening post-hike! THE BEST!
Do you go winter hiking?
Who else loves snowshoeing and wants to join me this winter?!
Name one thing that made you laugh this past weekend!