Friday, July 22, 2016

5 Summit Day in Canmore (Kid-Friendly)

Hundreds of people climb up the popular Ha Ling Peak Trail in the nearby town of Canmore each day in the summer. Meanwhile, only a handful (if that) will tackle the connecting summit, Miner's Peak. Both summits share the same ascent trail, arrive at the same saddle (a low point between the two summits,) and are close enough to one another that it isn't hard to hike up both. From Miner's Peak, you can go on to climb up and over another three small summits on an un-named peak next door (referred to as the Three Humps.) The result - 5 summits in one day with roughly 800 metres of height gain.

Hiking up towards Miner's Peak (left) with the Three Humps to the right

I met up with a large group of families this summer for our annual Ha Ling to Miner's Peak Traverse. It was a great outing to do with a group because there were various end points depending on ability, age of children, energy, and general interest. Some moms carrying babes or hiking with children new to "scrambling" chose to make it to the ridge or saddle, and then stopped here. The views are still amazing at this point and it was a good end point for many.

Most of our group at the beginning of the trip

My son and I headed up Ha Ling Peak with one other teenager while the others waited below and had snacks/lunch. Then many of us headed up the easier Miner's Peak while some chose to go down at this point. Having tackled Miner's Peak, some again chose to descend or hang out to rest, while my son and I continued on to tackle the Three Humps with another family.

Resting at the saddle overlooking Canmore before heading up Ha Ling Peak (behind the boys in this photo)

In all, it was a great trip for a variety of experience levels. Last summer my son and I did four of the summits (skipping Ha Ling, the largest one) when he was six years old but this year at seven, we were determined to do all five summits. It was an amazing opportunity to be able to reach so many peaks in one day and we thoroughly enjoyed the outing.

Descending Miner's Peak with the Three Humps to the Left and Ha Ling Peak to the Right

Trailhead to the Ridge

Hiking up to the Ridge

You'll start at the Goat Creek Parking Lot on the Spray Lakes Road (Hwy 742 out of Canmore.) From here, you cross the highway, turn right on the gravel path, and cross over the canal on a bridge. Look for a big boulder with a plaque that says "Ha Ling, Miner's Peak Trail" in the trees to your left. This is the start of the trail and you'd be hard pressed to get lost from here on the well defined trail.

Follow the trail until you reach tree line and until things start to get very rubbly, loose under foot, and a bit sketchy for those in running shoes or sandals. I can't stress enough wearing proper footwear (hiking shoes or boots) and bringing poles for the descent on this part. I've seen many people sliding down on their bums and my son tore a huge hole in his shorts on this section coming down.

Also recommended for the hike down - bike gloves! Every time a child (or adult) falls down, it's the hands that go down first. Wear a pair of bike gloves and you'll save scratching your hands all up. I try to put my son in either long pants or longer shorts as well. The more skin covered, the better!!

Standing at the saddle or ridge top between Ha Ling and Miner's Peaks. (Miner's Peak is in the background to the left)

Ha Ling Peak Ascent

Ha Ling Peak is the first peak you'll want to do if trying for multiple peaks. It's the hardest with the most height gain so you want to get it out of the way first. Last year we made the mistake of going up Miner's Peak first. After tackling 4 summits on that side, there was no way anybody wanted to go up Ha Ling too.

My son pointing to Ha Ling Peak in the background from the saddle

As you can see from the photo above, Ha Ling Peak looks truly daunting!! It is a 3 km hike from parking lot to summit and in that distance you'll gain 737 metres of height. The trail is well switch backed up to the saddle but from here, it's just straight up the big pyramid to the summit.

Ha Ling Summit

The trail also gets a lot harder from the saddle. Inexperienced hikers will want to occasionally put a hand down to hold on to the rock and you'll find your feet skiddering out on occasion as you hike up/down loose scree. It's definitely a "scramble" at this point and a hard hike. Many people have been turned around by the final ascent, scared by all of the thin ledges, the exposure along the ridge, and the loose rock.

Canmore below us from Ha Ling Peak

Should you venture to the summit, you'll be rewarded with great views down to the Bow Valley and to Canmore. Should you choose to stay at the saddle, you'll still be on top of the ridge and will get the same view.

Needless to say (I hope) be very careful near the edge, don't let the kids run around at the summit, and use extreme caution at all moments. A fall off of the ridge would be fatal.

Back at the saddle again

Miner's Peak Ascent

If I freaked you out with my description of the Ha Ling Peak ascent, the good news is that Miner's Peak is MUCH easier. It's also more scenic (in my opinion) and there's room to have a relaxed picnic, to run around without danger of falling off of a cliff, and to let the kids play for a while. Miner's Peak is also much quieter and you have a very good chance at having the summit to yourself.

Height gain from the Ha Ling saddle to the Miner's Peak summit is only an additional 46 metres so it's pretty doable to achieve both summits in a day!

Mine's Peak is to the left (an easy walk up)  and the Three Humps are to the right (some scrambling required)

From the Ha Ling saddle, follow the ridge up to another saddle between Miner's Peak and the Three Humps. Here is your opportunity to have a proper picnic free of danger. You'll be in a lovely meadow and you'd almost expect to see sheep walking around. (so far, I never have though.)

Hiking up the ridge to the Miner's Peak saddle with the Three Humps

 The meadow in the photo below is the primary reason I like Miner's Peak better than Ha Ling Peak.

The meadow below Miner's Peak

We had six families make it up Miner's Peak (as opposed to three of us who braved Ha Ling.) This is a very rewarding and beautiful objective for those not comfortable with the exposure on the Ha Ling side.

Miner's Peak saddle with the Three Humps to the left and Ha Ling showing in the right

From the saddle, it's a fun little ridge walk to the Miner's Peak Summit. It gets a bit narrow in spots so just exercise caution, hold a hand if necessary and save your picnic/lunch for the meadow rather than spending a long time on the small summit.

Off and Running for the Miner's Peak Summit

Most children will actually enjoy Miner's Peak more than they will Ha Ling Peak. The narrow ridge is a lot of fun for kids and they will get the opportunity to try some fun kid-sized scrambling.

Fun ridge walking to the Miner's Peak Summit
Miner's Peak Summit

All of the kids were very proud to have made it up this summit and for many in our group, it was their first summit.

Miner's Peak Summit looking  down on the Bow valley
Navigating the narrow part of the ridge walk to Miner's Peak
Summit Shot with my 7 year old!

The hike back down to the saddle is always fun and I find that kids like to run this ridge. I personally don't mind but it depends on your comfort level and your child's experience with narrow ridge walks.

The narrow ridge walk on Miner's Peak
Running down the ridge back to the saddle with the Three Humps to the left and Ha Ling to the right

The Three Humps Ascent

Back at the saddle, you can't just stop here. Even if you just do Miner's Peak (saving Ha Ling for another day,) it's so easy to run up and down the Three Humps - and then you can say that you climbed 4 peaks in one day!

And it's only an additional 67 metres of height gain from the Miner's Peak saddle up and over the Three Humps.

Following a trail in the scree up to the First Hump

From the saddle, you'll follow a rough trail in the scree up to another saddle/col between the first and second Humps. While you don't have to run up the first one, how can you not?? It takes 5 seconds to detour off the small trail to tag the First Hump/Summit, and then you can move on to the Second Hump.

First Hump and the easiest one

After reaching the First Hump, it's a short ridge walk to the Second one. The kids LOVE this section because they get to do a lot of kid-sized scrambling on the narrow ridge, get to use their hands to climb up and down blocks, and they get the feeling of being a mountain goat.

Hiking up to the Second Hump (fun scrambling)
Ridge walking on the Three Humps
Second Hump Summit

The Third Hump is the hardest one and it's totally fine to skip this one if it scares you. Last year, I followed my son carefully, climbing up the final block right behind him, and then I down climbed right below him too in case he slipped. I used a lot of caution and did NOT let him stand on the summit. This year, well, I let him stand on the summit, I didn't follow right behind him, and I trusted his climbing abilities. He rocked it of course.

Our friends crossing the ridge on the Three Humps.  Ha Ling Peak to the Left, Miner's Peak to the Ridge
Scrambling to the Third Hump Summit

As you can see from the photo above, kids will have to use their hands while scrambling up to the Third Hump. Noah was fine but I helped my friend's daughter and it made both her mom and I feel better.

Standing on the Third Hump Summit (it drops steeply off the far side)
Third Hump Summit
Two Happy and Proud Kids on Top of their Third Hump

It was a great outing, the kids were all very proud of their accomplishments, be it for climbing one peak, four peaks, or all five peaks.

This will be an annual hike for our family and I wish there was a sixth peak to add on next year...

Want to Do this Hike with Your Children?  I always recommend a good guide book and this is my favourite for the Ha Ling to Miner's Peak Traverse.

Recommended Age for this Full Trip: Age 6+ with experience on steep hiking terrain. (Younger kids have definitely done both Ha Ling Peak and Miner's Peak though.)

Age 8+ for children who don't have a lot of hiking experience.

As always, it's recommended that you solo-hike big trips like this before bringing the kids. This way, you'll know what you are getting yourself in to and you'll know if the trip is right for your child or children.

To read last year's story where we climbed the four peaks (Miner's Peak and the Three Humps) follow this link to The Four Summit Day - Ha Ling Peak to Miner's Peak (and beyond)

Last year's story has a lot more photos in it.

Miner's Peak Ascent

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