N 49° 58.015 W 114° 39.280
BCP440 - Tornado Mountain
We got an early start this morning making it to the trailhead parking just after sunrise. The short bike section of the trip went well and we were able to safely stash our bikes in the usual spot. The 5 kilometre hike to Tornado Pass took just under two hours and provided a fine spot for lunch and short hunt for the caches in the vicinity.
After lunch we headed through the forest to the base of Tornado Mountain. Fortunately we picked up a well beaten trail through the scree that we followed to the col. At the col standing really wasn't an option unless a trip down to Hidden Creek was in your plans. So we carefully checked out the cairn at the col and took out secondary packs for the scramble to the top.
There is very little information about the scramble options available for Tornado Mountain. We knew generally that a SW approach was generally recommended. We headed up just west of the primary mountain drainage and traversed across the slopes looking for weaknesses in the rock bands and slabs. It was a long and involved process that involved significant upclimbs in an area that a fall or slip would not be good. After reaching the 2900 metre mark we needed to move to the northeast above the pitchy cliffs to gain the summit block. The scramble to the summit block was just that, a difficult section of rock climbs, while making sure to minimize the rock debris falling away.
Arrival at the summit was a very pleasant experience, with amazing views of the High Rock Range to the immediate west, the peaks to the south (Crowsnest Mountain and others) were a little hazy, and views of the Livingstone and Oldman River valleys. The surprising thing about the summit was it's room for movement - lots of space to take pictures of the surrounding area without the threat of a sheer drop off - though these exist. The summit cairn has three interesting containers: the 2005 Alberta Centennial Mountain Peaks Register, the original summit register, and an interesting 30 cm in diameter by 60 cm high block of wood that has been used as some sort of time capsule. As it turns out we were the first visitors since 2007 to sign into the summit register.
The cap site is about 5 - 10 metres west of the summit cairn. The marking post has seen better days, but the cap is in pristine condition.
The trip down the mountain was pretty slow with the need to down climb a number of steep sections without kicking loose debris. We took close to 90 minutes on the descent and fortunately had no problems. The trip down the scree run from the col to the meadow to the west and Tornado Pass Trail was a blast. We largely bushwhacked back to the Tornado Pass Trail, but fortunately found the trail decribed by an ATVer during our last trip (which had quite a bit of deadfall) leading back to the Rock Garden on the trail. The short hike back to the bikes and downhill coast to the trailhead parking was a welcomed experience. In all the trip took a full day, but was an amazing opportunityto again revisit this special area just east of the High Rock Range and Continental Divide. Thanks OFTH for the fine listing, challenge to find the pristine cap at the top, and to Ace Force One for joining me on this long but most enjoyable experience!