By the time we got to the hike on Saturday afternoon we had done a Friday evening spin, plus a long run and a swim Saturday morning. No doubt we were feeling slightly fatigued! I’m guessing the aim of the hike was to really tire our legs out so we could find it within ourselves to dig deep and to keep moving forward when are tired and feel like stopping.
Neil and I hiked Sulphur Mountain back in September 2011. Given all of the amazing hiking opportunities in and around Banff this wouldn’t be my choice for a hike in the summer or fall. You hike from a parking lot, straight up Sulphur Mountain, zig zagging through switch backs in the trees.
Once at the top you can either hike back down or take the gondola down (free in the winter, but I think there is a charge of $20 per person in the summer to ride down now).
Sulphur Mountain is a great hike in the winter though! With a set of Yaktrax or Microspikes (my preference) this route is a great option for being out in the mountains while there is still snow on the trails. (If you are looking for another great winter hike I love Johnston Canyon as well.)
Right at the base of the trail it was quite steep and covered in ice. My microspikes dug into the ice with no issues and I was off. Back in 2011 Neil and I hiked up in about 1:45. My fitness is a lot better now so I was hoping I could be a little bit faster today.
The trail was quite icy on probably the first third, turning to packed snow the rest of the way up. The switchbacks offer no reprieve from the elevation gain. You just keep climbing up and up. Every once in awhile there would be a break in the trees for the gondola route. A few people opened the windows and waved and shouted hello at us!
When we started on the hike it had been drizzling on us, but it turned to snow as we continued on. Even though it wasn’t the best day weather wise the trees did a nice job from sheltering us from any wind. I was perfectly comfortable in a tank, my Oiselle Wazzie Wool long sleeve and Katron puffy vest. On the bottom I had leggings underneath lightweight pants and Smartwool socks.
After stopping for a big gulp of Skratch and a photo with my friend Kelly I felt ready to finish this hike off!
As per my Garmin:
3.35 miles (5.40 km) from the upper parking lot to the summit
2, 480 feet (756 m) elevation gain
1:28:52 one way
Max heart rate 178 bpm!!