Mount Rundle

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Mount Rundle
Mount Rundle at Dusk.jpg
Mount Rundle as seen from Vermilion Lakes
Elevation 2,948 m (9,672 ft)[1]
Prominence 1,304 m (4,278 ft)[2]
Mount Rundle is located in Alberta
Mount Rundle
Mount Rundle
Alberta, Canada
Range Canadian Rockies (South Banff Ranges/Rundle Peaks)
Coordinates 51°07′27″N 115°28′13″W / 51.12417°N 115.47028°W / 51.12417; -115.47028Coordinates: 51°07′27″N 115°28′13″W / 51.12417°N 115.47028°W / 51.12417; -115.47028[2]
Topo map NTS 82O/03
First ascent 1888 by J.J. McArthur
Easiest route Scramble

Mount Rundle is a mountain in Banff National Park overlooking the towns of Banff and Canmore, Alberta. The Cree name was Waskahigan Watchi or house mountain.[Notes 1][1]

Mt. Rundle could actually be considered a small mountain range as the mountain extends for over 12 kilometres (7.5 mi), on the south side of the Trans-Canada Highway eastward from Banff to Canmore with seven distinct peaks along the way.[2] The third peak southeast of Banff is the highest at 9,675 feet (2,949 m).[2][3] West of the Spray Lakes road is the East End of Rundle— locally known as EEOR[Notes 2]—which rises above Whiteman's Gap just south of Canmore.

In 1858 John Palliser renamed[1] the mountain after Reverend Robert Rundle, a Methodist invited by the Hudson's Bay Company, to do missionary work in western Canada in the 1840s. He introduced syllabics there[Notes 3]—a written language developed for the Cree, as part of his missionary work.[4] He only visited the Stoney-Nakoda of the area around what is now called Mount Rundle in 1844 and 1847.[5]


Mount Rundle, Banff, Alberta

Mount Rundle is formed of outcrops of massive limestones of the Rundle Group—named after the mountain and defined in 1953 by award winning Canadian geologist R. J. W. Douglas FRSC (1920–1979).[6][7]

Mount Rundle illustrates the classic limestone-shale-limestone sandwich of the front ranges; Palliser-Banff-Rundle units (middle carbonates, Devonian period and Carboniferous period).[8] "The first slice of bread is represented by the lower massive cliffs which consist of the tough grey Pallister Formation of limestones and dolomites."[8] The sandwich filling is the Banff Formation, a layer of softer, more easily eroded and malleable, dark brownish-gray to black calcareous shale, with thin beds of argillaceous limestone.[9] The Rundle Formation limestone beds, the top layer of the geologic sandwich, forms the massif outcrops on the steep upper cliff at the top of Mount Rundle. "Between the Palliser and the Banff lies the thin and recessive shale of the Exshaw Formation (late Devonian and early Carboniferous, the lettuce leaf), covered with debris from above."[8] These layers are also seen in nearby Cascade Mountain as is the same fault-the Rundle Thrust which runs along the lower slope of each.[8] Geologists consider Mount Rundle to be a classic example of a mountain cut in dipping-layered rocks with its tilting bedrock shaping the mountain.[2][8][10][11]

"A final stage in the last 2 million years has been the sculpting and gouging of the rocky mountains by ice. The magnificent mountain scenery of the Banff area is a combination of both the underlying geological structure and the subsequent erosion by ice and rivers."[11] Erosion caused entire layers to "slide down the southwest slopes into the valley, giving steep cliffs on the northeast side and a more regular slope following the surface of one of the layers of rock on the southwest."[2]

Millions of years ago a collision caused an orogeny forcing horizontal layers of an ancient ocean crust to be thrust up at an angle of 50-60º. That left Rundle with one sweeping, tree-lined smooth face on the west, and one sharp, steep face where the edge of the uplifted layers are exposed on the east.[10]

"The collision causing the Columbia Orogeny occurred about 175 million years ago, and as the shock wave moved eastward, it forced huge masses of rock to crack and slide up over its neighbours. This is known as thrust faulting and was instrumental in the formation of the Rockies. The shock wave began piling up the western ranges, and then the main ranges, around 120 million years ago."[10]

The Banff Formation, in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin, was first described on the north-west slope of Mount Rundle in 1924 by E.M. Kindle who named the formation after the town of Banff.[12] At the Northwest end of Mount Rundle Banff Formation "thins slowly northeastward below the Rundle Group, ranging from more than 400 metres (1,300 ft) in the Rocky Mountains to about 150 metres (490 ft) on the plains." The Banff Formation band is rapidly truncated beneath the Mesozoic strata in the "northeastward of the subcrop edge of the Rundle."[13]

Mount Rundle has a series of tree-covered steep alluvial fans at the base of deep gulches and a hog's back formation.

The back side of the mountain, seen from Canmore. All the peaks seen here are part of Mount Rundle.

Rundle Peaks are in the South Banff Ranges, along with its siblings—the Sundance Range, Sulphur Mountain and the Goat Range.[3]


At the EEOR near Canmore there is a well-known scramble, the Goat Creek hiking trail, with its starting point at parking trailhead, which starts at the Smith-Dorrien/Spray Trail just south of the Canmore Reservoir above Grassi Lakes. This is also the beginning of the Mount Rundle Traverse, a demanding trek to mount all of Rundle's peaks from Goat Creek parking lot to the Banff Springs Hotel. Mount Rundle is one of the most popular scrambles in the area, and is relatively straightforward for experienced hikers.

In Banff, the Spray River trailhead for the first peak taking the Mount Rundle Trail, is near the Spray River bridge on the road to the Banff Springs Golf Course. The all-day hike (from 8–10 hours) from the trailhead to the peak is about 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) one-way and has an elevation gain of about 993 metres (3,258 ft) to the cliff bank on the first peak and 1,579 metres (5,180 ft) to the summit.[14] Although it is called non-technical, it is considered gruelling by some. About half way up there is a Central Gully, a huge watercourse with a well-worn path which is a dead end. Cliffs become higher and more vertical and there is no scrambling route. The real route crosses the watercourse and then immediately turns left (watch for markings). As one passes the treeline, the hiker ventures onto a feature called the "Dragon's back", where the route narrows between two steep gullies. The only real obstacle at this point is perseverance at the tread-mill like scree which slows progress to a two steps forward, one step back pattern.

The complete traverse from Banff to Canmore (staying always on the ridge) of the integral ridge was done "solo" in 1976 by the late Jean-Pierre Cadot. It required 1 bivouac, lots of scrambling, easy fifth class rock climbing and one section was very involved and required lay-backing the ridge with a high degree of exposure. A long rappel was necessary to overcome a very steep section and most likely that the rappel station is still in place.

Scenic viewpoints[edit]

Mount Rundle seen from Vermilion Lakes

In 2000 Dave Birrell described Mount Rundell as one of the most recognised Canadian mountains.[15] Painter, print-maker and art teacher, Walter Phillips RCA[Notes 4] (1884 –1963) described Mount Rundle as his, "bread and butter mountain. I never tire of painting it, for it is never the same. In deep shadow in the morning, it borrows a warm glow from the setting sun at the end of the day. Its colour runs the gamut from orange to cold blue-grey, with overtones of violet and intervals of green."

From Vermilion Lakes[edit]

Mount Rundle reflected in the Vermilion Lakes

The viewpoint from which most photographs are taken, 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) from Mount Rundle, at the end of Vermilion Lakes road, with Vermillion Lakes in the foreground.[15]

Mount Rundle and Sulphur Mountain can be seen from Mount Norquais on the north side of the Trans-Canada. The Banff Fairmont hotel patio and restaurants look out over Mount Rundle and Tunnel Mountain.

In popular culture[edit]

Mount Rundle is depicted on the cover of The Ghost Inside's album Get What You Give.


  1. ^ "When Europeans first came to our homeland we remarked that these people did not appear to be enthusiasts of the outdoors. They closed themselves in box-shaped structures and did whatever work (and play) they did inside. We called the Europeans wemstigooshewich or the "shaped wood people", recalling the curiously shaped wooden ships that they arrived in. We called their square-shaped homes "waskahigan", which literally means "the structure you enclose yourself in". When they were not satisfied with one enclosure they made another one around the first, which they called a "stockade". Over time, we learned to appreciate the lifestyle they introduced to us. Today, most, if not all Crees, live in these "waskahigan" style dwellings...It was only some forty or so years ago that our people began moving into these waskahigan.|Grand Chief Matthew Mukash 12 March 2009"
  2. ^ pronounced Eeyore, like the character in Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh series
  3. ^ James Evans the supervisor of the Wesleyan missionaries in Rupert's Land who is credited with devising the Cree syllabics
  4. ^ Walter Phillips played an important role in the development of their visual arts program at the Banff Centre, then known as the Banff School of Fine Arts. Its Walter Phillips Gallery, which focuses on contemporary art, is named after him. The Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Alberta holds an extensive collection of Phillips works and a research archive.


  1. ^ a b c PeakFinder. "Mount Rundle". Retrieved 29 January 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Mount Rundle". Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  3. ^ a b Mount Rundle, Peakbagger, retrieved 29 January 2014 
  4. ^ Rundle, Robert (1977), The Rundle Journals, Glenbow Institute 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Lexicon of Canadian Geologic Units. "Rundle Group". Retrieved 29 January 2014. 
  7. ^ Livingstone Formation, Lexicon of Canadian Geologic Units, 1953, retrieved 29 January 2014 
  8. ^ a b c d e Gadd, Ben (2008), Canadian Rockies Geology Road Trips, Corax Press, pp. 118–119, ISBN 978-0-9692631-2-8 
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b c The Formation of the Rocky Mountains, Mountains in Nature, nd, retrieved 29 January 2014 
  11. ^ a b Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists Poster (PDF), Alberta Oil Magazine: the oil and gas publication of Canada (Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists), 2007, retrieved 30 January 2014 
  12. ^ Kindle, E.M. (September 1924), Standard Paleozoic section of Rocky Mountains near Banff, Alberta, Pan-American Geologist 42 (2): 113–124 
  13. ^ Lexicon of Canadian Geologic Units. "Banff Formation". Retrieved 2009-02-10. 
  14. ^ Mount Rundle, Trail Peak, nd, retrieved 29 January 2014 
  15. ^ a b Birrell, Dave (2000), 50 Roadside Panoramas in the Canadian Rockies, Rocky Mountain Books Ltd 

External links[edit]