Johnson Canyon, Sulphur Mountain & Sanson's Peak

Monday 17th September 2012, Sulphur Mountain

A big day that dawned crisp and clear, if a little chilly (0C at best!).  Our plan was to head over to Johnston Canyon (wiki) and take in the waterfall before heading to Sulphur Mountain (2,451m) (wiki) for the 5.5km (each way) slog up to the cable car station and then the short walk to the summit of Sanson's peak finishing with a welcome dip in the Bannf Upper Hot Springs (wiki).

After one of the best breakfasts that I've ever had while camping we set off to Johnston Canyon - this canyon and the resulting waterfalls are where the Johnston Creek has forced its way through the rock over time on it's journey to meet up with the mighty Bow River.

The waterfalls themselves are quite impressive and there is a natural cave, made by the water from the main fall forcing through the rock over thousands of years, that you can walk through and view the waterfall crashing into the pool only meters away.   We were lucky that, as we'd set off so early, there was hardly anyone else around - this had the added benefit of the 2-3km trail being fairly quick as there were no crowds to contend with.

Then into the good old Toyota again and off to Sulphur Mountain.....

Standing at 2,451m and with a commanding view over Banff and the Bow Valley Sulphur mountain is a fairly serious affair and the 5.5km path from the main (gondola) car park to the summit is portrayed in the guide leaflets and books as "Strenuous".  You can, of course, take the cable car/gondola to the summit - but where's the fun in that?!

The weather was forecast to be good for the whole day and by now the temperature had climbed over the 20C mark and in hindsight we were a little bit too overdressed - but we'd find that out, and suffer for it, later on!

The walk up is steep, and the switchbacks are a pain in the ass as the offer a tantalising view, up (or down) the line of the gondola, of the summit and then tear it away from you with another corner and another gradual, painful, grind to the next switch.  But they do save you from what would be a horrifically steep walk directly up the mountain and  you get a nice chance to see lots of wildlife on the way up!

After a few hours we arrived at the summit - somewhat hotter and sweatier than when we'd started - and from here you can start to see why it's so popular with tourists, the views are amazing!

Sulphur Mountain with Sanson's Peak in the distance
You can only really reach the gondola hut/cafe - the real summit of Sulphur Mt is still some way off and there is no direct path to the summit.  You can however walk to the summit of Sanson's Peak which is around 1km away and was the sight of a meteorological survey hut - built in 1903 this hut was used for over 30 years by Norman Bethune Sanson and in 1948 was named after him.

As with most mountains and summit walks the descent doesn't really give a lot to talk about other than to say it's much quicker getting down than it is getting up!

We were both very pleased to reach the bottom of the trail and the car and even happier that the Bannf Upper Hotsprings were only 300m away. A 20 minute soak in the hot springs has, I swear, magical qualities and it's a real shame that every UK mountain doesn't have them waiting for weary walkers and climbers on their return!


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