14 May 2012

Hiking Cory Pass

Posted by Callan Bentley

Last summer (2011), my wife and I spent some time in the Canadian Rockies, checking out the geology in preparation for a new NOVA field class that I’ll be leading this summer (2012) in July. One thing we did was to ask around for good hikes. The ranger who put us on to Mt. Cory said it was “the toughest hike in the Banff area.” We parked at the Fireside Picnic Area on the south end of the Bow Parkway, about 5 km north of Banff village. The route took us up to Cory Pass (visible in the middle distance where you can see a dark rock nubbin), then down and around the mountain and back via Edith Pass.

You can see that a substantial portion of this route was above treeline, and the bit just beyond Cory Pass was indescribably epic. Just raw rock, naked and lifeless, as if it was deglaciated a week before we got there. Here’s a composite panorama view looking into the maw of Cory Pass itself:

Step across the threshold, and a gorgeous scene awaits…

I think this tower is Mt. Louis…(?)

Turning to the right, and looking down the valley… Look at those steep slopes! The phrase that pops into my mind is “sheer declivity“…

Did you spot the little character hidden in that last image? If not, I’ll zoom in on her:

As we walked down towards the bottom of this new valley (towards lunch with two marmots and a pika), we saw blocks of rock bearing multi-pronged trace fossils, which I reckon must be feeding traces:

Based on my reading of Ben Gadd’s book Canadian Rockies Geology Road Tours, I think that this is Cairn Formation dolostone – a Devonian deposit. It has a distinctly petroliferous stink to it when freshly broken – a real nostril-opener!

I’m looking forward to leading 18 NOVA students through this same hike this summer…