Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bear's Hump

Height: 5,050ft
View-o-meter: 3/5
Scrambling Difficulty: Trail (west slope) Easy (east slopes) Technical (south face)
Total Trip Difficulty: Easy!
Best Feature: Views down the lake
Worst Part: Tourist Trap



Trail
Bear's hump is one of the most iconic Waterton features there is. Only Vimy competes with it for defining the character of the Park. Tourists flock up the short trail that ascends its east flank. The trailhead leaves from the information bureau. In the 70's short cuts, increased traffic and lots of trail erosion put things in pretty bad shape. Since then, though, numerous water bars, benches and other asundry work have made this into a pretty comfortable trail. The short cuts can no longer be seen, and you don't need to worry about little kids tearing down the trail like you once did. If you need a quick hike, or need to take some non mountain folk up something interesting, the Hump is your ticket. Ascent times vary, but should be around 20-30 minutes (for fit folk), although I think it has been sprinted in as little as 8 and a half minutes from Tamarack mall (a world class marathon runner was a grad student of my Uncle).

West Slope
The original trail actually went up the west side of this little knob. Few people, other than climbers now use this old route. In fact, it is pretty hard to find a clear route at all. Head to a weakness in the lower band of the face. You can get here either by wandering along the base of the first cliff tier, or by following the climber's trail from the first left hand switchback up the Cameron lake road. Once at the prominent weakness on the first tier, scramble to the main ledge, and then head left. There is a bit of a step around here. This takes you to the upper flank of the hump. Follow the dirty ground up. Left has lots of deadfall, right has more scrambling. If you find the right way there is just a bit of 3rd class. If you don't care, you may encounter some short terrain up to 4th class. If you go really far left at the top you should avoid any scrambling (meaning you just have the short section at the start of the face to gain the main Bear's Hump or Alcove ledge, and then just a bit of exposure on the short step around)




Climbing
The face has a number of routes that range from 5.4 to 5.10. They all rely on gear. The rock isn't nearly as bad as reputation has. There certainly are lose blocks, but things are much more predictable than loose rock up in Canmore/Banff. The easiest route is Main Line, but I think Lichen Right is a nicer route. The ultra-classic route is Cusak's Crack. Lots of fixed gear attests to the fact 5.8 on a crack outside ain't 5.8 in a gym. It is pretty rare to see a party climbing on the hump.

The first known ascent of the hump's face was done by Frank Goble as a young teenager in the 20's. The hump stays surprisingly warm and can be climbed any season as long as a chinook is blowing in.


Blair and Lisa on the Upper Prow of the Hump

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2 Comments:

At 6/29/2009 09:27:00 AM , Blogger sigob said...

Bear's Hump caves can also be accessed from the left side scramble. When you get to the first tier of rock, wander left. In 200m or so you'll get to two shallow depressions in the rock. The "caves" are about 10-20 feet deep. They are more hollows in the rock than actual caves.

They used to be a good get away spot for local kids.

 
At 8/06/2009 11:04:00 PM , Blogger sigob said...

I gather there used to be more rocks on the summit of the hump than there are now. As a boy in the 20's my Grandfather was fond of throwing rocks of the top. Since most of the smaller rocks had been used up he decided to roll some of the bigger ones down. Unfortunately the park superintendent's house was below.

With the sound of rocks crashing on the Cameron road, he came out and started yelling. In order to avoid being caught the boys ran down the back (west) side of the hump, crossed over to the Bertha trail and made as if they were coming down from the lake!

 

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