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Rockies :: Canmore :: (Base of) Little Sister

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Three Sisters from little dam on 3 Sisters CreekThree Sisters from little dam on 3 Sisters Creek
View of Three Sisters from dam on 3-Sisters creek. Climber approach route to Little Sister follows gently sloped forested ridge to top of pyramid shaped cone, then scrambles ridge to the right to base of roped climbing

 

Abstract

Overall Difficulty D5 Steep forested slopes with deadfall. Bushwhack and route-finding.  Class 2-3 scrambling on upper ridge
Snow Factor S3 Some steep slopes leading to upper ridge;  route likely not traveled in winter
Scenery Great view of 3 Sisters from unusual angle.  Rock chimneys at base of roped climbing. Panoramic view of Bow Valley.
Trail/Marking Poor / none Sporadic trail and flagging disappears in lower slopes choked with deadfall.  Mid-section has newer blue flagging and is easily followed. Occasional cairns above treeline
Suggested Time 5 hr Return time to base of roped climbing
Elevation Start: 1390m     Max: 2320m     Total: ~950m Round Trip: 9.5 km
Gear Light hikers or full hiking boots. Gaiters for bushwhack, Poles helpful on upper slopes. GPS is essential.
Water Dry hike. Possible snow-patches higher up, depending on season. Carry 2-3 L
Dog Friendly Yes No on-leash restrictions

 

Gallery

Turnoff from Highline Trail towards Little Sister "Trailhead"Turnoff from Highline Trail towards Little Sister "Trailhead"   Turnoff from Highline Trail; go left at orange flag

Little Sister "Trailhead"Little Sister "Trailhead" Little Sister "Trailhead", 1-2 minutes from Highline turnoff Treeline showing steep slopes leading to ridge below Little SisterTreeline showing steep slopes leading to ridge below Little Sister Emerging at treeline about 1 hr from "Trailhead" Final ridge to base of roped climbing on Little SisterFinal ridge to base of roped climbing on Little Sister Upper ridge leading to base of roped climbing

Looking back at gendarme straddling ridge leading to base of roped climbing on Little SisterLooking back at gendarme straddling ridge leading to base of roped climbing on Little Sister   View back to gendarme that can be bypassed on either side

Base of roped climbing on Little SisterBase of roped climbing on Little Sister Class 3 terrain at base of roped climbing Base of roped climbing on Little Sister; red line shows ascent chimneyBase of roped climbing on Little Sister; red line shows ascent chimney Technical portion (5.6) of climb up Little Sister Sundown at ridge leading to base of roped climbing on Little SisterSundown at ridge leading to base of roped climbing on Little Sister View of all 3 Sisters from upper ridge near sundown

 

 

Summary

Three Sisters, also known as "Three Nuns" - Hope, Faith and Charity - are famous Canmore landmark, seen and admired from many vantage points in Bow Valley.  Middle and Big Sister are well-known Kane scrambles and frequently ascended during summer months. Ironically, the shortest Sister has no easy walk-up from the back. Normal route includes ascent of 5.6 rock chimney and is off limit to hikers. As such there is no established hiking trail; however reasonable way up exists following climber access route.  Biggest challenge is in lower part, where forested slopes are choked with deadfall and travel is difficult. Higher up trail exists and is fairly well flagged to treeline.  Continuing past the saddle requires some steep scrambling on broken slopes above dropoff, however it all pays off upon reaching the upper ridge that offers phenomenal view of all 3 Sisters.  Continuing past the wide rock gendarme involves some steep and lose slope bashing while holding no particular scenic advantage for non-climbers.

Drive to Hubman Landing at top of  Three Sisters Drive (exit 93 from Trans-Canada Highway).  There is plenty of street parking. Take Highline trail that starts right past the iron gate; watch for mountain bikers. This trail is wide and well marked with blue signs. It meanders through the forest, then approaches east bank of 3 Sisters creek. Continue past first side forest road to next one; about 15 minutes of fast pace from parking.  If you reach bridge over 3 Sisters creek you have gone too far and backtrack about 5 minutes.  Leave Highline and follow left side trail for only about a minute. Be on alert for flag and fallen log on start of faint trail on the right side - this is the "Little Sister Trailhead".   Initially steep but well defined it soon fades in section choked with deadfall.  Bushwhack up to flattish bench; caution is required here because of soft moss where your feet sink way more than expected.  At the bench there are 2 options.  Either follow faint trails generally heading right (south), or continue clambering up. If you continue right, you will reach edge of drainage coming down from Little Sister;  sizeable cairn here indicates you should turn left and start climbing. Higher up angle left and you should be able to pick up trail with newer blue flagging.  This option is longer, but has less bush to contend with.  Trail gets better defined the higher you go; eventually it reaches treeline and green slopes seen from 3 Sisters Creek -- about 1 hour from "Trailhead".

Continue up open terrain to the saddle, then scramble right to beginning of the ridge. Blue flags disappear but direction is obvious and any number of paths can be taken. It could be quite tricky when wet or under snow cover.  Start of the ridge has large cairn and is fantastic viewpoint;  ideal spot for a break. Continuing towards Little Sister is off interest to climbers only, as views generally deteriorate.  Rock gendarme straddling the ridge can be bypassed on either side, but right (west) is considerably easier.  Final bit leading to ascent chimney (5.6) is on lose class 3 terrain.

 

For more details on climb up Little Sister, refer to excellent article on Summit Post.