Big Sister

Featured photo of Big Sister

Big Sister (yet another mountain named Sister) is located with Middle and Little Sister in the Bow Valley section of Kananaskis Provincial Park. The Sisters are some of the most photographed and painted mountains in the Canadian Rockies due to their proximity to the town of Canmore, a gateway to the Canadian Rockies.

These mountains were originally named The Three Nuns, Big Sister being more specifically named Faith. Later they were officially named The Three Sisters. Big Sister was first ascended in 1887 by JJ McArthur. It is the highest of the Three Sisters. A traverse has been done of all three, but little if any beta exists on this route. The most common climb is the scramble on Middle Sister which is just a long backcountry hike from the Canmore side (north). The scramble on Big Sister is more challenging and begins on the south side of the mountain. The toughest climb is Little Sister which is a full multi-pitch climb on suspect rock.

Getting There- The Trans-Canada highway runs through Canmore. Take the downtown exit and follow it south through town, across the Bow River to Spray Lakes Road past the Canmore Nordic Center. Spray Lakes Road is a gravel road that winds its way up to a notch between mountains Ha Ling and EOR (East Rundle) to the south of Canmore. Continue past the water reservoir on your left, cross a small dam and park in a large gravel pit across from the second dam (Three Sisters Dam), a total of 17.3 km from the Bow River Bridge in Canmore.

Red Tape- There are no permit requirements to enter, climb and/or park in Kananaskis. This is active grizzly country however. Take bear spray. Park headquarters is located on Highway 40 which is several km off of the Trans-Canada via an exit before Canmore. Any recent notices will be posted on the bulletin board outside. If they are open, check in with the ranger staff, they have tons of beta and are always friendly.

When To Climb- This is a summer scramble, best to climb from July through September. I climbed it in early June and would rate it more difficult early season due to a snow traverse close to the summit. There are no other published routes on the mountain, ski touring or otherwise.

Camping- Most would plan this as a day trip from Canmore where there are many places to stay, including the Alpine Club’s Hostel and Clubhouse on the north side of town. The closest camping can be had by crossing the Three Sisters Dam to random camp sites up and down West Side Road. Campground reservations can be made through the Kananaskis Provincial Park website.

Mountain Conditions- Outside of the parks web site, Canadian Avalanche Association is also useful, particularly for winter travel.

Detailed route beta and photos can be found at DowClimbing.Com

Elevation (feet): 9,632
Elevation (meters): 2,936
Continent: North America
Country: Canada
Range/Region: Canadian Rockies
Province: Alberta
Latitude: 51.014511
Longitude: -115.353012
Difficulty: Scramble
Best months for climbing: Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep
Year first climbed: 1887
First successful climber(s): JJ McArthur
Nearest major airport: Calgary International
Convenient Center: Canmore Alberta

Thanks to Dow Williams for adding this peak.

Trip Reports

NOTE: Trip reports were previously called "Summit Logs" - same feature, new name

There are 8 trip reports for Big Sister.

Select any entry from the list below:

  • Log #19083 - by Dow Williams on Feb 14, 2006
    According to the summit register, I was the 2nd person up in 2003. I find that hard to believe, but conditions were late snow which makes this route actually quite difficult and exposed at the top. I...
  • Log #17908 - by ken on Oct 04, 2004
    Steep hike up to treeline. Rock slabs had alot of gravel on them. Clouds rolling in, considering a retreat. Reached "the pinacle" Surprised to have to scramble down at this point 5 meters.
  • Log #17909 - by Britton Stewart on July 12, 2004
    There was still some snow to the left of the pinnacles but it was still doable with a little caution. We had some trouble finding the first down-climb but the actual down-climb itself is not...
  • Log #17910 - by an anonymous user on June 25, 2004
    There was still some snow remaining to the left of the pinnacles....bring an ice axe along.
  • Log #17911 - by Doug Acorn on Feb 02, 2004
    Great! One of the best views in the valley. Fun scree runs down as well.
  • Log #17912 - by Van Belliveau on Oct 13, 2003
    Started out slightly overcast. The weather deteriorated as I climbed. Met another solo climber, (K.H.) half way up.
  • Log #17913 - by Andre Bodnar on May 18, 2003
    The long hike up with Moderate Scrambling. Spectacular views of the Canmore Corridor and the distant Mount Assinaboine. Highly Reccommened!
  • Log #17914 - by Tim L. Helmer on Jan 07, 2003
    We three set out for the summit on a nice summer day and found the climb/scramble difficult for a moderate; at least I did. It's not ever that hard just a sustained moderate. Along the way are a few...