Bastille Mountain

July 18, 2009

Mountain height:         2610 m
Elevation gain:            955 m
Ascent time:                3:25    
Descent time:              3:45                    

Solo scramble.

On the heels of the “short drive, long drive”, etc. theory from Mount Turbulent, I decided to go for a “long drive, short trip”.  Bastille Mountain is in the Purcell Range and is about a 4.5 hour drive from Calgary. The actual trip can be completed in less time, so your driving time is going to be about double your scrambling time.

The crux of the trip was getting to the trailhead. As described in Hikes around Invermere, the 35 km from the Panorama ski resort to the trailhead takes about 1.25 hours alone. Although the description says a car is appropriate, I wouldn’t be taking my brand Ferrari on that road. Lucky for me, a teacher’s salary affords me only a trusty Honda Civic, so I don’t have to worry.

This was my first trip in the Purcells and I was very anxious to see some new terrain and mountains. The trip certainly didn’t disappoint in that respect. The trail to Jumbo Pass was easy to follow and took a little less than 1.5 hours to negotiate. My only source of aggravation was the thin, high cloud over the entire area. Perfectly clear skies were predicted and this wasn’t it.

The actual scramble was quite interesting: a scree slog up to the west ridge (looks like the Purcells are not immune to the pleasures of good Canadian scree!), followed by an up and down traverse over three minor summits to the true summit at the east end. An extremely wide variety of remarkable rock characterized each highpoint. At the summit, I took a short nap, hoping the clouds would dissipate, but it appeared they were there to stay. The glaciated peaks of the Horseshoe, Starbird and Macbeth glaciers would have been extraordinarily beautiful with clear skies above.

With little chance of clearing I opted to extend the trip by attempting an alternate descent. Two small lakes below the south face of Bastille looked particularly inviting and warranted a closer look. From there, I could traverse around the east side of the peak, back to the Jumbo Pass Trail, or follow a stream down to a cutline. It seemed easy enough anyway!

The lakes and surrounding scenery were fantastic. Idyllic would be a most fitting adjective to describe the environs below the south face of Bastille. Both lakes were crystal clear, radiating beautiful shades of blue and green and were connected by a small, fast flowing stream. As well the rock around the lakes was astonishing, some of it so perfectly fractured it appeared it had been cut with machine precision. Clearing skies further enhanced the terrific scenery.

After spending in inordinate amount of time at the lakes, I started the traverse descent option, trying to go around the east side of the peak. This started off well, but soon I was into a tangled maze of deadfall. An effort to change direction and descend alongside the stream was met with even greater resistance. A good hour of intense bushwhacking down steep, slopes followed. Finding the cutline was a big relief. Though the bushwhacking was miserable, it was a small price to pay for visiting the lakes – definitely the highlight of the trip.      

A very pleasant first experience with the Purcell Mountains.

Bastille Mountain from Jumbo Pass; the true summit is at the far left

Peaks to the southwest; Orche Peak just left of centre

A sundog (parhelion)

Peaks of the Horseshoe Glacier

Looking to the second and third summits

Interesting rock on the ridge

Cauldron Mountain (left) and Truce Mountain

The very brittle rock of the second summit

Another view to the southwest

A beautiful rectangular prism

Looking northeast to the Commander Group; Karnak and Jumbo are the highest peaks

The ridge to the summit

Mounts Lady Macbeth (left) and Macbeth

Forgot what these are

The lakes of the south side of Bastille

The lower lake

The upper lake

Don't know what these are either

Interesting clouds

Same as above

The lakes again

Redtop Mountain

The upper lake

Same as above

Colourful rock and the lower lake

Same as above

This rock formed a perfect bench