- Physical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the physical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
- Technical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the technical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
The rockslide off Turtle Mountain over a century ago fractured the mountain on a scale that is difficult to imagine, yet this scramble takes you across the fractured summit ridge where the sheer scale of the forces at play are apparent. A stop at the Frank Slide Interpretive Center afterwards to complete the history lesson makes this a fascinating and different kind of scramble.
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Route Description for Turtle Mountain
Ok, technically the scramble up Turtle Mountain is not in Castle, but it’s close enough and worth including as it’s an interesting scramble with great views.
Turtle Mountain is the site of one of Canada's largest natural disasters. On the night of April 29, 1903, a portion of the mountain measuring 1,000 m x 450 m x 150 m and weighing over 80 million tons collapsed and buried much of the town of Frank, killing nearly 100 people. The mountain, which had resembled the gently curved back of a turtle, was transformed into two summits separated by a jagged and fractured scar where the middle had simply fallen away. While today the mountain is considered to be at risk of another slide and is thus covered with scientific monitoring equipment, it nevertheless is a popular day hike.
After navigating to the trailhead parking area you should easily find the trail, as the start is marked by yellow-painted rocks.
The scramble up Turtle Mountain is initially a very steep hike. The trail is in good shape the entire way to the North summit of Turtle Mountain, and while it is particularly steep in the beginning the grade moderates after about 300 m of ascent. The views from the North Peak offer a great view of the surrounding mountains.
Continuing to the true south summit of Turtle Mountain, however, involves particularly challenging route-finding, a bit of scrambling, and about 100 m of elevation loss. The mountain is fractured on a scale that is difficult to comprehend and enormous boulders and ridges block your view forward. There are large fractures in the rock that would cause a nasty injury if you were to fall into them.
Expect to spend some time probing one route after another trying to find one that has the least amount of exposure, often being blocked by cliffs or crevasses. In the end it ended up taking us nearly an hour to cover that one kilometer. While the wind could make this part a bit unpleasant, it is also amazing to see the geological destruction in the area.
After a lengthy wander around the south summit of Turtle Mountain, start back down, moving through the fracture zone much quicker than the way up. Once through there head back down to the car.
Insider Hints for Turtle Mountain
- Turtle Mountain is notoriously windy, so stay away from the edge, as a strong gust could have disastrous results.
- If you’re looking for a really good burger and a beer, in a classic small-town pub after your scramble, head to the Rum Runner in nearby Coleman. It hits the spot!
- The Cinnamon Bear Bakery and Café in nearby Coleman is a great place to pick up baked goods before and after your scramble. All the homemade baked goods are incredible, but the Cinnamon Buns are somehow even better!
Getting to the Turtle Mountain Trailhead
Head to Blairmore, a small town just west of Frank on the Crowsnest Highway (Highway #3). Once in Blairmore, turn left on 133 St and follow it to the end of the road (15th Avenue) and go left. At the next T-intersection (134 St) go right and then left on 15th Avenue. Take a dirt road on the right and park along this powerline right of way (ROW).
Turtle Mountain Elevation Graph
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Turtle Mountain Reviews
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