Tornado Mountain
Tornado Mountain (3099 metres) sits on the Continental Divide about 40 kilometres north of the Crowsnest Pass in the High Rock Range.  It is described as "an easy scramble by the SW, then S slopes" in The Rocky Mountains of Canada South by G.W. Boles, R. Kruszyna, and W.L. Putnam.  This is certainly a very cursory route description, but at least I knew which side of the mountain to approach!  I had thought about trying to bag Tornado Mountain for a couple of years, but because of its remoteness and my uncertainty about the route, I kept putting it off.  Despite driving countless times across the Oldman River Bridge on Highway 22, I only recently managed to get a clear view of Tornado Mountain to the northwest.  That renewed my interest in the peak, and a couple of days later, I set out to bag it.

I got up late as usual on 2 August 2004 and drove out to the Hidden Creek trailhead as described in the 1993 edition of Backcountry Biking in the Canadian Rockies by D. Eastcott and G. Lepp.  After fording the Oldman River right off the bat at 9:49 AM, I rode and pushed my mountain bike for the next twelve kilometres along the Hidden Creek Road.  This was probably one of the worst bike rides I've ever had in the mountains.  The killer hill just after the initial ford is so steep and rutted that it is virtually impossible to ride in either direction.  I also scraped my knee when I wiped out going down the other side of this hill.  On this day, there were so many big, deep mud holes in the road that I was usually on my bike for only a few minutes before having to stop and make a tedious detour.  Several fords and a few boggy swamps further on merely reinforced my desire to never ride this road again.  The road is marginally better for the last couple of kilometres before it dead-ends at a creek.  The Great Divide Trail (GDT), marked by red blazes on trees, splits off to the right about 100 metres before this dead-end.  I actually missed this junction on the way in and had to backtrack to find it.  I left my bike here and proceeded up the trail at 12:15 PM.

After the rough bike ride, hiking the well-maintained GDT was a real treat.  At 1:10 PM, I emerged from the trees to get my first good look at the south slope of Tornado Mountain.  The GDT, rather indistinct at this point (some cairns only), goes up and over a notch separating Tornado Mountain and its southern outlier.  It took me another hour to reach this notch where I was greeted by a stiff breeze and some unimpressed sheep.  From the notch, I climbed up the south slope of Tornado Mountain on easy scree at first and then on increasingly steep slabs.   Further up, I veered over to the southwest ridge and followed it up (very enjoyable hands-on scrambling) to the base of the final summit block.  From there, I traversed eastward briefly before heading directly up the middle of the south face.  I reached the summit at 4:15 PM.

The summit register was soaked and practically disintegrating in my hands.  It was probably just as well since I couldn't think of any words that rhyme with 'tornado' for my usual limerick.  After snapping some photographs, I left the summit at 4:45 PM.  My descent down the middle of the south face was not without some difficulty, but I managed to get back to the notch without a scrape.  Retracing my steps along the GDT, I got back to my bike at 7:00 PM.  The return bike ride seemed less miserable than the trip in (except for the cruel push up the last hill before the trailhead), and I was back at my car by 8:30 PM.
Still a long ways to the summit from here! In this view from Hidden Creek Road, Tornado Mountain is at right while its eastern outlier is at left.
This is where the REAL work begins! This is Tornado Mountain as seen from the southeast.  The GDT goes up to the notch at left.  The summit is the second bump to the right of the notch.
It's tempting to just lie down and sleep here! Sonny reaches the notch just south of Tornado Mountain.  The peak straight ahead is unnamed and guards the west side of Tornado Pass.
It's about another 650 metres to the summit from here. This is the south face of Tornado Mountain as seen from the notch.
The summit is about half an hour away from here. Sonny approaches the final summit block.
Looks like a lawn sprinkler! This is the survey marker at the top of Tornado Mountain.
Sorry, no limericks today! :-( Sonny holds up the summit register canister.  This view is looking north.
More scrambling possibilities? Gould Dome dominates the view to the south.  Barely visible in the hazy distance is Crowsnest Mountain.