It rises high above Cranbrook’s eastern skyline and dominates the view from Fort Steele by the Kootenay River. Mount Fisher soars 300 m (1,000 ft.) above its neighbours, granting it special nobility and making the climb to the peak a memorable hike. The views feature a panorama of the Kootenay River valley and the Rockies spreading out to the pastel blue horizon.
Although no technical skills are required, this popular route up Mount Fisher is strenuous and challenging. Sturdy footware and experience in alpine routefinding are essential for this tour. The lower half of the trail is a steep forested slope, sheltering the hiker from the wind and heat of the sun. About halfway up, two tarns and gentle springs bubble over mossy slopes, with wildflowers gracing the banks.
As you gain elevation, boulder slopes, loose talus and scree span into the upper cirque. Scrambling with potential exposure is required near the col and above, where the mountainsides descend below you, visually uninterrupted.
The upper part of Mount Fisher is unmaintained, with several routes leading to a tiny platform of rock at the top. The safest route is now evident with reflective markers on the rock.
Sitting on the rock platform at the peak, I was frozen with fear and reduced to literally crawling over the rocks on my hands and knees. I couldn’t move or even take photographs, and I certainly could not look down.
In summer, it is best to start hiking by 7 a.m. so that you can reach the col before it is in direct sun. As you hike, be aware of others below you. This is a busy trail during summer and especially on weekends. Try not to dislodge any rocks or even small stones, and if you do, shout a warning. Do not travel directly above another party. Hiking times vary from two to six hours to reach the summit.
Bring plenty of drinking water, as the open, rocky slopes face south and can get very hot. Water is only found in a couple of places. Extra clothing may be welcome when the mountain weather changes suddenly. The winds are cool at high elevations and afternoon lightning storms are not uncommon.
Although Mount Fisher is one of the more difficult trips in the area, it is often the only hike that many local residents will attempt. The trip is more rewarding if you are in shape beforehand. (Mount Stevens trail to Teepee Mountain is a good training hike, as it climbs the same elevation as Mount Fisher but on a good trail instead of loose rock. See entry #47.)
The summit platform is small, accommodating only a few people at a time. Be courteous; during sunny weekends in summer, hikers may be lined up waiting for a turn to sit atop the summit!
In addition, the descent is more difficult than the ascent, so you will want to reserve plenty of time for the return journey. After the difficult climb, muscles may be fatigued and many or not prepared for the steep descent. You may wish to use hiking poles, which will help you ascend and descend through the forest.
Leave ski poles, ice axes, bear spray etc. tucked in a safe place on the col, as they will hinder your movement on the final segment. Consider whether you can assist your dogs through the tricky bits ahead! (My little dog needs a boost or hoist in many places and she needs to be on a short rope so she doesn’t make poor decisions. She has knocked a rock down on my knuckles and shins more than once! —GW)