Mount Rundle, Banff
Mount Rundle, Banff
Mount Rundle is a mountain in Canada’s Banff National Park overlooking the towns of Banff and Canmore, Alberta. The Cree name was Waskahigan Watchi or house mountain.[Notes 1] In 1858 John Palliser renamed the mountain after Reverend Robert Rundle, a Methodist invited by the Hudson’s Bay Company to do missionary work in western Canada in the 1840s. He introduced syllabics there[Notes 2]—a written language developed for the Cree, as part of his missionary work. He only visited the Stoney-Nakoda of the area around what is now called Mount Rundle in 1844 and 1847.
Mt. Rundle could actually be considered a small mountain range as the mountain extends for over 12 kilometres (7.5 mi), on the south side of the Trans-Canada Highway eastward from Banff to Canmore with seven distinct peaks along the way. The third peak southeast of Banff is the highest at 9,675 feet (2,949 m). West of the Spray Lakes road is the East End of Rundle— locally known as EEOR[Notes 3]—which rises above Whiteman’s Gap just south of Canmore. The Rundle Peaks are part of the South Banff Ranges, along with its siblings—the Sundance Range, Sulphur Mountain and the Goat Range.
Mount Rundle consists of limestones, dolomitic limestones, dolostones and shales of Paleozoic (Late Devonian to Mississippian) age. In ascending order, they belong to the Palliser, Exshaw and Banff Formations, topped by the Rundle Group which was named after the mountain and defined in 1953 by award winning Canadian geologist R. J. W. Douglas FRSC (1920–1979).
Mount Rundle illustrates the classic limestone-shale-limestone “sandwich” of the front ranges. The basal “slice of bread” is the lower massive cliffs of tough grey Pallister Formation limestones and dolostones. The “sandwich filling” is the Banff Formation, a layer of softer, more easily eroded, dark brownish-gray to black calcareous shale with thin beds of argillaceous limestone. The top layer of the geologic sandwich is the grey limestones and dolostones of the Rundle Group that form the massive upper cliffs at the top of Mount Rundle. Between the Palliser and the Banff lie the thin, recessive shales of the Exshaw Formation (the “lettuce leaf” of the sandwich), covered with debris from above.
The Paleozoic “sandwich” is part of the Rundle thrust sheet that was moved up from the west along the Rundle thrust fault and emplaced on top of the younger rocks (the Early Cretaceous Mist Mountain Formation) that underlie Canmore and the forested slopes along the Bow River. The thrust faulting occurred during the Columbian Orogeny between late Jurassic and early Cretaceous time. At that time a collision of tectonic plates caused huge sheets of sedimentary rock in what is now British Columbia to become detached and slide eastward to northeastward over their neighbors, piling up to form the southern Canadian Rockies. This left the Paleozoic strata on Mount Rundle dipping steeply to the southwest, so that the southwest-facing side of the mountain forms an extensive dip slope. Geologists consider Mount Rundle to be a classic example of a mountain cut in dipping layered rocks, with the tilted strata giving the mountain its shape.
The most recent stage in the history of Mount Rundle began in the Pleistocene epoch about 2 million years ago with the sculpting and gouging of the Canadian Rockies by glaciers, and then by streams and rivers. Finally, after the glaciers retreated for the last time, a series of steep, tree-covered alluvial fans began to grow at the mouths of the deep gulches on the northeast-facing side of the mountain.