This very challenging trail gains 780m of elevation over its 3.1km one-way distance, but rewards hikers with stunning views from atop the Frank Slide. The trail follows the north ridge of Turtle Mountain from the Town of Blairmore to the north summit.
In the early morning of April 29, 1903 the face of Turtle Mountain collapsed, sending 87 million tonnes (30 million cubic metres) of limestone crashing down across the valley. The slide destroyed the Frank Mine surface plant, buried the CPR rail line and killed approximately 70 people on the outskirts of the Town of Frank. However the mine was reopened within weeks, and the rail line was pushed through the slide within a month. The tales of tragedy and survival are documented in the many interactive exhibits and media presentations at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre.
It is not known who first ascended Turtle Mountain, although it must have been ascended many times after the railroad was completed in 1898. One famous ascendent was Edward Whymper, conqueror of the Matterhorn, who was in Frank in 1904 on a CPR-sponsored promotional tour of the Canadian Rockies. At age 64, it is probable that Whymper used this same north ridge route.
Take the back alley off 16th Avenue in Blairmore onto the pipeline right-of-way, and drive down towards Turtle Mountain to a parking area. Yellow-painted rocks indicate the start of the trail. Initially the trail is steep and rough as it fights its way up the west-facing ridge shoulder, but becomes a little easier once the ridge top is gained. The trail is generally well-defined throughout its length, but good scrambling and route-finding skills are required although no actual climbing is involved. The trail does come close to a number of sheer precipices, so those who do not like exposed views should not attempt this trail. The ridge and summit are notoriously windy, so please stay well back from the edge.
Along the summit ridge you can look down on the Frank Slide, the original 1901 Frank townsite (now an industrial park) and the present community north of the tracks, and also Blairmore and Bellevue. From the North Peak summit one has a commanding view of the surrounding mountains, and a little further along you can also see huge fissures caused by the release of the slide in 1903, and glimpse some of the monitoring equipment on the South Peak. Please do not tamper with any equipment. Return to to your car the way you came up.