Missinglink missing Inukshuk

Missinglink mountain is a fabulous summit with extensive views of the Front Ranges all the way from the Highwood to the Elbow! Taking advantage of the fall weather we hiked up there on October 23rd to be greeted by an impressive, well-constructed inukshuk. A few days later we received an email from Joanne Godfrey of the Sheep River Ramblers, a group of whom had hiked to the summit on October 27th and found to their “great shock and sadness” the inukshuk had been destroyed. “The rocks just didn’t fall down — they were thrown everywhere”.
So sometime between our visit on the 23rd and the Ramblers on the 27th someone decided to dismantle the inukshuk and scatter the stones widely around the area. This doesn’t sound like vandals, who might have kicked it down, but are unlikely to have done such a thorough dismantling job.


The inukshuk was there when we visited the summit on the 23rd.


Before and after photos by Joanne Godfrey, Sheep River Ramblers.

We have been aware for some time that there are hikers around who seem to feel that cairns are out of place in the mountains. Some years ago, all the big cairns on Jumpingpound ridge that helped people navigate in bad weather (before there was a trail and GPS), were dismantled and the rocks widely scattered. Summit cairns have also been removed from several Kananaskis Country summits.
Do you get pleasure from a well built cairn, or do you think that they, along with flagging and trail signs, are out of place and detract from your outdoor experience?

19 comments… add one
  • dave Nov 19, 2017, 9:06 am

    wow what a great country we live in when our only concern is a pile of rocks to mark a trail , how lucky we are not to have to worry about bandits in the mountains , we can leave our cars and know with great certainty that they will be there when we return. women can walk the trails without the fear of assault , shake your heads people I have lived all over the world and trust me this is the best country i have ever lived in so remember its just a pile of rocks to mark a trail , compared to how billions of people have to live in this world we live in paradise , so enjoy it and look at the big picture,

  • Joe Feb 15, 2016, 6:09 pm

    Moving here from the UK several years ago, I was shocked by the proliferation of unnecessary cairns on trails in Alberta. Similarly, the number of Inukshuks and other “we were here!” statements (such as graffiti scratched into the slabs at the top of Ha Ling) that sprout in popular spots, wherever there are rocks to hand. Flagging tape, in 99% and more of the situations where I’ve seen it used, is just litter (just today, I saw three pieces used to mark the entrance to a cut-line on Eagle Hill – apparently the km-long treeless tract was insufficiently obvious to someone!). If the purpose is to guide someone back to their base, then why not strip it on the way back? For that matter, way too much litter appears along trails every summer – but that is a problem back in Europe too.

    While I’m not inclined to destroy such marks (other than picking up trash), I do wish that people would consider whether they need to “own” a piece of the wilderness sufficiently to mark it, and thereby spoil it for others.

  • vuldub Jan 15, 2016, 12:49 pm

    If anyone thinks they are the first to climb a mountain in our part of the world, give your head a shake. Someone’s been there before. People have been putting claim to land since man began on this planet. It’s human nature. There’s even a flag on the moon!

    How about the old practice of blazing on trees? Perhaps Skoki Lodge should remove the trail markers to appease the “leave no tracers”. Hummm, wouldn’t that increase the frequency of lost hikers requiring expensive rescues? What if a cairn prevents someone from taking the wrong path and getting hurt? What about the First Nations prayer cloths up Grizzly Creek? Don’t they violate your leave no trace rules? What about the rock tree on Forgetmenot Ridge – should we tear it down? Or the bead tree under the Angel Chair at Sunshine? Isn’t this all just graffiti?

    I welcome cairns when trails are vague or snowed in. Many times I would not have found the way without a cairn. In more remote areas, I have even had to rely on someone else’s flagging tape to find my way – thanks. I don’t advocate making cairns, they just don’t bother me or disturb my sleep.

  • Kaptain Kananaskis Nov 9, 2015, 10:32 am

    Well I must admit, nothing beats arriving on a wind blasted barren summit with the feeling like your the only one lucky enough to have visited such a place (sans Carin). But a big thank you to whoever flagged the Missing Link route from the west! It sure was handy with the recent dusting of snow;) P.S. Inukshuks rock!

  • RyderDA Nov 8, 2015, 8:33 pm

    I am speaking only for myself. Cairns that mark junctions, show routings in featureless landscapes, or identify a summit I can buy. But too often, cairns appear for no other reason that there are rocks around that someone can build a cairn out of. The profligation of cairns devalues the ones that are needed. These days, I see a cairn and wonder what it’s supposed to tell me. So many cairns are appearing they are no longer trustworthy navigation tools. Now they’re just proof that someone can pile up rocks somewhere, and I have seen piled up rocks in the strangest of places.

    Worse, there are places which supposedly have cairn navigation, where someone’s idea of a cairn is 2 stones together on top of a bigger rock (the route to Sparrowhawk Tarns comes to mind). I’m looking for piles of rocks in a sea of piles of rocks. Again, I can no longer trust cairns.

    As a result, for me, cairns have become mostly unsightly warts on an otherwise natural landscape. Inukshuks are worse, erected because people think the shape is cool. I worked the Arctic and know what they are for and mean to the native population. Marking the top of a mountain with a 10′ tall one is to me stupid and is an embarrassment to native traditions. What’s next: randomly wrapping trees with cloth because we think prayer flag trees are pretty?

    Still, I don’t tear cairns or other rock sculptures down (like the half a dozen windbreaks on the top of Ha Ling or Parker Ridge) if I see them. If a cairn actually serves a purpose, I’m not even beyond adding a few rocks to make it more obvious. But I was raised with the mantra of “leave no trace” hiking. No trace includes not building new cairns, and I wish others would do the same.

  • Joanne Nov 7, 2015, 12:48 pm

    Hi GMJ!!
    Thanks for posting more info on the Missinglink Inukshuk! I am wondering if this structure has been built and torn down a few times over the years??
    It is mentioned in The Passionate Hiker’s blog in July 2012, http://thepassionatehiker.blogspot.ca/2012/07/missinglink.html
    and then again in Alexandra’s blog in Nov. 2012
    I very curious WHO the master builders have been thru the years, and WHEN the first one was built.
    Jo (Priddis, Alta)

  • GMJ Nov 6, 2015, 11:12 pm

    Joanne the inuksuk has not been around for long: it wasn’t there last summer.
    Given the amount of time and effort required to build an inuksuk versus the time effort and reward of knocking it down, it seems rather pointless. Wanton destruction may be a bit strong but it is too bad.
    By the way, has anybody seen the Canada flag somebody put in the cairn at the summit of Prairie?

  • Keith Nov 6, 2015, 3:48 pm

    The construction of a inukshuks, cairns and other “Leroy was here!” artifacts detract from the wildness of a place.
    It appears the dismantler is as passionate in his logic as those who laboured to build the inukshuk.
    Preserve wilderness!

  • Joanne Godfrey Nov 5, 2015, 6:23 pm

    I am not sure how many years this beautiful piece of art stood majestically at the Missinglink summit.
    But she was OURS!
    The floods of 2005 and 2013 greatly impacted our land & many loved ones in my community.
    Sheep River Park bridges, trails and camping/picnic areas still await rebuilding.
    To have someone come in and wreak further destruction, is heartbreaking.
    I am rather new to the hiking world, and had no idea that some see cairns/inukshuks as a blight on the natural landscape.
    To me, the Missinglink Inukshuk represented my wonderful community…..each individual being an integral part of the whole and coming together to build one another up, especially in hard times.
    Taken from the internet……
    The hands of many and the efforts of an entire group were required to build these massive stone sculptures. They are the result of a consensus of purpose, of focused action by a group united in its goal and labour. The Inukshuk are the product of cooperation, teaching us that as good as our individual efforts may be, together we can do even greater things.

    Each stone is a separate entity. Each supports, and is supported by, the one above and the one below it. No one piece is any more or less important than another. Its strength lies in its unity. Its significance comes from its meaning as a whole. What is true about the Inukshuk is true about people. Each individual entity alone has significance. As part of a team each of us supports, and is supported by, another. We are united by our common goals, and together we are part of a greater whole.

    The stones which make up the Inukshuk are secured through balance. They are chosen for how well they fit together. Looking at the structure it can be easily seen that the removal of even one stone will destroy the integrity of the whole. So, too, with a team. Each individual in a team is necessary for the realization of the team’s purpose. The removal of even one person will result in the weakening of the structure. What holds the team together is the balance – the complementary nature of the individual skills.

    The Inukshuk are a symbol of the human spirit. They recognize our ability to succeed with others, where we would fail alone. They remind us of our need to belong to something greater than ourselves. They reinforce our ability to commit to common goals.

    The Inukshuk celebrate our working together. They continue to remind us of our inter-dependent responsibilities to invest our efforts today, to direct a better way for all of us tomorrows.
    The difference we make today, counts in all our tomorrows.

  • Alf Skrastins Nov 4, 2015, 8:52 pm

    You have to wonder who peed in someones corn flakes to make them so nasty as to destroy a lovely summit inukshuk that was obviously built with a lot of care and effort.
    I’m sure karma will get them in the end.

  • GMJ Nov 4, 2015, 5:43 pm

    Some peaks, like Vents Ridge in the Elbow, have built in cairns.
    On the highest summit of Powderface Ridge the only cairn used to be a tiny inukshuk well below the top. Huh? (I built one on top.)

  • Pete Nov 4, 2015, 3:00 pm

    You can thank training to climb Everest for the big cairn on Prairie mtn. A guy I know would frequently fill his pack with rocks and make multiple trips up and down the mtn each time carrying a new load of rocks up with him. That’s why that cairn got so big!

  • Matt Clay Nov 4, 2015, 1:57 pm

    I love cairns and flagging that serve as guides, but on more popular trails/scrambles I often find cairns that seem to have been built for decoration. If I’m not too sure of the route this can lead me/others astray. More than a few times I’ve spent a bit of time hunting around numerous cairns to find the one that actually marked the trail! Large and elaborate summit cairns, however, are just fun and the larger ones (like on Prairie Mountain) can even serve as windbreaks!

  • Tanya Nov 4, 2015, 10:33 am

    I love cairns. The big one on Forget Me Not Ridge was incentive enough to get my 6 year old all the way up there this fall. He hiked 6 hours just to get to that cairn. And the huge one on Prairie Mountain is also very popular with the kids that we hike with. They help guide the way and are a symbol that you’ve reached a summit or ridge. (much like prayer flags are in some countries.)

  • Pete Nov 3, 2015, 11:49 pm

    Parks doesn’t like flagging because it isn’t natural. Just like they don’t like trails that look to perfect or with lines of neatly placed rocks bordering them like it’s someone’s landscaping project. In days past trails were marked with tree blazes but this unfortunately isn’t a great option as it damages the tree. Cairns make great markers made from natural objects and if left undisturbed last forever. I prefer not to see flagging at all or at the very least keeping it to a minimum. It’s fine to use it to mark a new trail initially until the tread is established but once the trail is obvious the flagging should be removed. I’ve already spent enough of my hiking time in the mountains cleaning up and hauling out garbage left by people who have no respect for the environment. Seeing rubbish left by people along trails just takes away from the experience.

  • GMJ Nov 3, 2015, 8:06 pm

    Last summer I was up on Missinglink and the small cairn shown on the pic in the book was dismantled with the stones lying scattered.
    I always build a cairn when I come to a summit without one. To me there is something satisfying about reaching a summit and finding a cairn, but then again I think you should be able to see over the top of a cairn, at least if it’s on a mountain top.
    I also carry a roll of flagging tape in my backpack and use it fairly liberally. I don’t think there is anything wrong with either and they make navigation easier. I’ve heard that Parks frowns upon flagging however, not sure why… maybe someone knows?

  • Mary Vicars Nov 3, 2015, 7:47 pm

    I was with the Ramblers on Oct. 27th. I was so looking forward to seeing that wonderful Inukshuk again and seeing that wanton destruction was shocking and so sad.

  • Gillean Daffern Nov 3, 2015, 5:21 pm

    In all the mountain areas of the World that we’ve been to, cairns are used for navigation. A cairn on a summit is also the norm (even on Everest). As Emil says, stones are part of the natural environment and people have found inventive ways to make use of them. So are branches that are often laid across wrong-way trails. Flagging is different. However, it is very useful while a trail is being established. It degrades anyway, fades and eventually falls off.

  • Emil Saler Nov 3, 2015, 4:56 pm

    adds to it….stones are from the natural environment…

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