Icefields Parkway Trip Reports

Mount Athabasca (The McKibbin Route – M5 II)

M5 mixed Route Mount Athabasca


Location: Icefields Parkway (Mount Athabasca)

Elevation Gain (m): 250m of climbing

Total Time: 10.00 Hours (3 hour approach, 2 hour descent)

Difficulty: M5 II 60 degrees (mostly M4)

Cell reception: None

Rating: 4/5. Solid rock and beautiful views. I only took off a star because there wasn’t as much technical climbing as I thought, and although the crux moves are fun and challenging I was left wanting more for the grade.

Notes: Snow quality can make or break this route (as with any alpine route I suppose). Most of the approach was only ankle deep, but where the slope got steep we ended up in waist deep powder. The last 200m of approach probably took us close to an hour. If conditions were perfect our approach time could easily be cut in half.


Route (McKibbin Route)

West Buttress of Athabasca from the Icefields Center showing the McKibbin Route

McKibbin Route (M5 II), Isaac/Huisman (M5+ II), Slawinski/Takeda (M5+ III)

Three known routes on the West Buttress: McKibbin Route (M5 II), Isaac/Huisman (M5+ II), Slawinski/Takeda (M5+ III)

Park at the climber’s lot, opposite the Icefields Center. Walk up Snocoach road until you get below the West Buttress and start making your way up, snow conditions will impact how far you walk along the road until you decide to head up. Aim for the bottom on the obvious gully and follow this up until you pass a steep wall on the left. At the top of this wall traverse left and up to the base of an obvious left facing corner. Here are Brandon Pullan’s route notes which we followed (

β€œThe McKibbin Route M5, II
FA: Brandon Pullan, Darren Vonk April 22/13

P0: From the main gully climb left 30m up a snow slope left away from the gully to the base of an obvious crack.
P1: Start left, traverse into the main crack. End at a snow slope. M3, 70m
P2: Avoid snow gully left and climb up the chimney/crack on right to a snow slope. Traverse left to the base of upper corner. M4, 70m
P3: Climb up the stunning, solid corner on small holds on left and right wall. Interesting choc stone ends you in a ramp and cave, belay at back. M4, 35m
P4: We avoided the steep loose looking corner by taking an aesthetic face to the left. Clip the high piton. Crux, thin, traverse left into great right facing crack (very Yamnuska feeling) up to ridge. M5, 35m
Descent: Climb directly down slope heading for the road until a rappel anchor on a ledge is found. 35m rappel down to descent slopes.
Gear: 3KBs, Rack to 3, Runners, 70m Rope”


Here are my notes to add on for the McKibbin Route:

P1: Start directly below the crack for some spicy climbing right off the bat!

P2: “Avoid snow gully left” was confusing for us, since the main gully was filled with snow but this is indeed the route (the large gully)

P3: We couldn’t find protection in the cave (too much snow I assume), so we added the M5 traverse to this pitch, solid belay above the cave in 4 parallel vertical cracks.

Descent: We never found the rappel anchor, but were able to walk the whole way out down snow slopes.

Gear: Possible with a 60m rope (what we used), Knifeblades are key if there is a lot of snow/ice filling the cracks like we had.

We ended up finding up to 5cm of ice in the corner on P3, which only helped with a few sticks and the rest of the time was too thin that we had to spend a lot of time chopping it off to find holds underneath. The snow wasn’t any better as almost all the cracks were filled with solid snow, and finding protection was very difficult. Knifeblades definitely saved me when leading and I can’t recommend them enough if there is still a lot of snow.


McKibbin Route (M5 II), Isaac/Huisman (M5+ II), Slawinski/Takeda (M5+ III)

McKibbin top out and descent

We never found rappel anchors but were able to simply walk down the snow slopes back to the road! You can also go to lookers left where we went right down the gully and meet up with the North Face/Silverhorn approach route.

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