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)
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 (https://brandopullan.blogspot.ca):
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.
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.