The Snow and Ice Long Weekend is an excellent, low commitment beginner course that introduces you to the world of general mountaineering and mountain climbing. From here you can decide if mountaineering is for you and take one of our longer and more advanced courses.
In this comprehensive three day introduction to general mountaineering, you’ll receive instruction on techniques for travelling on snow and ice, an understanding of safe glacier travel and crevasse rescue. You will learn current mountaineering practices as well as gain an understanding of gear and equipment. We then practice your newly acquired skills on a summit bid on a classic peak on the Columbia Icefields. These include Mt. Athabasca, Boundary Peak, Mt Wilcox and A2 to name a few. Conditions and participant fitness will dictate the most appropriate objective.
This course is designed for people with no previous mountaineering experience but we warn you that it might just ignite a life-long passion for mountaineering and the outdoors. Most participants are avid hikers or outdoors people who want to develop mountaineering skills or who want to try mountaineering for the first time.
We hope to give you an idea here of the type of skills you will be learning on this course. This agenda may be changed to accommodate weather conditions, climbing conditions and the ability / fitness of participants. Please note that conditions change in the area during the summer. Typically on the earlier season weekends it can be difficult to find ice as the glaciers are still covered by snow. By the end of the summer, however, it can be hard to find snow as it has largely melted. Thus we cannot guarantee that you will spend equal time on snow and ice but we will work hard to give you as much exposure as possible.
- Meet at 9:00am for a course briefing (Icefields Campground Cook Shelter – see Logistics Tab).
- Issue mountaineering equipment and crampons. If you bring your own equipment we will help you size it properly.
- Head to nearby training area
(Bring your mountaineering boots to the fitting session as well as any climbing gear you have so we can check it out)
- Mountaineering knots and harness use.
- Snow school (at field site nearby) includes: movement on snow, use of ice axe, self-arrest on snow, belaying on snow.
Note: Much of this day is spent training, sitting and sliding on snow. You will need waterproof gear (with dry clothing for later).
- Meet at 8:00am to discuss the day’s objectives
- Ice school and crevasse rescue. Includes: glacier morphology, crampon technique, low angle ice climbing , ice screw placement, roping up for glaciers, crevasse rescue techniques, ice anchors, ice axe use
Monday: Peak Ascent Day
- Typically a 3:00am (or earlier) meet to begin the ascent day of a suitable peak.
This is an exciting and challenging opportunity to put new-found skills into practice on a big mountain. Peak options include Mt. Athabasca, A2, Boundary Peak and Mt. Wilcox. All are good introductory mountaineering challenges.
The peak you attempt will depend upon the mountain conditions, the weather and your level of fitness.
We only attempt Mt. Athabasca with those physically fit enough and when conditions/weather permit. Should conditions mean that no peak is suitable, Day 3 will be an additional day of instruction.
Expect a long but rewarding day for your summit attempt. We usually start very early (well before dawn) meaning you will be exposed to the incredible beauty of a mountain sunrise. These climbs are not too technical but require many of the things mountaineers must have: stamina, fitness, route finding skills and good judgment.
Instructors and Group Size
Our guides are great people to spend time in the mountains with. Your instructors are certified by the internationally-recognized Association of Canadian Mountain Guides and licensed by Parks Canada. There will be a maximum of 6 participants per instructor.
The course is held on the stunning Columbia Icefields. This location is ideal since glaciers, snowfields and peaks are right next to the ‘Icefields Parkway’ – the famous road linking Banff and Jasper.
Meeting Time and Place
Your guide will meet you at the “ICEFIELDS CAMPGROUND” by the cooking shelters at 9:00am on Saturday morning. Please be dressed for the outdoors and have your gear handy so the instructors can check it with you. This campground is located 1 km south of the Icefields Centre on Hwy. 93. It is the campground closest to the Icefields Centre, not the Wilcox Campground.
Transportation – Getting to the Icefields
The Icefields are located approximately 180 km north of Banff on highway 93. It is imperative you purchase a National Park Entry Permit.
Accommodation & Meals
Accommodation and meals for the weekend are not included in this program. The instructors and most climbers stay at the “Icefields Campground” which we highly recommend to facilitate communication amongst the group. Your choices for accommodations include:
- Camping (preferred): There are two campgrounds in the area. Most climbers use the “Columbia Icefields Campground” (recommended), which is a first come, first serve system. In peak summer, it can be hard to find a place if you arrive late in the day. It will cost around $15/day/tent site (cash only, no credit cards accepted). The other campground nearby is “Wilcox Creek” for RVs, which can also be used for overflow camping.
- Glacier View Inn: Those interested in more upscale living conditions can try this hotel, located at the Columbia Icefields Info Centre, though it can be more difficult to communicate with the group as there is no cell service in the area. To book call 1 877 442-2623. If staying at the Hotel you will need to bring your own breakfast supplies for the ascent day on Monday as the Hotel restaurant does not open before our departure time.
- Hostels: There are a couple of rustic hostels operated by Hostelling International within a 45 minute drive of the Icefields. Beauty Creek Hostel is quite a bit closer than Rampart Creek Hostel. They will cost you around $30/night. You can make reservations by calling 1 866 762 4122. Again, communication is more difficult is staying outside of the campground, away from the guides, as there is no cell service in the area.
You will need to plan your own menu and bring up enough food for the three days. Breakfasts should be simple and easy to prepare as you will be leaving fairly early each morning to meet with the group (especially on the summit day). You will also need to bring a lunch and snack food with you each day. Bring plenty of high-energy snacks. Particularly on cold days, we may not stop for long lunch breaks opting for more frequent short snack breaks instead. You will also need to bring plenty of liquids, especially on the peak day, when 2-3 litres will be appropriate.
North of Lake Louise there are no grocery stores for purchasing supplies until you get to Jasper. Please ensure that you bring enough supplies for the weekend and have sufficient fuel and camping equipment to prepare all of your meals before you leave for the Icefields Campground. There is a restaurant and cafeteria at the Icefields Center (1 km North of campground). Simple meals and extra food can be purchased here if you prefer to eat out, however we often depart for our program days quite early and sometimes eating breakfast out is not possible.
Equipment & Clothing
The equipment and clothing you bring to this course will play a large role in the quality of your experience. Read the following suggestions and lists carefully. If you have any questions or need clarification, don’t hesitate to call or email.
Please note that the use of hydration packs/bladders are not suitable as they may not work in the mountain conditions.
Yamnuska provides the following personal technical gear. Please feel free to bring your own items if desired:
- Mountaineering ice axe
- Climbing harness
- Climbing helmet
- Ice screw
- Prussic cord, slings, carabiners
We recommend you bring:
- Mountaineering Boots* (must be crampon compatible) (rentals available from Yamnuska) – please call us with ANY questions regarding appropriate Mountaineering Boots
- Daypack* (30-40 litres)
- Lunch, snacks
- Water bottle
- Sunscreen, SPF lip balm
- Headlamp (with fresh batteries)
- Blister kit
- First aid items (Our guides carry a first aid kit, but you may bring your own Band-Aids and anti-inflammatory medication if desired.)
- Trekking pole (optional)
*These items are available for rent from Yamnuska. Please advise us in advance.
When mountaineering, it is important to be able to adjust for the changing conditions. We recommend bringing clothing that can be layered to achieve comfort as you change from periods of activity to periods of rest. Cotton clothing is not appropriate as it causes rapid heat loss when wet.
We recommend you bring:
- Long underwear top and bottoms (light weight synthetic or wool)
- Socks (synthetic/wool, at least two pairs)
- Light synthetic shirt
- Softshell pants and jacket
- Midweight synthetic or down jacket
- Heavyweight insulated jacket
- Waterproof hardshell jacket with hood
- Waterproof hardshell pants (should have a full length side zip so they can be put on without taking off boots and crampons)
- Gaiters (big enough to fit over large boots)
- Waterproof mountaineering or ice climbing gloves (at least two pairs)
- Warm hat that fits under a helmet
- Sun hat
Additional gear info:
Daypack: For single day climbing trips your pack should be 30–40 liters.
Boots: A good pair of mountaineering boots is essential. They need to be warm and crampon compatible. You are welcome to try the Scarpa Mont Blanc boots that Yamuska rents.
Crampons: Mountaineering crampons should have anti snow-balling plates, and need to be compatible with your boots. We use the Petzl Vasak.
Mountaineering ice axe: Your ice axe should be 55-75 cm, and should be equipped with an adze. Yamnuska provides the Petzl Summit Axe.
Climbing harness: Should be sized to fit over your cold weather clothing. It is recommended to have a harness with a belay/rappel loop.
Helmet: A comfortable, all around climbing helmet that can fit over your winter hat.
Please book as early as practical to avoid disappointment. We require full payment on booking. We accept Visa, Mastercard, Canadian Cheques, Money Orders and Bank Drafts. Credit card payments are easiest, especially for international travellers.
We ask that you familiarize yourself with our detailed booking instructions and conditions.
Please note that you will be required to sign our waiver before commencing the program. Please view our sample waiver copy.
There are two basic types of insurance that most travelers need to consider: Medical and Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance. We offer our guests coverage for both and highly recommend you purchase it.
Emergency Medical Expenses Insurance:
It is wise to ensure that your health plan will cover you in case of illness or accident during your trip. Obtain extra coverage if necessary. There is no charge for rescue in the national and provincial parks, however costs such as air or ground transportation, long term care and other services are not covered.
Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance:
We recognize that our guests’ schedules may change for many reasons; business, family, flight delays, injuries and other unplanned events. For these eventualities the Trip Cancellation/Interruption insurance is a great way to protect your investment.
For all your travel insurance requirements we recommend the Simpson Group. This agency offers a wide range of travel insurance options including Trip Cancellation/Interruption, Travel Medical and Personal Effect Loss for Canadian Travelers. We highly recommend purchasing this insurance. For more information and to purchase a plan, visit the Simpson Group’s website.
Please note that this coverage is for Canadian residents only. For guests who are not from Canada and who are interested in the ‘Visitors to Canada’ insurance package please contact the Simpson Group directly at JSimpson@simpson-group.com and reference your Yamnuska Mountain Adventure’s trip.
$650 CDN includes instruction and use of technical mountaineering equipment.
Park fees, meals, accommodation, boot rentals (if required), transport, GST & gratuities are not included.
Is it for you?
This is a course for complete beginners. A ‘hiking’ level of fitness on steep terrain with a pack will best prepare you for the course. The two first days are relatively easy as instructional locations are close to the road.
If hoping to climb Mt. Athabasca on this course (assuming mountain conditions are safe) you must be very fit (Athabasca usually takes at least 10 hours & involves a height gain of 1372 m or 4,500 ft.). If not ready for Athabasca or conditions are not suitable we will attempt another, more appropriate climb with you.
Any training you can do in advance, particularly hiking up steep terrain, will enhance your enjoyment of this program. No prior mountaineering experience is needed.
Mt. Athabasca Summit Day
For those who took this course before but didn’t summit a peak on the final day and want another crack at a summit click here.