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Is it for you?

Climbing Athabasca is a long and strenuous day for which you need to be in excellent aerobic condition. It is definitely a good idea to train up for this if at all possible and it also helps to have a day or two in the region before the climb if coming from sea level. For those with limited mountaineering experience this time can be used in learning mountaineering techniques from the guides on our 2 or 3-day packages.

The standard routes on Athabasca, in good conditions, are suitable for beginner mountaineers. If a  total beginner we require that you spend a day or two learning mountaineering techniques with us before attempting the climb. Our 2 and 3-day packages are designed with this in mind.

Time Needed

If you have the prerequisite experience for your route you will need to be in place at the Columbia Icefields the evening before the climb. You will usually be finished by mid-afternoon of the climbing day. If needing training before the climb we suggest a minimum of one day before the climbing day. If starting from scratch, two days is better. You can pick up the guide in Canmore early (c. 7:00 am) on the morning of the training day and still have ample time to drive to the Columbia Icefields and accomplish the necessary training.

Climbing Season

Athabasca can be climbed anytime from mid-May through to early October. The best conditions  typically occur through to early August after which the mountain can get quite icy. While it may be possible to climb in less than perfect conditions (our success rate would be around 80%) we must emphasize that bad weather and conditions are possible at any time and consequently we cannot guarantee a summit climb or easy conditions.

Mount Athabasca Ascents

Mt. Athabasca is one of the most accessible and enjoyable big peaks in the Canadian Rockies. Routes of varying difficulty make it suitable for both beginner and experienced alpinists. Its position on the edge of the vast Columbia Icefields make for spectacular summit views and its glaciation makes for fine snow and ice mountaineering.

A climb of Athabasca with a certified Yamnuska mountain guide is a great and memorable experience.

Mount Athabasca is located at the eastern edge of the Columbia Icefields on the ridge between the Athabasca and Saskatchewan Glaciers. It is immediately adjacent to the Banff-Jasper Parkway from where it is climbed in a day. This makes it an ideal objective for anyone with limited time. In addition several nearby training sites make it an ideal finale to a general mountaineering course. It is 3,491m. high (11,453 ft).

Climbing Routes

There are several good routes on the mountain. All involve alpine starts (as early as 2:00am, commonly 4:00am) from the Icefields Parkway with a total elevation gain of 1500m.

For Beginner And Intermediate Climbers we recommend the following two routes which we often combine to make a traverse of the peak. Both involve travel on crevassed glaciers and on snow and ice slopes of moderate steepness. Our maximum ratio is 3 guests per guide. Guests will need to be familiar with use of ice axe and crampons and with traveling roped on a glacier, this can be taught the day before the climb.

  1. The North Glacier route follows the Sunwapta Gl. to the base of the Silverhorn Ridge from where a traverse leads us over to the West Ridge (where it joins the AA Col route) which is followed over the peak of Silverhorn to the summit. This is a beautiful route for beginner alpinists and is often used as a descent for the 'AA' route. Our maximum ratio is 1:3. Return time is between 9 and 12 hours.

  2. The AA Col route follows the glacier on the other side of the peak from the Sunwapta Gl. It leads to the 'col' (alpine pass) between Athabasca and Mt. Andromeda from where the West Ridge is followed over Silverhorn to the summit. Our maximum ratio is 1:3 (see note below). Return time is between 9 and 12 hours.

For more experienced intermediate mountaineers we recommend the Silverhorn Ridge route which ascends the beautiful snow and ice ridge leading from the Sunwapta Gl. to the summit of the Silverhorn (a subsidiary summit just west of the main summit). This involves steeper climbing on snow and ice, sometimes up to 45 degrees in places. It is given a UIAA III+ grade. We can guide up to three people per guide but strongly recommend a ratio of 1:2. Return time is between 9 and 12 hours.

Advanced climbers will enjoy the classic North Face route. This involves 550m. of grade 3 ice finishing with an iced-up rock step in a gully. Once again the approach is via the Sunwapta Gl. Our maximum ratio is 1:2. Return time is between 10 and 14 hours.

Hazards:  Athabasca is a large glaciated peak.  Potential objective hazards include hidden crevasses, snow and ice avalanches, rock fall and severe weather.  The safety record of guided parties is exceptionally good although accidents have happened to private groups.  In all mountaineering endeavors there is potential risk which cannot be eliminated.

Costs:

Before proceeding, we must mention that we run several 3 day 'Snow and Ice Long Weekend' programs each season. These courses include two days of basic instruction followed by a guided attempt on Athabasca. This is the lowest cost option for climbing Athabasca.

If the content or timing of this program does not suit you it is necessary to arrange for a private climb. When hiring a guide you pay guide fees plus expenses. The guide fee is a daily rate, which varies according to the number of people per guide. Expenses you will incur include the cost of transportation for yourself and the guide to the area, accommodation fees and meals (for the guide also) and a charge for the guide's time should he/she have to locate to the base the evening before. We can also have climbing and camping gear available for rent. Schedule of fees & expenses.

To simplify matters we have combined basic costs to offer package prices. To these basic packages we can also add extras such as meals, camping costs and rental climbing gear.

These prices are based on a few different scenarios you may consider. Remember that we can adjust the program to suit your needs. These are total prices, not per person. GST is extra. Prices in Canadian Dollars.

Climb only, pre-position the evening before:

Number of guests per guide 1 guest 2 guests 3 guests

Costs are total costs for entire group (not per person)

Guide & Guide Expenses only $685 $750 $864
We supply Breakfast and Lunch for the climb add $25 $50 $75
We supply you with a tent and pay camp fees add $46 $46 $46
5% GST not included.

You are responsible for the cost of the guide's transportation to the area. We suggest you pick the guide up in Canmore on your way to the Columbia Icefields. If the guide has to drive up there to meet you a charge of $187 is applied.

With training day before the climb (2 days with guide):

Number of guests per guide 1 guest 2 guests 3 guests

Costs are total costs for entire group (not per person)

Guide & Guide Expenses only $1079 $1209 $1439
We supply your meals (4) add $62 $124 $186
We supply you with a tent and pay camp fees add $61 $61 $61
5% GST not included.

You are responsible for the cost of the guide's transportation to the area. We suggest you pick the guide up in Canmore on your way to the Columbia Icefields. If the guide has to drive up there to meet you a charge of $187 is applied.

Trip Cancellation Insurance is available through the Simpson Group.

With 2 training days before the climb (3 days with guide):

Number of guests per guide 1 guest 2 guests 3 guests

Costs are total costs for entire group (not per person)

Guide & Guide Expenses only $1646 $1841 $2186
We supply your meals (7) add $107 $214 $321
We supply you with a tent and pay camp fees add $107 $107 $107
5% GST not included.

You are responsible for the cost of the guide's transportation to the area. We suggest you pick the guide up in Canmore on your way to the Columbia Icefields. If the guide has to drive up there to meet you a charge of $187 is applied.