This is Canada’s premier beginner mountaineering instruction course. For almost four decades our course has produced many dedicated mountaineers and has been the catalyst to life-long climbing friendships. Based out of the Bow Hut on the Banff National Park Wapta Icefields this comprehensive course is designed for outdoor enthusiasts who want to learn to mountain climb. The glacier and surrounding peaks will be our classroom for the duration of this course. Unlike other mountaineering classes, we provide food, hut accommodations, transport to the trailhead, and group/technical gear – all you need to bring is your adventurous attitude!
Our introduction to mountaineering course curriculum is constantly updated to reflect the most current mountaineering standards and practices. Our climbing guides are passionate mountaineers and educators who are certified by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides.
During the day, build your skills and climb high mountain peaks. In the evening, share stories and lessons with your fellow mountaineers while relaxing in the comfortable Bow Hut.
This Canadian Rockies introduction to mountaineering class meets the prerequisites of most high-altitude expedition companies who require their participants to have a basic mountaineering course prior to being accepted for an expedition.
“I can’t praise this course enough – clearly Yamnuska is a premier outfit from excellent guides to a thorough understanding of how to introduce a beginner to this incredible environment – everything was top notch and highly professional. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the program to anyone. It is clear that your staff possess a passion for the mountains, an exceptional level of knowledge, a lack of ego, and patience with those of us who are just learning that inspires confidence and lays a foundation for a lifetime of adventure. Thank you so much!.” Marnie
Day 1: We meet at the Yamnuska Office in Canmore at 8:30 am for introductions, a review of course goals and itinerary, and an equipment check. After packing up, it’s an hour and a half drive north to Bow Lake where we commence the hike to Bow Hut, which is located at 2350m on a shoulder adjacent to the snout of the Bow Glacier. This will take us between 3 and 5 hours. We travel 7km and climb 400m.
Day 2 – 5: The Bow Hut is our base for the week. Its proximity to the glaciers and to several peaks makes it easy for us to get out on suitable instruction terrain every day. It’s a perfect area for instruction. We may spend nights in one of the other huts in the region. Peaks often climbed on the course include Mt. Olive (3110m.), Mt. St. Nicholas (2900m.), Mt. Gordon (3200m.), Mt. Thompson (3050m.) & Mt. Rhondda (3110m.)
Note: From Day 2 the course agenda and the amount of time spent on each subject will depend upon conditions in the program area, the weather, group and individual abilities, and learning speeds.
Day 6: Final day. An opportunity to review techniques before we hike back down to Bow Lake and return to Canmore in the late afternoon.
There is considerable flexibility built into the delivery of this course, no course is exactly the same. Snow and weather conditions will dictate the order of presentation to some degree given we are based on a glacier for the week. The course may also move over to other huts. Key topics will be constantly revisited during the program.
- Snow School: Movement on snow – Use of Ice Axe – Self Arrests – Snow Anchors
- Ice School: Walking with Crampons – Ice Anchors
- Glacier Safety: Glacier Morphology – Choosing a Safe Route – Rope Use for Glaciers – Crevasse Rescue
- Navigation: Map and Compass Use – Whiteout Procedures – Route Planning
- Safe Movement: Trail Techniques and Pacing – Use of Rope on Snow, Ice, and Mixed Terrain
- Accident and Emergency Procedures
- CLIMBS!!! ‘Introduction to Mountaineering’ is a hands-on course. Skills are explained, demonstrated in the field, and then put into practice by participants during glacier crossings and peak ascents. Expect to be sharing the lead, solving route finding problems, and fully involved in decision making.
Instructors and Group Size
Great people to spend a week 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.
Meeting Place and Time
The program begins at the Yamnuska office at 200, 50 Lincoln Park, Canmore, at 8:30 am on the first day. Map. We are located one hour west of Calgary and 5 minutes east of Banff National Park.
The course is based out of Bow Hut on the Wapta Icefields just north of Lake Louise. The peaks range from 2900 meters to 3200 meters in height and are of just the right difficulty for instruction. The extensive glaciers are ideal for gaining experience in both safe travel among crevasses and in whiteout navigation when the weather turns bad.
Participants are responsible for their own transport to Canmore which is a 1 hour (100km) drive west of Calgary.
Frequent shuttles connect Calgary International Airport and Canmore. Banff Airporter is the best way to get between Calgary Airport and Canmore/Banff. When you book with Yamnuska Mountain Adventures you will receive a 15% discount on Banff Airporter Scheduled Services.
To reach Bow Lake participants may use personal vehicles or we will arrange a minibus at no extra cost to you.
You should plan to arrive in Canmore the day before the course.
Please note that program venues may be within National Parks and/or Kananaskis Country. For programs where transportation is not provided by Yamnuska/Canadian Rockies Hiking by Yamnuska, guests will be required to purchase their own pass.
National Park passes are available both online at https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/voyage-travel/admission and in-person at National park gates and some information centres.
Kananaskis Country conservation passes are available online at https://www.alberta.ca/kananaskis-conservation-pass.aspx
Accommodation and Meals
During the trip, we stay in alpine huts operated by the Alpine Club of Canada. Sleeping areas are communal and facilities are basic. Bow Hut is equipped with indoor propane lighting and cooking facilities. The hut has a wood stove for heat. Outhouses are standard and large enough to offer privacy for personal washing. There are no showers or flush toilets.
Accommodation in Canmore is not included. A variety of accommodation options exist in both Canmore and Banff, including campsites, hostels, all levels of hotels as well as condo-style accommodation with kitchens or suites. We recommend that you book your own pre and post-trip accommodations well in advance as all levels of accommodations in the Bow Valley fill quickly.
Excess luggage can be left at your hotel or our office during the trip.
All meals, snacks, and drinks are supplied from lunch on Day 1 to lunch on Day 6. Mountain meals are made from nutritious, healthy ingredients and are cooked and dehydrated in our own kitchen by our chef. For guests with dietary restrictions, we are able to modify the program food pack to meet your individual needs. As food pricing and preparation for these diets is more costly, we have implemented the following surcharges. For vegan, gluten-free, lactose-free, soy-free, nut-free, or any similar type of single restriction menu requests, there will be a surcharge. For a diet requiring any 2 or more restrictions, an additional surcharge will apply. For more complex diets our kitchen staff will assess the restrictions to inform you if the diet can be accommodated and what surcharge would apply. Vegetarian meals will not be surcharged.
Please let us know the details by filling out a Food Questionnaire when you sign up for the program.
Equipment and 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.
Yamnuska provides the following personal technical gear. Please feel free to bring your own items if desired:
- Mountaineering ice axe
- Climbing harness
- Climbing helmet
- Prussic cord, slings, carabiners
You need to bring:
- Mountaineering Boots* (must be crampon compatible)
- Multiday pack* (55-65 litres)
- Daypack* (30-40 litres), (optional)
- Sleeping bag*
- Sleeping pad*
- inflatable pillow
- Water bottle (1-2 litres)
- 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.)
- Personal toiletries including hand sanitizer
- Trekking pole (optional)
- Music player and lightweight reading material (optional)
- Plastic mug, bowl, and eating utensils
*These items are available for rent. Please advise us in advance.
When mountaineering, it is important to be able to adjust to 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 (lightweight 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
- Running shoes or sandals
There is no running water throughout the week. Baby wipes are also great for personal hygiene and to freshen up during the week.
Additional gear info:
Backpack: It is possible to use just one multiday backpack (55-65 litres), as long as it is comfortable enough to wear while climbing. If bringing an additional day pack, this should be very light and compressible in order to fit inside the bigger pack on the approach hike.
Sleeping bag: We recommend a three-season bag rated at approximately -7 Celsius. A down bag will be lighter and more compressible for the weight than a synthetic bag. A compression stuff sack is recommended to reduce volume.
Sleeping Pad: We recommend a sleeping pad with an R-Value of 3 or greater when alpine camping. It is also recommended that you bring a closed-cell foam sleeping pad to put under your inflatable sleeping pad. This is especially important when camping on snow and will give additional comfort and support.
Mountaineering Boots: A good pair of mountaineering boots is essential. They need to be warm and crampon compatible. Yamnuska uses Scarpa Mont boots.
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.
Climbing Helmet: A comfortable, all-around climbing helmet that can fit over your winter hat.
Please book as early as practical to avoid disappointment. A 35% deposit (including GST) is required at the time of booking. The final payment is due eight weeks before the start of the program. 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.
Risk is an inherent part of all mountain activities. We strive to manage and reduce it however, it is impossible to totally eliminate. Learn more about our safety and risk management approach here. 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 travellers 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, 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.
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 trip.
$1885 Canadian includes instruction, hut accommodation, Park Permits, out-trip meals, local transfer to the trailhead, and use of technical gear.
Not included: Canmore accommodation, boot rentals (if required), Gratuities & 5% GST.
Trip Cancellation Insurance is available through the Simpson Group.
Please note you will be required to sign the Yamnuska Release of Liability, and Waiver of Claims prior to commencing the program. Please review the sample waiver prior to booking and call us with any questions.
Beginner Mountaineering Course Pre-requisites
- You will need to have the physical fitness to a multi-day hiking program standard. We will travel several kilometres spanning 8-10 hours a day across glaciers, uneven terrain, and through the snow. You will gain and lose up to 4,000 feet per day. Any training you can do in advance will enhance your overall experience.
- Be able to complete the above with a full-day pack. On day 1 you will carry all of your personal items into our base camp. The remaining days will be your lunch and personal equipment/clothing.
- Be an experienced hiker or mountain traveller. There are no technical pre-requisites for this course and no prior mountaineering experience is needed. Leave that to us to teach you!
- An adventurous spirit and willingness to learn. The peaks attempted on this course are of moderate difficulty and it is often appropriate near the end of the course to allow students the lead.