Mount Athabasca, at 3,491m (11,453 ft) is one of the most accessible and enjoyable big peaks in the Canadian Rockies. Its position on the edge of the vast Columbia Icefields and with it entirely above treeline, make for spectacular summit views. The surrounding glaciers make for fine snow and ice mountaineering. We are very experienced on this peak and are usually on the mountain on a weekly basis from June to October so we are constantly up to date on conditions.
Whether you missed out on a summit on our ‘Snow and Ice Long Weekend’ or have some previous mountaineering experience, embarking on our Mt. Athabasca summer alpine mountaineering course 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 (10-14 hours). Mt Athabasca was first climbed in 1898 by Norman Collie.
Day 1: Meet your guide at the Columbia Icefields Campground by the cook shelter at 7 pm. Please bring all of your gear with you. We’ll ensure that everyone is properly equipped, distribute any gear on loan or rent and discuss the route, objectives and meeting times for the next day.
Day 2: An early morning start (approx. 3:00 am) allows us to enjoy the incredible beauty of a mountain sunrise. The climb is not too technical but requires many of the things mountaineers must have: stamina, fitness, route finding skills and good judgment.
Typically we will follow one of 2 routes.
1. The North Glacier route follows the A2 Glacier on the North side of the mountain to the base of the Silverhorn Ridge from where a traverse leads us over to the West Ridge (where it joins the Athabasca/Andromeda (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 guide to client 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 North Glacier. 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 guide to client ratio is 1:3. Return time is between 9 and 12 hours.
Other route information:
There is the Classic Silverhorn route which over the last few years due to glacier recession has made this route much more dangerous and difficult depending on snow conditions. We only do the Silverhorn Route in very stable conditions.
Slightly more technical routes are the North Face and the North Face By-Pass. These require a higher level of client experience in addition to more stable snow, weather and ice conditions. The more technical routes can take longer because sections of the route need to be ‘pitched out’. The more technical routes have a maximum guide to client ratio of 1:2.
A clear day will present summiteers with spectacular views of the expansive Columbia Icefields and the magnificent surrounding peaks.
Meeting Time and Place
Meet the guides at the “ICEFIELDS CAMPGROUND” by the cooking shelters at 7.00 pm the evening before the climb. Have your gear with you. The campground is located 1 km south of the Icefields Centre on Hwy. 93. It is the closest one to the Centre. The guides will brief you about the climb and tell you where and when to meet in the morning.
Weather and Conditions
Please note that weather may still prevent a safe attempt on the mountain. In this case, we will either schedule another peak or a day of mountaineering instruction. The mountains call the shots and the wise mountaineer takes heed. Thus we never guarantee climbs.
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.
Yamnuska provides group climbing gear and 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
We recommend you bring:
- Mountaineering boots* (must be crampon compatible)
- Daypack* (30-40 litres), (optional)
- Sleeping bag*
- Sleeping pad*
- 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)
- Personal camping equipment including cooking equipment, 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 (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
- Running shoes or sandals
Additional gear info:
Daypack: For single day climbing trips your pack should be 30–40 litres.
Sleeping bag: We recommend a three-season bag rated to approximately -7°C. 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.
Mountaineering boots: A good pair of boots is essential. They need to be warm and crampon compatible. Yamnuska uses Scarpa Mont Blanc 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. Full payment is required at the time of 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 review 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, 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.
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.
Includes: guides and use of specialized group climbing gear.
Not included: Accommodation, transportation, meals, gratuities & taxes.
Trip Cancellation Insurance is available through the Simpson Group
More climbing: Yamnuska guides and instructors are also available for private climbing in the Rockies and elsewhere before and after the program.
Is it for you?
This is a moderate objective, and while some previous glaciated mountaineering experience is required, this is a great trip for those trying to gain more summits and who have a moderate level of fitness.