Canadian Rockies

Reflections at Mount Assiniboine, located at the border between Alberta and British Columbia, Canada. Credit: Jeffrey Pang,  Shot on 2012-03-14 Photo taken in British Columbia, Canada.(c) Jeffrey Pang, licensed under: CC BY 2.0.
Reflections at Mount Assiniboine, located at the border between Alberta and British Columbia, Canada. Credit: Jeffrey Pang, Shot on 2012-03-14 Photo taken in British Columbia, Canada.(c) Jeffrey Pang, licensed under: CC BY 2.0.

Rugged, remote, and heavily glaciated Rockies are Canada's most well known mountains. They are also the highest mountains in Canada south of Yukon. The Canadian Rockies run along the British Columbia-Alberta border, mainly on Alberta side, from the Northwest Territories through into the US. They are located to the east (inland) of Canadian Coast Range and Columbian mountains.

About Canadian Rockies

The Canadian Rocky Mountains are Rugged, remote, and heavily glaciated, with steep snowy peaks. Most mountains have easy routes up rounded flanks, and more difficult climbs up steep rock faces. The rock is generally not renowed for its good quality, though. Weather is cold and snowy through much of the year, the best months for climbing being July and August.

Compared to other mountain areas of Canada, Rockies are easily accessible. Galgary located to the SE of the range is the nearest major city. Jasper, Lake Louise, Banff and Canmore are the main convenient centers in the area.

Highest mountain of the area is Mount Robson 3945m located in Mount Robson Provincial park in the northern part of the range. Other popular areas include Jasper National Park, especially Columbia Ice Field and Banff National Park, especially around Lake Louise, Yoho and Glacier National parks and Mt. Assiniboie Provincial Park with its namesake, the classic pyramid shape of Mount Assiniboine ("Matterhorn of Canadian Rockies", 3618m).

  • Northern Rockies Two main groupings, the Hart Ranges and the Muskwa Ranges. Southern limit is debatable, although the area of Mount Ovington and Monkman Pass is most commonly used border between Northern Rockies and Continental ranges. Northern Rockies is lower and far less commonly visited by the climbers than the Continental Ranges.
    • Muskwa Ranges The Muskwa Ranges are a group of mountain ranges in northern British Columbia, forming the northernmost part of Canadian Rockies. Ther are bordered on Rocky Mountain Trench in the west and the Rocky Mountain Foothills in the east. They are delimited on the north by the Liard River and on the south by the Peace Reach of the Lake Williston reservoir (formerly the Peace River) and Hart Ranges. The range has number of subranges. The highest peak of the range, and the sole 3000m peak is Ulysses Mountain (3024m). The range is very remote and not often visited by climbers.
    • Hart Ranges The boundaries of the Hart Ranges are the Rocky Mountain Trench and the McGregor Plateau on the west/southwest, the Peace Reach of Williston Lake on the north, and a certain line of demarcation with the Rocky Mountain Foothills to the east/northeast. The southern boundary is at Jarvis Creek. Mount Ida and Mount Sir Alexander are South of Jarvis Creek and are in the Continental Ranges. Misinchinka Ranges (Murray Range, Pioneer Range) and Solitude Range are the main subranges.
  • Continental Ranges Three main subdivisions, the Front Range, Park Ranges and Kootenay Ranges.
    • Kootenay Ranges The Kootenay Ranges lie between the Bull River (East) and the town of Golden, British Columbia (West) and south of Kicking Horse Pass, and are the location of the headwaters of the Kootenay River. The main subranges are Vermilion Range, Stanford Range and Beaverfoot Range.
    • Park Ranges The Park Ranges, also known as the Main Ranges, are a group of mountain ranges in the Canadian Rockies of eastern British Columbia and western Alberta, Canada. The range has several subranges. The highest peak of Canadian Rockies, Mount Robson (3954m) is located in Rainbow Range in the northern part. More accessible Bow Range and Columbia Icefield likely being the most famous and most frequently visited of them.
    • Front Range The Front Range of Canadian Rockies is not to be confused with the range of the same same name located in US Rocky Mountains. Canadian Front Range is the easternmost part of Continental ranges, covering the eastern part of jasper and Banff national parks.

Climbing in Canadian Rockies

The following climbs in the Canadian Rockies are listed as the North American classics:

Banff/Sawback Range
  • Castle MountainBrewer Buttress (II 5.6)Banff/Sawback Range
Ghost River valley
  • Ghost River ValleyThe Sorcerer (IV WI5)Ghost River valley
Banff/Massive Range
  • Mount BourgeauBourgeau Left (IV WI5)Banff/Massive Range

Canadian Rocky mountains are the mecca of waterfall ice climbing of North America. Especially Banff, Canmore and Lake Louise have plenty of frozen waterfalls.

  • Dougherty, Sean: Selected Alpine Climbs in the Canadian Rockies. Isbn: 0-921102-14-3. Heritage House Publishing, 1999.
  • Corbett, Bill: The 11000ers - Of the Canadian Rockies. Isbn: 9781894765435. Rocky Mountain Publishing Company, 2004.
  • Roper, Steve & Steck, Allen: 50 NA Classics. Isbn: 9780871568847. Sierra Club Books, 1996.
  • Kroese, Mark: 50 NA Favorites - The Ultimate North American Tick List, 1st edition. Isbn: 9780898867282. Mountaineers Books, 2001.
  • Isaac, Sean: Mixed Climbs in the Canadian Rockies. Isbn: 9780921102816. Rocky Mountain Books, 2000.
  • Josephson, Joe: Waterfall Ice. Isbn: 092110233X. Rocky Mountain Books, Incorporated, 1995.
  • Roper, Steve & Steck, Allen: 50 NA Classics. Isbn: 9780871568847. Sierra Club Books, 1996.
  • Kroese, Mark: 50 NA Favorites - The Ultimate North American Tick List, 1st edition. Isbn: 9780898867282. Mountaineers Books, 2001.

Areas

All of the most commonly visited areas are located in Continental Ranges, forming the southern part of Rockies. All of the highest and best known peaks are located in these areas, mostly within one of few huge national parks. These areas are also the most accessible part of Canadian Rockies, as road from Calgary runs through the area. That being said it is worth to note that "most accessible" in Canada has entirely different meaning than in more densely populated areas such as European Alps.

  • Mount Robson provincial park Mount Robson provincial park is located to the SW of Jasper National park, on the border between British Columbia and Alberta. The park contains the impressive massif Mount Robson, which at 3954m (12,972 feet) is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. All classic climbs of the area on various faces of Mount Robson. The main convenient center is the city of Jasper.
  • Jasper National Park Jasper is the largest and most northerly Canadian rocky mountain national parks, part of a spectacular World Heritage Site. It is located in Alberta, adjacent to and east of Mount Robson Provincial park. The main convenient center is the city of Jasper.
  • Banff National Park Banff National Park and surrounding areas are popular among climbers. There are classic alpine destinations as well as loads of winter ice climbing. Banff-area consists of multiple areas:
  • Southern areas Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park and Kananaskis Country are the main climbing destinations of the southern Rockies. Mount Assiniboine (3618m), the "Matterhorn of the Canadian Rockies" is the main peak of the area.

Jasper National Park

Jasper is the largest and most northerly Canadian rocky mountain national parks, part of a spectacular World Heritage Site. It is located in Alberta, adjacent to and east of Mount Robson Provincial park. The main convenient center is the city of Jasper.

Best known climbs in Jasper are found in three areas:

  • South Jasper Ranges South Jasper Range located to the south of city of Jasper. The range consist of Meadow-Clairvaux group, Fraser-Rampant group, Trident range and Cavell group. Cavell group with its namesake Mount Edith Cavell (3363m) is the most prominent of the groups and also most interesting for the climbers. Classic climbs of the area are East ridge and North face of Mount Edith Cavell.
  • Columbia Icefield Columbia icefield is located partially in northwestern tip of Banff partially in southern end of Jasper National Park, between Jasper in the north (60 miles) and Lake Louise in the south (80 miles). The area is accessible from Icefields parkway (highway 93). It is the largest icefield in Canadian Rockies consisting of eight major glaciers including:

During the winter there's plenty of waterfall ice climbing to be had in Jasper. However, jasper is not as popular as the more accessible Banff areas.

South Jasper Ranges

South Jasper Range located to the south of city of Jasper. The range consist of Meadow-Clairvaux group, Fraser-Rampant group, Trident range and Cavell group. Cavell group with its namesake Mount Edith Cavell (3363m) is the most prominent of the groups and also most interesting for the climbers. Classic climbs of the area are East ridge and North face of Mount Edith Cavell.

Columbia Icefield

Columbia icefield is located partially in northwestern tip of Banff partially in southern end of Jasper National Park, between Jasper in the north (60 miles) and Lake Louise in the south (80 miles). The area is accessible from Icefields parkway (highway 93). It is the largest icefield in Canadian Rockies consisting of eight major glaciers including:

  • Athabasca Glacier
  • Castleguard Glacier
  • Columbia Glacier
  • Dome Glacier
  • Stutfield Glacier
  • Saskatchewan Glacier

Some of the highest mountains in the Canada Rockies are located around the edges of the park. The highest peak of the area is Mount Columbia (3747m, the second highest peak in Canadian Rockies).

The area has host of famous climbs. Moderate classics include north face of Mount Athabasca (3491m) and Skyladder on Mount Andromeda while Grand Central Couloir on Mount Kitchener (3505m) and North face of North Twin (3684m) are test pieces for the elite.

Classic climbs:

Banff National Park

Banff National Park and surrounding areas are popular among climbers. There are classic alpine destinations as well as loads of winter ice climbing. Banff-area consists of multiple areas:

  • Columbia Icefield Northernmost part of the Banff is formed by Columbia Icefield.
  • Icefields Parkway Icefields Parkway covers the areas accessible from Icefields Parkway between Sunwapta Pass (Columbia Icefield) and Lake Louise.
  • Bow Range Areas located close to city of Lake Louise in the heart of the Canadian Rockies is where mountaineering began in Canada. The highest peak of the Lake Louise group (Bow Range) is Mount Temple (3543m). Other important peaks include Mt. Fay (3234m) , Mt. Lefroy (3424m) , Stanley Peak and Mt. Victoria (3416m) . Sawback range is located on the other side Bow valley, opposite to Bow range.
  • Yoho national Park
  • Glacier National Park
  • Kootenay National Park Valley of ten peaks is located around Moraine Lake, somewhat to the south of Lake Louise and just to the north of Kootenay National Park. Normal routes to the ten peaks located to the south of the valley, as well the south face of Mount Temple located to the north of Moraine Lake are generally non-technical. Traverse of the Ten Peaks in III 5.5 and requires at least one bivouac for the most parties. Classic hard routes of the area are East Face of Mount Fay and Super Couloir on the north face of Mount Deltaform (3424m, IV 5.8, 1000m).

Main centers of the area are Lake Louise in the northern part of Banff and Banff and Canmore in the southern part. nearest major city is Galgary.

The following climbs are considered classics:

Sawback Range
  • Castle MountainBrewer Buttress (II 5.6)Sawback Range
Ghost River Valley
  • Ghost River ValleyThe Sorcerer (IV WI5)Ghost River Valley
Massive Range
  • Mount BourgeauBourgeau Left (IV WI5)Massive Range

During the winter the area has several world classic ice climbs. Especially Icefield Parkway (Columbia Icefield; Cirrus Mountain (Polar Circus, Weeping Wall), Mount Murchison; Mt. Patterson; Mount Wilson), Bow valley (Cascade Mountain, Mount Rundle, Lake Louise, Bourgeau, Mount Temple) and Ghost River valleys have loads of world class ice for the connoisseur.

Icefields Parkway

Icefields Parkway covers the areas accessible from Icefields Parkway between Sunwapta Pass (Columbia Icefield) and Lake Louise.

Bow Range

Areas located close to city of Lake Louise in the heart of the Canadian Rockies is where mountaineering began in Canada. The highest peak of the Lake Louise group (Bow Range) is Mount Temple (3543m). Other important peaks include Mt. Fay (3234m) , Mt. Lefroy (3424m) , Stanley Peak and Mt. Victoria (3416m) . Sawback range is located on the other side Bow valley, opposite to Bow range.

Lake Louise

Bow range is classic alpine area located on the border between Alberta and British Columbia, tho the west of Bow river valley and Lake Louise. The range locates partially in Banff national Park and partially in Yoho national park. The highest peak of the Lake Louise group (Bow Range) is Mount Temple (3543m). Other important peaks include Mt. Lefroy (3424m) , Stanley Peak and Mt. Victoria (3416m) .

Valley of ten peaks is located around Moraine Lake, somewhat to the south of lake Louise and just to the north of Kootenay National Park. The most important peak of the area is Mt. Fay (3234m).

Kootenay National Park

Valley of ten peaks is located around Moraine Lake, somewhat to the south of Lake Louise and just to the north of Kootenay National Park. Normal routes to the ten peaks located to the south of the valley, as well the south face of Mount Temple located to the north of Moraine Lake are generally non-technical. Traverse of the Ten Peaks in III 5.5 and requires at least one bivouac for the most parties. Classic hard routes of the area are East Face of Mount Fay and Super Couloir on the north face of Mount Deltaform (3424m, IV 5.8, 1000m).

Main starting point is the parking lot by Moraine Lake. Calgan hut offers accommodation.

Southern areas

Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park and Kananaskis Country are the main climbing destinations of the southern Rockies. Mount Assiniboine (3618m), the "Matterhorn of the Canadian Rockies" is the main peak of the area.

Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park

Mount Assiniboine area is completely dominated by Mount Assiniboine, the "Matterhorn of the Canadian Rockies". The mixed north ridge is a classic climb (IV 5.5). Sunburst Peak (2820m) is probably the second best known climbing destination.

Access to the area is from Canmore to road end, from where it is 20km hike (6h) or helicopter ride to Lake Magog.

Kananaskis Country

With Sir Douglas and Mount Joffre being the most notable exceptions, the climbing in Kananaskis Country is mainly on rock. Generally speaking both routes and approaches are shorter than in most other parts of Canadian Rockies and the weather tends generally better as well.