Onion, The

Interesting Facts: 

A dome feature on the Wapta Icefields just above the Bow Hut offers a good objective for smaller day trips or whiteout days from the hut.

YDS Grade: 
Mountain Range: 
Mountain Subrange: 
Attained Summit?: 
Trip Date: 
Friday, April 22, 2011
Summit Elevation (m): 

On Good Friday, April 22, 2011 I took my brother in law, Mike up his very first Rockies peak. He chose to attempt his first peak on alpine touring gear, which I thought was very admirable considering you can't really find a more physically challenging way to climb a mountain than with huge skis and boots attached to your feet! :-)


[While driving past Herbert Lake we stopped for this view of the Lake Louise area. ++]


The route for this diminutive summit is obvious. We worked our way slowly to the Bow Hut. From there we followed tracks heading up the headwall and towards Rhondda. When it made sense, we veered climber's right and skied almost right to the summit of The Onion. The wind was very chilly for late April and the amount of snow made it seem like January or February up there. I've been on the Wapta many times and this was the most snow I've ever seen and pretty much the coldest (except for Gordon - THAT was chilly!).


[Mike skis towards the canyon across Bow Lake, The Onion is the bump above him to the right, St. Nicholas Peak the pointy one on the left.]

[Mike makes repairs to his feet just above the canyon.]

[Breaking tree line. The Bow Hut is somewhere in the center above the rocks. On the right is our objective with the Vulture ice cap right ahead of us. ++]

[Mike pauses to slow down his heart rate and catch his breath as we work our way up to the hut. The Wapta Icefield is to Mike's left.]

[Mike works his way up the Bow Hut. Vulture Peak and the Vulture Glacier rise up behind him.]

[A beautiful day! Not quite as warm as it looks on this picture, but is was still a very nice, clear day.]

[Mike follows the track up the headwall, onto the Wapta Icefield.]

[Looking back at the Bow Hut and Crowfoot Mountain in the background as we work our way onto the Wapta. ++]

[Looking back over the Bow Hut (out of sight now) and some xcountry skiers on the glacier. Normally it's not suggested to ski where they are, as there are some pretty big holes (crevasses) there. With the current snow pack they were OK but they did head skier's right from this spot. Crowfoot Mountain is in the background - that's another awesome ski run! ++]

[Mike works his way up to The Onion's lower slope with a very impressive St. Nicholas Peak and Mount Olive looming behind him.]

[A panorama of the Wapta Icefields from the lower slope of The Onion. On the left is Mount Olive, St. Nicholas and Mount Gordon, while on the right is CollieRhondda, Habel, Baker and Tilly. ++]

[Mount Olive, St. Nicholas and Gordon.]


Mike was blown away by the great views - that's why I love taking newbies to the mountains, they get such a huge kick out of the scenery, it reminds me how much I love it too. After snapping some pictures we skied back down to the parking lot on amazingly solid snow, it only warmed up to about 3 degrees in the parking lot. I wonder if summer will ever come this year?!


[Mike comes up The Onion behind me. What a view! ++]

[Mike and Vern on the summit of The Onion.]

[We spot another group heading out onto the ice field (look on the left). ++]

[Skiing down the slope below the Bow Hut while two other guys head up. Our route goes right down the valley - on skier's right. ++]

[Mike stretches out his hamstrings on the way down.]

[Mike drops into the Canyon. This slope is probably the worst one for avalanches on the approach or egress from the Bow Hut. This day it was still frozen solid at 3pm which made skiing a bit crappy but it was safe to cross at least. In the center background is Mount Jimmy Simpson.]

[Skiing out of the canyon - still a gorgeous day! I can't believe it's the end of April with all this snow and ice this far down the canyon though.]

[Enjoying a break in the warm sunshine before slogging it back across the lake. The lake was still frozen solid and covered with snow on the way out.]

Summit Elevation (ft): 
Elevation Gain (m): 
Total Distance (km): 
Difficulty Notes: 

Glacier route includes crevasse issues and steep snow slopes. Don't minimize these risks and learn how to manage them before attempting this trip.