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Olive, Mount & St. Nicholas Peak

Summit Elevation (m): 3130
Trip Date: Saturday, February 11, 2006
Elevation Gain (m): 1350
Round Trip Time (hr): Unknown
Total Trip Distance (km): 25
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2/3 – you fall, you might sprain or break something
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.
Technical Rating: MN7; YDS (I)
Map: Google Maps


What a fantastic day in the hills! That about sums up my Mount Olive (and St. Nicholas) outing. After spending a fun but bone chilling day out on the Wapta 3 weekends ago in our Mount Gordon trip, this was just a great way to see the other side to ski mountaineering. Raf came up with the idea of going after Mount Olive already about 3 weeks ago, just when Dave, Blair, Jason and I were planning our Gordon ascent.

Mount Olive and St. Nicholas Peak Route Map

When Raf’s Roger’s Pass trip fell through for the weekend of Feb 11 he let us know that we were back on for Olive and as the day got closer we all found ourselves getting more and more excited. The weather forecast was actually improving as each day progressed! No one wanted to say it out loud but we were getting psyched for a bluebird day on the Wapta with views for miles and no wind. February 11 ‘dawned’ (we actually left well before sunrise) clear and cold. After meeting Jason, and finally meeting Andrew in person, we piled into Raf’s 4×4 and headed off down highway #1 for the Icefields Parkway and the Bow Lake parking lot. 

Mount Olive

The sky was just starting to lighten up as we stepped out into the frosty air at Bow Lake. Ironically the two coldest moments of the day were standing in the parking lot at the beginning and end of the day! Soon we were skiing across Bow Lake on an icy ski track, which helped move us along at a good clip. It also didn’t hurt to have 6.5 foot Jason leading the way. I’m always surprised how fast the trip in to the Bow Hut goes and how bloody long it seems to take on the way back – even though half of it’s downhill on the way back. I guess that long flat lake just takes it out of you after already going 25+ kms.

A clear, cold morning as we cross Bow Lake – always the coldest place around. Bow Peak in the distance at left.

We were soon across the lake and after the always entertaining ‘bump’ that avoids the summer trail’s creek crossing, we were heading up the narrow Bow Hut approach canyon to the slopes below the hut. Jason made very quick time and soon we were staring out across the back bowl to the hut with beautiful views of St. Nicholas and the Vulture Glacier hanging off Vulture Peak high above us. The sky was clear and the air was crisp as Jason and I took the rope from Andrew and Raf so they could have a break from carrying that load.

We made quick time up the steep slopes to the Bow Hut and at the 2:03 mark from the parking lot, we were on the doorstep of one of the premier huts in the Canadian Rockies. We decided to have a quick snack and drink outside the hut so we wouldn’t warm up too much but as it turns out the door to the kitchen area was locked anyway so we didn’t have much of a choice in the end.

The deluxe and luxurious Bow Hut – flagship hut of the ACC.

After forcing down some food and liquids we started up the Wapta. If you’ve never done this section, don’t under estimate it. Up to this point you’ve only gained about half the elevation to the icefield and have a long way to go. Soon we were in the bright sunshine for the first time that day and things started to warm up really fast. Jason and Raf set a good pace and in between taking pictures I had a hard time keeping up with them! It didn’t take long before we were skiing right under the daunting ridge of St. Nicholas – which we were also planning to climb. We kept going past St. Nicholas and with a small burst of energy came out on the Olive / Nicholas col.

Andrew comes up behind me with St. Nicholas rising on the right.
A gorgeous, sunny, February day on the Wapta as we gain more height to the Olive / St. Nich col. Mount Collie is the beautiful peak in the distance. It would take me many more years before I’d finally tackle her tricky summit cornices in April of 2014.

The ridge on Olive looked hairy enough from the col, but the ridge to the summit of St. Nicholas looking positively scary from our vantage point! I think Jason and I both secretly wrote St. Nicholas off the summit list for the day at this point but we didn’t say anything and after cramponing up we set off up the north ridge of Mount Olive.

Olive’s north ridge doesn’t look trivial! We ended up skirting the lower ridge on climber’s left before cutting up very steep snow to the ridge proper.

We skirted the ridge to the east on the way up and this was likely a mistake. The slope was fairly steep and the snow was deep so we learned right away to stick to the ridge whenever we could on Olive. Once we were on the ridge proper, it was obvious that Olive was not a real technical challenge – or at least not the north summit. It didn’t take long and we were all standing on the north summit. Jason was so warm in the sun that he actually climbed the last part to the summit without his shirt on! At first I didn’t want to keep going until I realized that the true summit of Olive is the south one – than there was no choice! 😉

Yes, JW has his shirt off in February. He must be proud of his guns or something… :). Mighty Mount Forbes rises in the background over Tilly and Trapper Peak.
L to R, Perren, Recondite, Cirque, Willingdon Group, Vulture, Crowfoot, Cataract, Andromache, Little Hector, Hector, Pulpit, Temple and the Lake Louise giants (R).
Great view of many of the large Wapta peaks including (L to R), Gordon, Des Poilus, Collie, Ayesha, Rhondda, Habel, Baker, Trapper.

The ridge to the south summit looked quite intimidating at first but it wasn’t too bad once we got on it. There was one tricky section that we couldn’t have done with crampons. It involved going up a rock pinnacle and then down a steep snow chute that had questionable snow quality. When Andrew was kicking steps into the slope I could feel the snow moving at the top of the gully. Good thing there were handholds to the side that offered some security.

Raf makes his way to the true summit of Olive with a dazzling display of summits in the background including (L to R), Portal, Murchison, Corona Ridge, Noyes, Weed, Jimmy Simpson, and Observation.

Once over the crux we quickly made our way up to the south summit and soon we were clicking our cameras like a bunch of paparazzi at the Oscars. In a way it was the Oscars! It was the most dazzling display of summits that I had ever experienced in the mountains to this date. Everywhere we turned there was another famous summit jumping out into view. After taking way too many pictures it was time to descend.

A stunning view south with Andromache, Hector, Balfour, Gordon and Collie clearly visible and many other peaks in the far distance.
L to R, Gordon, Collie, Ayesha, Rhondda, Habel, Baker, Trapper, Peyto, Thompson, St. Nicholas, Olive South, Vulture (R).

Jason didn’t think he would have the energy to go for Nicholas but delayed his decision for the col.

Descending the north ridge towards an ocean of white.

The trip back to the North summit of Olive was quick and painless, albeit a bit tiring.

Mount Olive
57 photos
A clear, cold morning as we cross Bow Lake - always the coldest place around. Bow Peak in the distance at left.
A clear, cold morning as we cross Bow Lake - always the coldest place around. Bow Peak in the distance at left.
Getting near the back of Bow Lake with Bow Falls at center and the Onion and St. Nicholas at far left.
Getting near the back of Bow Lake with Bow Falls at center and the Onion and St. Nicholas at far left.
The approach canyon for the Bow Hut and Crowfoot Mountain is a narrow and dangerous terrain trap, which is why you should only attempt it in stable avalanche conditions.
The approach canyon for the Bow Hut and Crowfoot Mountain is a narrow and dangerous terrain trap, which is why you should only attempt it in stable avalanche conditions.
After exiting the slot canyon we were on broad slopes beneath the Bow Hut with this view across the valley.
After exiting the slot canyon we were on broad slopes beneath the Bow Hut with this view across the valley.
The deluxe and luxurious Bow Hut - flagship hut of the ACC.
The deluxe and luxurious Bow Hut - flagship hut of the ACC.
The view of St. Nicholas from the Bow Hut is intimidating.
The view of St. Nicholas from the Bow Hut is intimidating.
Skinning up the headwall in brilliant sunshine.
Skinning up the headwall in brilliant sunshine.
The Onion is a small summit on the Wapta above the Bow Hut (oos at lower right). Portal Peak just visible at far left.
The Onion is a small summit on the Wapta above the Bow Hut (oos at lower right). Portal Peak just visible at far left.
St. Nicholas doesn't look easy from this angle on the lower Wapta Headwall.
St. Nicholas doesn't look easy from this angle on the lower Wapta Headwall.
Thompson (L) and Portal (C) are both scree slogs of a different nature.
Thompson (L) and Portal (C) are both scree slogs of a different nature.
Rhondda (L) is an easy ski, Habel requires some tricky 4th class scrambling to attain it's apex (C) and Baker is a pretty steep snow climb.
Rhondda (L) is an easy ski, Habel requires some tricky 4th class scrambling to attain it's apex (C) and Baker is a pretty steep snow climb.
Andrew comes up behind me with St. Nicholas rising on the right.
Andrew comes up behind me with St. Nicholas rising on the right.
Skiing up to the St. Nicholas / Olive Col.
Skiing up to the St. Nicholas / Olive Col.
A gorgeous, sunny, February day on the Wapta as we gain more height to the Olive / St. Nich col. Mount Collie is the beautiful peak in the distance.
A gorgeous, sunny, February day on the Wapta as we gain more height to the Olive / St. Nich col. Mount Collie is the beautiful peak in the distance.
St. Nicholas Peak doesn't look trivial from the col!
St. Nicholas Peak doesn't look trivial from the col!
Gorgeous view of Mount Collie.
Gorgeous view of Mount Collie.
Enjoying a break at the St. Nicholas col.
Enjoying a break at the St. Nicholas col.
Enjoying a break at the St. Nicholas col.
Enjoying a break at the St. Nicholas col.
We ended up skirting the lower ridge on climber's left before cutting up very steep snow to the ridge proper.
We ended up skirting the lower ridge on climber's left before cutting up very steep snow to the ridge proper.
Mount Baker and Trapper.
Mount Baker and Trapper.
Ascending the north ridge with St. Nicholas already looking small beneath us! You can see our track veering off the lower ridge before ascending directly onto it.
Ascending the north ridge with St. Nicholas already looking small beneath us! You can see our track veering off the lower ridge before ascending directly onto it.
A stunning ocean of white stretches out beneath us. Collie, Mummery and Ayesha in the background.
A stunning ocean of white stretches out beneath us. Collie, Mummery and Ayesha in the background.
Yes, JW has his shirt off in February. He must be proud of his guns or something... :). Mighty Mount Forbes rises in the background over Tilly and Trapper Peak.
Yes, JW has his shirt off in February. He must be proud of his guns or something... :). Mighty Mount Forbes rises in the background over Tilly and Trapper Peak.
Mount Hector from the north summit of Olive.
Mount Hector from the north summit of Olive.
Mount Gordon.
Mount Gordon.
Looking over the Waputik Glacier and Lilliput to Mount Temple and Daly on the right.
Looking over the Waputik Glacier and Lilliput to Mount Temple and Daly on the right.
The south (true) summit of Olive seen from the north one.
The south (true) summit of Olive seen from the north one.
L to R, Perren, Recondite, Cirque, Willingdon Group, Vulture, Crowfoot, Cataract, Andromache, Little Hector, Hector, Pulpit, Temple and the Lake Louise giants (R).
L to R, Perren, Recondite, Cirque, Willingdon Group, Vulture, Crowfoot, Cataract, Andromache, Little Hector, Hector, Pulpit, Temple and the Lake Louise giants (R).
JW approaches the north summit of Olive.
JW approaches the north summit of Olive.
Great view of many of the large Wapta peaks including (L to R), Gordon, Des Poilus, Collie, Ayesha, Rhondda, Habel, Baker, Trapper.
Great view of many of the large Wapta peaks including (L to R), Gordon, Des Poilus, Collie, Ayesha, Rhondda, Habel, Baker, Trapper.
Traversing to the south summit of Olive from the north one.
Traversing to the south summit of Olive from the north one.
Andrew negotiates around the crux on the ridge between the two summits of Olive.
Andrew negotiates around the crux on the ridge between the two summits of Olive.
Looking back at Raf and the north summit of Olive. The tricky section is just behind him.
Looking back at Raf and the north summit of Olive. The tricky section is just behind him.
Raf with (L to R), Portal, Murchison, Corona Ridge, Noyes, Weed, Jimmy Simpson, and Observation.
Raf with (L to R), Portal, Murchison, Corona Ridge, Noyes, Weed, Jimmy Simpson, and Observation.
JW, Andrew and Raf make their way to the summit of Mount Olive with an ocean of snow and ice covered peaks in the bg.
JW, Andrew and Raf make their way to the summit of Mount Olive with an ocean of snow and ice covered peaks in the bg.
L to R, Perren, Recondite, Cirque, Willingdon Group, Vulture, Crowfoot, Cataract, Andromache, Little Hector, Hector, Pulpit, Temple and the Lake Louise giants (R).
L to R, Perren, Recondite, Cirque, Willingdon Group, Vulture, Crowfoot, Cataract, Andromache, Little Hector, Hector, Pulpit, Temple and the Lake Louise giants (R).
A stunning view south with Andromache, Hector, Balfour, Gordon and Collie clearly visible and many other peaks in the far distance.
A stunning view south with Andromache, Hector, Balfour, Gordon and Collie clearly visible and many other peaks in the far distance.
Wapta peaks including (L to R), Gordon, Collie, Ayesha, Rhondda, Habel, Baker, Trapper, Peyto, Thompson, Portal and St. Nicholas Peak.
Wapta peaks including (L to R), Gordon, Collie, Ayesha, Rhondda, Habel, Baker, Trapper, Peyto, Thompson, Portal and St. Nicholas Peak.
Hector.
Hector.
Willingdon, Crown and South Tower over Puzzle Peak and Dolomite.
Willingdon, Crown and South Tower over Puzzle Peak and Dolomite.
Mount Gordon.
Mount Gordon.
Wapta peaks including (L to R), Gordon, Collie, Ayesha, Rhondda, Habel, Baker, Trapper, Peyto, Thompson, Portal and St. Nicholas Peak.
Wapta peaks including (L to R), Gordon, Collie, Ayesha, Rhondda, Habel, Baker, Trapper, Peyto, Thompson, Portal and St. Nicholas Peak.
Mount Balfour is king of the Wapta peaks at 10,735'.
Mount Balfour is king of the Wapta peaks at 10,735'.
Chancellor (L) and Mount Vaux (C).
Chancellor (L) and Mount Vaux (C).
Mount Collie is one of the trickiest peaks on the Wapta to climb. It's a long way from the nearest parking lot and has a massive summit ridge cornice
Mount Collie is one of the trickiest peaks on the Wapta to climb. It's a long way from the nearest parking lot and has a massive summit ridge cornice
Mount Mummery looms impressively over the unofficial "Collesha" peak that sits between Collie and Ayesha.
Mount Mummery looms impressively over the unofficial "Collesha" peak that sits between Collie and Ayesha.
Mount Balfour with the Diableret Glacier to it's right.
Mount Balfour with the Diableret Glacier to it's right.
Cataract and McConnell Peaks.
Cataract and McConnell Peaks.
Vern, Andrew, JW and Raf on the summit of Mount Olive.
Vern, Andrew, JW and Raf on the summit of Mount Olive.
JW Descends Olive.
JW Descends Olive.
Traversing from the south to the north summit of Olive.
Traversing from the south to the north summit of Olive.
JW and Andrew negotiating the crux between the two summits of Mount Olive.
JW and Andrew negotiating the crux between the two summits of Mount Olive.
Vern on the north summit (cornice?!) of Olive.
Vern on the north summit (cornice?!) of Olive.
Descending the north ridge towards an ocean of white.
Descending the north ridge towards an ocean of white.
The shadows are lengthening as we near the St. Nicholas col.
The shadows are lengthening as we near the St. Nicholas col.
Looking back at the north ridge of Olive from near the St. Nicholas col.
Looking back at the north ridge of Olive from near the St. Nicholas col.

St. Nicholas Peak

As we made our way past St. Nicholas on our way up Mount Olive earlier that day, Jason and I were a bit apprehensive about doing the Nicholas extension in the 25 minutes (to the summit) that Raff had been promising us – it looked like a very serious climb! As we stared at the peak from Mount Olive about 2 hours later we were growing even more doubtful about making St. Nick this day.

JW leads along the summit ridge of St. Nicholas – main summit is just ahead.

After ending up back at the Nicholas / Olive col. Jason decided he did have energy again and while Raf, Jason and I headed up St. Nicholas, Andrew (who had already climbed it) started back down towards the Bow Hut. After some deliberation we decided that we wouldn’t even take the rope and left our packs at the col. We decided that we would go along the ridge until the going got dangerous or we felt unsafe.

A gorgeous view back along the summit ridge of St. Nicholas.

Once on the ridge the climbing was exhilarating and fun. With crampons and ice ax we never did feel unsafe and were soon scrambling up the crux – a very steep and exposed snow / ice gully that had some rock handholds on climbers left which helped provide some feeling of security. We topped out to another glorious summit view and after some quick pictures it was time to head down so we could be out to the bow lake parking lot by nightfall. It had taken us about 20-25 minutes from the col to the summit.

JW celebrates the second summit of the day.

The crux was very interesting on the way down but thankfully short. In no time we were back at the col and ready for a fantastic ski down the Wapta.

After summiting St. Nicholas it was time for the infamous ski run back to the parking lot. We cruised down the Wapta in about 2-4 inches of fresh snow flying up around our skis. The slopes about the hut provided some fantastic turns and my legs were burning as we skied up to the hut. We didn’t have time to stop in so off we went down the headwall below the hut. The skiing here was absolutely amazing and all too soon it was over.

Following our tracks back off the Wapta with St. Nicholas rising at right and Thompson / Portal at distant left.

The run down the canyon was good too, I poled the whole way and with the moon rising over Bow Lake we arrived at the parking lot after a very satisfying day. I would say my best day yet in the mountains.

St. Nicholas Peak
JW leads along the summit ridge of St. Nicholas - main summit is just ahead.
JW leads along the summit ridge of St. Nicholas - main summit is just ahead.
There's some exposure on the ridge - note our approach tracks far below.
There's some exposure on the ridge - note our approach tracks far below.
Raf and JW on the summit of St. Nicholas.
Raf and JW on the summit of St. Nicholas.
Vern on the summit of St. Nicholas.
Vern on the summit of St. Nicholas.
JW on the summit of St. Nicholas.
JW on the summit of St. Nicholas.
JW carefully down climbs the crux from the summit of St. Nicholas.
JW carefully down climbs the crux from the summit of St. Nicholas.
JW carefully down climbs the crux from the summit of St. Nicholas.
JW carefully down climbs the crux from the summit of St. Nicholas.
JW carefully down climbs the crux from the summit of St. Nicholas.
JW carefully down climbs the crux from the summit of St. Nicholas.
Raf down climbs the crux.
Raf down climbs the crux.
The exposed summit ridge of St. Nicholas Peak.
The exposed summit ridge of St. Nicholas Peak.
The exposed summit ridge of St. Nicholas Peak.
The exposed summit ridge of St. Nicholas Peak.
The exposed summit ridge of St. Nicholas Peak.
The exposed summit ridge of St. Nicholas Peak.
The rest of the traverse back to the Olive col is pretty tame compared to the summit crux.
The rest of the traverse back to the Olive col is pretty tame compared to the summit crux.
JW is outlined on the ridge back to the Olive col - the false summit is above.
JW is outlined on the ridge back to the Olive col - the false summit is above.
A gorgeous view back along the summit ridge of St. Nicholas.
A gorgeous view back along the summit ridge of St. Nicholas.
Arriving back at the Olive col, ready for the fast ski out.
Arriving back at the Olive col, ready for the fast ski out.
JW skis off the col down to the main ice field.
JW skis off the col down to the main ice field.
JW skis off the col down to the main ice field.
JW skis off the col down to the main ice field.
Skiing back along the west face of St. Nicholas Peak.
Skiing back along the west face of St. Nicholas Peak.
Following our tracks back off the Wapta.
Following our tracks back off the Wapta.
Skiing back along the west face of St. Nicholas Peak.
Skiing back along the west face of St. Nicholas Peak.
Following our tracks back off the Wapta.
Following our tracks back off the Wapta.
The west face of St. Nicholas Peak.
The west face of St. Nicholas Peak.
Looking back along the west face of St. Nicholas towards Olive.
Looking back along the west face of St. Nicholas towards Olive.
A last look back along St. Nicholas (L) towards Olive's two summits (C).
A last look back along St. Nicholas (L) towards Olive's two summits (C).
There is a direct route up the snow / ice slopes between the two summits but this slope has some big holes and is obviously avalanche terrain
There is a direct route up the snow / ice slopes between the two summits but this slope has some big holes and is obviously avalanche terrain
Skiing down headwall above the Bow Hut.
Skiing down headwall above the Bow Hut.

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