Coleman, Mount

Summit Elevation (m): 3135
Elevation Gain (m): 1700
Trip Time (hr): 8.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 18
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3/4 – you fall, you break something or worse
Difficulty Notes: A fall on the crux would severely injure or kill so take necessary precautions.
Technical Rating: SC7; YDS (3rd)
GPS Track: Download
Map: Google Maps

On Thursday, July 30 2009 I joined Eric Coulthard from Edmonton on a trip up Mount Coleman in Banff National Park. In order to facilitate an earlier arrival back home to Calgary after the scramble, we both stayed overnight near the trailhead and agreed to leave the parking lot around 0530. This was my first scramble with Eric and we proved to have much in common, including our love of the mountains and our method of ascent.

The evening before climbing Coleman I took some pictures near the Rampart Creek Campground. I heard rustling behind me and saw something along the highway. Sure enough! It was a bear.

I met Eric at the trailhead and we started up the trail in the dim light of a mountain morning. Eric was in great shape and we chatted and climbed up the rather steep trail to Sunset Pass. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this trail. It would be a bugger with a big pack on but got 500 vertical meters off the ascent in short order.

Mount Coleman Route Map

Once at the pass the sun was coming up, but there was still frost on the surrounding vegetation! We hiked through an empty Norman Lake campground and continued for our objective which was clearly to our left. We weren’t sure if we should go all the way to Sunset Pass or not but soon itchy feet won out and we started crossing the open meadows / marsh area that makes up the Sunset Meadows. This is a beautiful and remote area – I’ll be back for sure sometime to explore it more.

Mount Erasmus (L) and Amery (R) across the Sunset Meadows and Norman Creek.

We ascended an obvious gully up the left shoulder of Coleman. The vegetation was wet from the morning frost and as we got higher into the warm sunshine we experienced the only negative part of our day – the bugs! I’ve heard rumors about the bugs around Sunset Pass and they’re true. If you’re in that area during a warm summer day I highly recommend that you bring some bug spray along.

Crossing to the larger gully on our right which obviously leads to the col and the SW ascent ridge towards the summit at upper right.

As we got higher on the shoulder we realized that we could either traverse high above the gully on climber’s left or descend slightly and go right up the gully. I voted for the gully for two reasons – there was snow which would provide easy step kicking and the higher traverse looked like it could get very tricky after a bit. Eric agreed with me and we descended slightly and began the grunt up to the high col.

Wilson, Erasmus, Amery and the Alexandra River (R) from our ascent of the lower SW ridge. Our access gully (snow) comes up from the left here.

As you gaze at the high col from the Sunset Pass trail you may not realize that you have to gain almost 900 meters just to the col but you will feel it once you start going up to it!  Eric did a great job kicking small steps in the snow patches that we came across and finally we reached the col to some fabulous views. Looking south was smoky because of fires but the views to the west and north were incredible. It was also very nice to realize that we were only about 300-400 vertical meters from the summit at this point and this was the fun stuff.

Mount Cirrus (Huntington) is another spectacular Rockies peak that Eric and I climbed together in 2014.

From the col to the summit I found the scrambling very enjoyable and not that difficult. We basically followed the crest of the ridge and eventually started finding the occasional cairn. I would caution against wandering too far to climber’s right in search of a ‘gully’ because Kane’s gully is the shallow one right next to the ridge crest on climber’s right.

After some upper-moderate scrambling we popped out on the ridge and could see our short traverse to the main summit. We chose to carefully make our way along the glacier on the north side in order to access the final summit bump on the way up but it is avoidable on climber’s right if you want to avoid it – there are some massive holes on this glacier and there’s a good chance that some of them are right at the col so if you do venture onto it make sure you probe carefully. Because of our early start time we were on the summit of Coleman shortly after 10:00.

Eric on the summit ridge with Coleman Lake far beneath and Mount Huntington rising over his head.

The summit was small but we both fit no problem. After 30-45 minutes in the very cool wind with some mind blowing views, we were ready to start heading down.

Erasmus, Amery, Willerval, Alexandra, Bryce, Saskatchewan, Columbia, Athabasca, Cirrus, Stewart and many other peaks visible.
Looking down the other popular ascent route for Coleman – it’s north glacier route.

We encountered no other problems except for the black flies lower down, which were merciless. We returned that attitude back on them several times. We chose to follow the main gully rather than our smaller ascent gully on the way down and that worked well. At first we traversed on animal trails alongside the skier’s right but after a while we simply dropped right into the gully and enjoyed some very refreshing stream water in the increasing heat.

The summit ridge on our retreat – there is some pretty serious exposure if you’re not used to this sort of thing.
Back on scree to Sunset Meadows and Norman Lake.

We chanced on Twin Falls which was a nice distraction on the way back to the Sunset Pass trail and had a nice walk back to the parking lot.

Can’t beat these views! Twin Falls on Norman Creek with Coleman in the distance.

This is a rarely ascended peak that deserves your attention if you like more remote scrambles with great views and no highway to the summit.

4 thoughts on Coleman, Mount

  1. I climbed Mount Coleman in July 1972. I left a piton with my name on it and placed it under a small Carin. It is a beautiful view from the peak.

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