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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)
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.

Mount Coleman
67 photos
The evening before climbing Coleman I took some pictures near the Rampart Creek Campground.
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 heard rustling behind me and saw something along the highway. Sure enough! It was a bear.
Eric at the sign showing the directions to Normal Lake campground.
Eric at the sign showing the directions to Normal Lake campground.
We've already done 500 vertical meters and are crossing the meadows towards Mount Coleman.
We've already done 500 vertical meters and are crossing the meadows towards Mount Coleman.
Looking over Sunset Meadows towards Mount Amery.
Looking over Sunset Meadows towards Mount Amery.
Approaching Coleman from the meadows.
Approaching Coleman from the meadows.
Crossing to the larger gully on our right which obviously leads to the col.
Crossing to the larger gully on our right which obviously leads to the col.
Using snow to easy our journey up to the col.
Using snow to easy our journey up to the col.
Bryce in the bg and Saskatchewan at right.
Bryce in the bg and Saskatchewan at right.
Mount Alexandra is a long ways from Coleman!
Mount Alexandra is a long ways from Coleman!
Wilson, Erasmus, Amery and the Alexandra River (R) from our ascent.
Wilson, Erasmus, Amery and the Alexandra River (R) from our ascent.
Eric poses on the ascent ridge - spectacular views towards the Columbia Icefield opening up behind us now.
Eric poses on the ascent ridge - spectacular views towards the Columbia Icefield opening up behind us now.
Great view of the Lyells partially hidden behind Willerval Mountain.
Great view of the Lyells partially hidden behind Willerval Mountain.
Still a classic scree grunt for the most part...
Still a classic scree grunt for the most part...
Ascending scree on the SW ridge of Coleman.
Ascending scree on the SW ridge of Coleman.
Bryce, Saskatchewan and Columbia.
Bryce, Saskatchewan and Columbia.
Columbia, Androlumbia, Andromeda and Athabasca.
Columbia, Androlumbia, Andromeda and Athabasca.
Eric on the ridge with Norman Lake and the Sunset Pass area below.
Eric on the ridge with Norman Lake and the Sunset Pass area below.
The scrambling terrain turns more serious near the summit ridge.
The scrambling terrain turns more serious near the summit ridge.
Some cairns to guide our way up the steep terrain.
Some cairns to guide our way up the steep terrain.
Mount Amery and Willerval across the Icefields Parkway.
Mount Amery and Willerval across the Icefields Parkway.
Clear view of Norman Lake at lower left and Mount Amery across #93 at center. The Alexandra River valley at right.
Clear view of Norman Lake at lower left and Mount Amery across #93 at center. The Alexandra River valley at right.
Spectacular view of Cirrus' winged outliers.
Spectacular view of Cirrus' winged outliers.
Mount Cirrus (Huntington) is another peak that Eric and I climbed together in 2014.
Mount Cirrus (Huntington) is another peak that Eric and I climbed together in 2014.
Mount Cirrus (Huntington) is another peak that Eric and I climbed together in 2014.
Mount Cirrus (Huntington) is another peak that Eric and I climbed together in 2014.
Still some moderate / difficult terrain before the summit traverse.
Still some moderate / difficult terrain before the summit traverse.
Ascending the upper SW ridge.
Ascending the upper SW ridge.
Spectacular views of Huntington Mountain.
Spectacular views of Huntington Mountain.
Gazing back on our ascent route and Norman Lake with Wilson rising in the distance.
Gazing back on our ascent route and Norman Lake with Wilson rising in the distance.
Eric on the summit ridge with Coleman Lake far beneath.
Eric on the summit ridge with Coleman Lake far beneath.
Incredible view of Alberta's highest mountain, Mount Columbia, which I finally summitted in 2015.
Incredible view of Alberta's highest mountain, Mount Columbia, which I finally summitted in 2015.
Coleman Lake and Cirrus Mountain.
Coleman Lake and Cirrus Mountain.
The Coleman Glacier.
The Coleman Glacier.
The summit ridge stretches before us - the glacier route joining on the left.
The summit ridge stretches before us - the glacier route joining on the left.
Eric follows me along the summit ridge.
Eric follows me along the summit ridge.
Some exposure and hands-on scrambling!
Some exposure and hands-on scrambling!
Some exposure and hands-on scrambling!
Some exposure and hands-on scrambling!
Erasmus, Amery, Willerval, Alexandra, Bryce, Saskatchewan, Columbia, Athabasca, Cirrus,  Stewart
Erasmus, Amery, Willerval, Alexandra, Bryce, Saskatchewan, Columbia, Athabasca, Cirrus, Stewart
Views up the Alexandra River Valley past Amery and Willerval to Mount Alexandra.
Views up the Alexandra River Valley past Amery and Willerval to Mount Alexandra.
From R to L, Bryce, Saskatchewan, Columbia and other Columbia Icefields peaks at right.
From R to L, Bryce, Saskatchewan, Columbia and other Columbia Icefields peaks at right.
Beautiful Cirrus Mountain
Beautiful Cirrus Mountain
Kitchener, Stutfield and Stutfield NE
Kitchener, Stutfield and Stutfield NE
Andromeda with Androlumbia on the left.
Andromeda with Androlumbia on the left.
Columbia and Androlumbia.
Columbia and Androlumbia.
Mount Saskatchewan is a near 11,000er.
Mount Saskatchewan is a near 11,000er.
Mighty Mount Bryce.
Mighty Mount Bryce.
Mount Alexandra at the head of the Alexandra River Valley.
Mount Alexandra at the head of the Alexandra River Valley.
From L to R, Christian, Rudolph, Edward, Ernest.
From L to R, Christian, Rudolph, Edward, Ernest.
Mount Wilson is another huge peak to the south of Coleman that Eric and I did together.
Mount Wilson is another huge peak to the south of Coleman that Eric and I did together.
Views down the Coleman Glacier towards Cirrus.
Views down the Coleman Glacier towards Cirrus.
Vern on the summit.
Vern on the summit.
A wider view of the Alexandra River Valley including (from L to R), Willerval, Lyells, Farbus, Oppy, Alexandra and Queen.
A wider view of the Alexandra River Valley including (from L to R), Willerval, Lyells, Farbus, Oppy, Alexandra and Queen.
A Rick Collier register.
A Rick Collier register.
The summit ridge on our retreat - there is some pretty serious exposure if you're not used to this sort of thing.
The summit ridge on our retreat - there is some pretty serious exposure if you're not used to this sort of thing.
Retreating along the SW summit ridge.
Retreating along the SW summit ridge.
Retreating along the SW summit ridge.
Retreating along the SW summit ridge.
Back on scree to Sunset Meadows and Normal Lake.
Back on scree to Sunset Meadows and Normal Lake.
Descending to Sunset Meadow.
Descending to Sunset Meadow.
Descending to Sunset Meadow.
Descending to Sunset Meadow.
Back in the drainage.
Back in the drainage.
Eric on Twin Falls.
Eric on Twin Falls.
Can't beat these views! Twin Falls with Coleman in the bg.
Can't beat these views! Twin Falls with Coleman in the bg.
A lovely walk back through Sunset Pass Meadows with Amery tempting us in the distance.
A lovely walk back through Sunset Pass Meadows with Amery tempting us in the distance.
Norman Creek and Mount Coleman.
Norman Creek and Mount Coleman.
Coleman looks far away as we drop from Normal Lake.
Coleman looks far away as we drop from Normal Lake.
Descending to the Icefields Parkway.
Descending to the Icefields Parkway.
Norman Creek.
Norman Creek.

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