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Crowfoot Mountain

Summit Elevation (m): 3050
Elevation Gain (m): 1250
Round Trip Time (hr): 6
Total Trip Distance (km): 20
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain something. Unless you’re caught in an avalanche – then you could die.
Difficulty Notes: Winter ascent includes serious avalanche risks. Learn how to manage these risks and perform avalanche burial rescues before attempting this trip.
Technical Rating: MN6; YDS (Skiing)
Map: Google Maps


On Sunday March 27, 2011 So Nakagawa and I skied to the summit of Crowfoot Mountain under a clear, nearly windless spring / winter day. I haven’t stood on a peak since I scrambled Midnight Peak way back on October 30 2010! I think that 5 months between peaks has to be some sort of new record for me. The last few outings I’ve had to the Rockies have been marked by cloud, wind and dreariness. So and I were both looking forward to a nice spring day with sunshine and melting snow but we knew that this was unlikely. 

Crowfoot Mountain Route Map

The weather forecast didn’t look too bad or too promising. It was calling for possible sunny sky in the morning and flurries in the afternoon. Anytime there’s any clouds in the forecast, the Wapta is usually in a whiteout. The drive to the mountains didn’t help our confidence in the weather. Calgary was socked in fog and snow and the highways were icy. As we drove into the mountains the weather remained cloudy but much drier. Just as we drove into the Bow Lake parking lot we could see blue sky above the Wapta! Cloudy everywhere BUT the Wapta? This was a good omen!

Gorgeous lighting on Bow Glacier Falls as we ski past them.

So had never been up the Bow Canyon before. I warned him about the ‘bump’ and we set off across the lake where you gain height and then lose most of it before hitting the canyon. It’s always cold on Bow Lake. We could see a solo skier way ahead of us. I wondered if he was doing Crowfoot Mountain since solo skiers rarely go up to the Wapta but often do Crowfoot. We had harnesses and glacier gear along but we weren’t sure if it was ‘needed’. Technically you should rope up and take all precautions when venturing onto any glacier, but the glacier on Crowfoot has a tame reputation and with a huge snow pack we weren’t planning to rope up unless there was whiteout conditions or no skin track to follow.

I’ve gone past the turnoff to Crowfoot Mountain many times on my way to the Bow Hut but I still wasn’t 100% sure where the proper route was. We missed Chic’s recommended turnoff and ended up on the right side of the drainage but we were following obvious ski ascent tracks so I continued up on a clear track from a few days previous. The lone skier was out of sight and we weren’t following his track anymore.

Touring above the canyon – now we’re off the main track to the Bow Hut and skiing up west slopes towards Crowfoot. This is looking back at Jimmy Simpson.

After a steep grind through the trees we topped out on climber’s right of Chic Scott’s route. We could see the solo skier again and slowly followed our track as it trended to climber’s left to meet up with the track he was on. The day was turning out to be absolutely glorious with sunshine and some wispy cloud and very little wind.

Gorgeous lighting and terrain leads up towards Little Crowfoot with “large” Crowfoot still many km’s distant at this point.
Incredible views towards the Waputik Glacier (L) and Mount Balfour (R) from the Crowfoot / Little Crowfoot col.

We continued to shed layers as we grunted up the pass. Chic mentions that the trip is 14 km return but we found out from So’s GPS that it’s actually 20 km which makes more sense. Once we got out of the canyon we pretty much never stopped climbing until the summit – it was a grunt! Most people do not get the pleasure of skiing right to the summit of Crowfoot but we kept our skis on the whole time which was very nice.

So skis up behind me with Little Crowfoot just to the left of him. Collie, St. Nicholas, Ayesha, Rhondda, Habel, Onion, Baker, Trapper, Portal, Thompson and Mistaya visible on the Wapta Icefield behind him.
The summit ridge of Crowfoot Mountain.

The summit views were sublime with Balfour stealing the show. I’m still proud of summiting that gorgeous mountain! The wind was biting so we didn’t spend much time on the summit. We skied down in about 4″ of powder / facets on a firm supportive layer – very nice and quick! After a brief lunch stop in the warm sun below the sub-peaks of Crowfoot we exited the canyon and had a quick ski across Bow Lake on an icy track.

Views of Olive, Collie, St. Nicholas, Ayesha, Rhondda, Habel, Onion, Baker, Trapper, Portal, Thompson and Mistaya.
Views north and east (R) over hwy 93 (C). Dolomite at right here and the Wapta Icefield at left.

Our round trip time of 6 hours seems pretty speedy but it didn’t feel too rushed. A highly recommended ski trip with gorgeous views and a fast descent.

Crowfoot Mountain
So skies around the back end of the lake. Jimmy Simpson rising to the left here.
So skies around the back end of the lake. Jimmy Simpson rising to the left here.
Portal Peak overhead as we descend the bump at the back of Bow Lake and turn left to the canyon.
Portal Peak overhead as we descend the bump at the back of Bow Lake and turn left to the canyon.
Gorgeous lighting on Bow Glacier Falls.
Gorgeous lighting on Bow Glacier Falls.
So starts up the infamous Bow Canyon
So starts up the infamous Bow Canyon
Skiing up Bow Canyon.
Skiing up Bow Canyon.
Following a great skin track up the canyon, the Vulture Glacier ice cap ahead.
Following a great skin track up the canyon, the Vulture Glacier ice cap ahead.
Looking back down Bow Canyon.
Looking back down Bow Canyon.
Skiing up Bow Canyon.
Skiing up Bow Canyon.
Touring above the canyon - now we're off the main track to the Bow Hut and skiing up west slopes towards Crowfoot.
Touring above the canyon - now we're off the main track to the Bow Hut and skiing up west slopes towards Crowfoot.
After a steep grunt through trees, we came out on rolling terrain (moraines) and a good skin track to follow.
After a steep grunt through trees, we came out on rolling terrain (moraines) and a good skin track to follow.
Looking ahead as we near tree line.
Looking ahead as we near tree line.
The solo skier in front of us is a tiny dot amidst the Crowfoot moraines.
The solo skier in front of us is a tiny dot amidst the Crowfoot moraines.
The Bow Hut sits nicely under St. Nicholas (L) and the Wapta headwall. I've been there many times - it's one of Canada's premier ski huts.
The Bow Hut sits nicely under St. Nicholas (L) and the Wapta headwall. I've been there many times - it's one of Canada's premier ski huts.
A gorgeous winter day.
A gorgeous winter day.
Looking up the skin track - still many km's to go at this point.
Looking up the skin track - still many km's to go at this point.
So skis up behind me.
So skis up behind me.
So skis up behind me.
So skis up behind me.
A white ocean.
A white ocean.
A sublime view of Balfour (R) and Lilliput (L) along with the Balfour Glacier.
A sublime view of Balfour (R) and Lilliput (L) along with the Balfour Glacier.
Not there yet! Judging by the tracks, most folks going up this way, tag Little Crowfoot, which is also a great objective in this area.
Not there yet! Judging by the tracks, most folks going up this way, tag Little Crowfoot, which is also a great objective in this area.
Rhondda, Habel and Thompson behind So.
Rhondda, Habel and Thompson behind So.
So comes over the Little Crowfoot col with Thompson in the bg.
So comes over the Little Crowfoot col with Thompson in the bg.
The sun is casting a full circle halo today.
The sun is casting a full circle halo today.
Balfour - king of the Wapta Icefield - stole the show this day. IMHO it's one of the sexiest peaks around.
Balfour - king of the Wapta Icefield - stole the show this day. IMHO it's one of the sexiest peaks around.
"Little Crowfoot" is the bump to the left of So.
"Little Crowfoot" is the bump to the left of So.
From L to R, Balfour, Olive, Vulture ,Little Crowfoot, Rhondda, Habel, Baker and Thompson.
From L to R, Balfour, Olive, Vulture ,Little Crowfoot, Rhondda, Habel, Baker and Thompson.
(L to R), Vulture, Collie, St Nicholas, Little Crowfoot, Ayesha, Rhondda, Habel, Onion, Baker, Tilly, Trapper, Thompson.
(L to R), Vulture, Collie, St Nicholas, Little Crowfoot, Ayesha, Rhondda, Habel, Onion, Baker, Tilly, Trapper, Thompson.
I told you, Balfour steals the show!
I told you, Balfour steals the show!
The solo skier is just ahead of me.
The solo skier is just ahead of me.
Mount Balfour with the Waputik Glacier on its east side - I descended that to Hector Lake once.
Mount Balfour with the Waputik Glacier on its east side - I descended that to Hector Lake once.
The Diableret Glacier is on the NW side of Balfour.
The Diableret Glacier is on the NW side of Balfour.
So looks tiny. Both the Waputik and Diableret Glaciers visible with Balfour in between.
So looks tiny. Both the Waputik and Diableret Glaciers visible with Balfour in between.
Finally nearing the summit of Crowfoot.
Finally nearing the summit of Crowfoot.
On the summit ridge.
On the summit ridge.
Finally we near the summit of Crowfoot Mountain! The track is thin, but there are ski tracks right to the apex
Finally we near the summit of Crowfoot Mountain! The track is thin, but there are ski tracks right to the apex
Impressive views towards Pulpit Peak.
Impressive views towards Pulpit Peak.
Clouds are coming in from the south in this summit view looking down the impressive wall that holds the Vulture Glacier on the right
Clouds are coming in from the south in this summit view looking down the impressive wall that holds the Vulture Glacier on the right
Impressive views towards Pulpit Peak.
Impressive views towards Pulpit Peak.
Looking over Pulpit towards Waputik with the Waputik Glacier at right.
Looking over Pulpit towards Waputik with the Waputik Glacier at right.
Clouds over hwy 93 to the south.
Clouds over hwy 93 to the south.
Mount Hector (R) and Little Hector (L) playing peek-a-boo amongst the clouds.
Mount Hector (R) and Little Hector (L) playing peek-a-boo amongst the clouds.
Daly and Niles at distance, Lilliput at center and Balfour at right.
Daly and Niles at distance, Lilliput at center and Balfour at right.
The skin track to the Balfour Col is visible here.
The skin track to the Balfour Col is visible here.
Looking over the Waputik Glacier.
Looking over the Waputik Glacier.
Views over Waputik Mountain.
Views over Waputik Mountain.
Certainly a nicer day than we expected at the parking lot! So skis along the summit ridge of Crowfoot.
Certainly a nicer day than we expected at the parking lot! So skis along the summit ridge of Crowfoot.
Zoomed in a bit from the previous shot, showing the exposure down the east face.
Zoomed in a bit from the previous shot, showing the exposure down the east face.
Looking west at Olive (L), Vulture (C, fg), Collie (C) and St. Nicholas Peak.
Looking west at Olive (L), Vulture (C, fg), Collie (C) and St. Nicholas Peak.
Balfour, Olive, Collie, Vulture, St Nich, Ayesha, Rhondda, Habel, Baker, Trapper, Portal, Thompson.
Balfour, Olive, Collie, Vulture, St Nich, Ayesha, Rhondda, Habel, Baker, Trapper, Portal, Thompson.
The clouds clear to the north over Jimmy Simpson, showing Mistaya and Patterson.
The clouds clear to the north over Jimmy Simpson, showing Mistaya and Patterson.
A sublime view over The Onion of Rhondda, Habel and Baker (L to R).
A sublime view over The Onion of Rhondda, Habel and Baker (L to R).
Ayesha shows up on the left with the Conway Group (Freshfield Icefield) in clouds beyond.
Ayesha shows up on the left with the Conway Group (Freshfield Icefield) in clouds beyond.
A panorama north and east along hwy #93 off the summit, hiding in clouds are peaks like Weed, Observation, Cirque and Dolomite.
A panorama north and east along hwy #93 off the summit, hiding in clouds are peaks like Weed, Observation, Cirque and Dolomite.
Olive, Gordon, Collie, Vulture, St. Nich, Ayesha, Rhondda, Habel, Baker, Trapper, Portal, Thompson.
Olive, Gordon, Collie, Vulture, St. Nich, Ayesha, Rhondda, Habel, Baker, Trapper, Portal, Thompson.
Vern on the summit of Crowfoot.
Vern on the summit of Crowfoot.
So on the summit of Crowfoot.
So on the summit of Crowfoot.
Skiing off the thin snow pack near the summit produced some nice new rock scrapes on the ol' ski bases!
Skiing off the thin snow pack near the summit produced some nice new rock scrapes on the ol' ski bases!
Time for all the effort of ascending to pay off!
Time for all the effort of ascending to pay off!
So does turns down Crowfoot, in front of a gorgeous sea of peaks.
So does turns down Crowfoot, in front of a gorgeous sea of peaks.
So does turns down Crowfoot, in front of a gorgeous sea of peaks.
So does turns down Crowfoot, in front of a gorgeous sea of peaks.
So does turns down Crowfoot, in front of a gorgeous sea of peaks.
So does turns down Crowfoot, in front of a gorgeous sea of peaks.
Taking a nice warm break out of the stiff wind.
Taking a nice warm break out of the stiff wind.
Descending Crowfoot.
Descending Crowfoot.
A last look back at the Crowfoot / Little Crowfoot col before heading down to the canyon exit.
A last look back at the Crowfoot / Little Crowfoot col before heading down to the canyon exit.
Descending Bow Canyon.
Descending Bow Canyon.
Descending Bow Canyon.
Descending Bow Canyon.
Skiing towards Bow Lake.
Skiing towards Bow Lake.
Crossing Bow Lake.
Crossing Bow Lake.

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