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Bow Peak

Summit Elevation (m): 2868
Elevation Gain (m): 1000
Round Trip Time (hr): 7
Total Trip Distance (km): 15
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2/3 – you fall, you break your leg. 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: OT4 – Skiing; YDS (3rd)
Map: Google Maps


On Saturday, April 09 2011 So and I did the Bow Peak winter slog. This was my third attempt at this diminutive peak. In 2010 I made it all the way to the summit ridge before noticing my partners weren’t following me, but rather were leaving me behind! 🙂 On hindsight I’m glad I turned back that day when I did because I wasn’t quite as close to the summit as I thought at the time. Earlier this year we made another attempt but didn’t even make it halfway to the pass due to high winds and avalanche concerns. The weather forecast was interesting for Saturday. One site was predicting clouds and another was hinting at some nicer weather. http://www.mountain-forecast.com proved to be the most accurate – and it’s been impressive for the past few trips. I’ll be using them more often.

Bow Peak Route Map

We finally managed to cut about 1km off the approach to Crowfoot Pass by parking about 750 meters south of the Crowfoot lookout on highway 93. Another car pulled in right behind us. After lending them some batteries for their avy beacon (you gotta hate it when you buy the wrong batteries!) So and I followed old tracks down the embankment and across the ponds towards Crowfoot Pass. The ski up to the pass was without difficulties, we passed another group of skiers just before the grind up through the trees. We followed old tracks all the way to the pass, avoiding any terrain that would expose us to cornice collapses off either Crowfoot Mountain or BowCrow Peak.

It’s flat light as we work above tree line.

It took us 2 hours to reach the pass under a clearing sky and very little wind. The slope up to the ridge of Bow Peak looked quite snowy so I decided to keep skiing as far as we could. I knew what awaited us once the skis came off! I led the way and after a while So took the lead. We managed to get about 2/3 up the west face to the ridge. We could have gone higher and on hindsight we probably should have but the slope gets pretty steep up high on the face and we didn’t want to be hitting rocks all the way down. The coverage was about as good as it ever gets on that slope.

Looking ahead to Bow Peak and Crowfoot Pass. Andromache to the left of Bow Peak.

Like Crowfoot Mountain a couple of weeks earlier, there seemed to be more snow than ‘normal’ in this area. Eventually we ditched the skis and kept going on foot to gain the ridge.

So struggles up the last steep obstacle before the pass. The slope in front of us (coming off BowCrow) slides regularly and you should avoid getting near it.

I led the way up steep snow and rock that seemed to conspire against us each and every step of the way! The trick to Bow Peak is realizing that you are only half way when you reach Crowfoot Pass. Yes, the mountain looks small and the west face looks easy and short but it’s all one huge deception for suckers who attempt this peak, especially in the winter. The issue with Bow Peak, especially in the winter on ski boots, is that the west face is scree and the ridge is composed of larger rocks covered in rime, snow and lichen. I’m sure in the summer you can merrily skip your way up the ridge from rock to rock but in the winter it’s a bit of a nightmare.

Once I hit the ridge I was hoping that the snow would be fairly solid. It wasn’t. Loose, unconsolidated powder with icy drifts and huge cornices along with deep pockets of snow among the loose rocks made the going pretty tough. We slogged up the ridge which never seemed to end. Each ‘summit’ was simply a high point with more ridge ahead. The weather didn’t help the mood any either. Clouds had started to pour in off the Wapta as soon as we got on the ridge and our views were nil. 🙁

Nice summit views looking north and east, after waiting for quite a while for the clouds to clear. For once, patience paid off.

After finally making the summit I stood there and looked around at a world of white – there were no views whatsoever! The sun was poking through the clouds and it wasn’t cold and I decided maybe the clouds would dissipate as quickly as they had formed. So joined me at the summit and we spent over an hour waiting for the sky to clear. And believe it or not, it actually did! We were treated to the promised views and it was worth waiting and freezing for.

Pulpit at center with Waputik at distant left. Balfour in clouds at right.
Looking back at the summit and east (L) off the nw ridge. Noseeum just left of center.

The trip down was fun and fast. We skied down the west face, only hitting a few rocks on the way. The snow further down was extremely wet and heavy but the ski to the car was quick and warm. Our round trip time was 7 hours including an hour at the summit waiting for better views. We could have done the trip in 6 hours but I’m sure glad we waited!

Skiing back from the pass – Bow Peak on the left.

I’m still not sure if Bow Peak is a good winter objective or not. Normally you can’t even ski the west face like we did. I’m sure the views are great in the summer too. Either way, this is a nice outing.

Bow Peak
54 photos
Crossing Bow Lake heading towards the moraines to Bow Pass.
Crossing Bow Lake heading towards the moraines to Bow Pass.
So struggles up the steep access gully to the pass. Some people go left of this gully on a treed ridge but the gully is relatively safe.
So struggles up the steep access gully to the pass. Some people go left of this gully on a treed ridge but the gully is relatively safe.
It's flat light as we work above tree line.
It's flat light as we work above tree line.
Lovely rolling terrain over the moraines to the pass.
Lovely rolling terrain over the moraines to the pass.
There are some steepish rolls on the terrain to the pass which you must be cautious on
There are some steepish rolls on the terrain to the pass which you must be cautious on
Looking ahead to Bow Peak and Crowfoot Pass. Andromache to the left of Bow Peak.
Looking ahead to Bow Peak and Crowfoot Pass. Andromache to the left of Bow Peak.
Nice view of Dolomite behind us, across hwy #93.
Nice view of Dolomite behind us, across hwy #93.
We are tiny in this terrain.
We are tiny in this terrain.
The slope in front of us (coming off BowCrow) slides regularly and you should avoid getting near it.
The slope in front of us (coming off BowCrow) slides regularly and you should avoid getting near it.
So skis across Crowfoot Pass - looking back at our approach and Bow Lake.
So skis across Crowfoot Pass - looking back at our approach and Bow Lake.
Looking over the south end of the pass towards Temple on the left and Daly on the right. Lilliput at center.
Looking over the south end of the pass towards Temple on the left and Daly on the right. Lilliput at center.
So follows me up the wind swept west face of Bow Peak, the south ridge of Crowfoot Mountain forming an impressive backdrop.
So follows me up the wind swept west face of Bow Peak, the south ridge of Crowfoot Mountain forming an impressive backdrop.
Daly looks impressive from this angle.
Daly looks impressive from this angle.
So breaks trail for a while.
So breaks trail for a while.
The going gets tougher as we get higher, thanks to a thin snow pack and crusty conditions.
The going gets tougher as we get higher, thanks to a thin snow pack and crusty conditions.
The going gets tougher as we get higher, thanks to a thin snow pack and crusty conditions.
The going gets tougher as we get higher, thanks to a thin snow pack and crusty conditions.
Off the skis and heading for the NW ridge.
Off the skis and heading for the NW ridge.
View north over Bow Lake and up Hwy #93. from near the nw ridge.
View north over Bow Lake and up Hwy #93. from near the nw ridge.
Almost there right? Nope! Still a lot of boulder dancing and avoiding rock crevasses to go before the apex of Bow Peak.
Almost there right? Nope! Still a lot of boulder dancing and avoiding rock crevasses to go before the apex of Bow Peak.
Looking back along the nw ridge.
Looking back along the nw ridge.
So comes up behind me.
So comes up behind me.
So and the giant summit cairn.
So and the giant summit cairn.
Nice summit views looking north and east, after waiting for quite a while for the clouds to clear. For once, patience paid off...
Nice summit views looking north and east, after waiting for quite a while for the clouds to clear. For once, patience paid off...
Looking over Bow Lake. Jimmy Simpson, Caldron and Patterson on the left, Observation on the right.
Looking over Bow Lake. Jimmy Simpson, Caldron and Patterson on the left, Observation on the right.
Pulpit Peak lies to the south over Hector Lake.
Pulpit Peak lies to the south over Hector Lake.
Looking east at Noseeum Mountain with Dip Slope at left.
Looking east at Noseeum Mountain with Dip Slope at left.
Willingdon, Crown and Tower.
Willingdon, Crown and Tower.
Puzzle Peak (OXO).
Puzzle Peak (OXO).
Dolomite Peak is an impressive looking mountain which I climbed after work with Sonny Bou in 2004.
Dolomite Peak is an impressive looking mountain which I climbed after work with Sonny Bou in 2004.
Watermelon in the distance over Dolomite Pass.
Watermelon in the distance over Dolomite Pass.
Cirque Peak at left.
Cirque Peak at left.
Mount Hector.
Mount Hector.
Andromache (L) and Hector.
Andromache (L) and Hector.
Looking south over Hector Lake. Hector on the left, Pulpit at center and Lilliput and Balfour in clouds on the right.
Looking south over Hector Lake. Hector on the left, Pulpit at center and Lilliput and Balfour in clouds on the right.
Descending the long summit ridge of Bow Peak.
Descending the long summit ridge of Bow Peak.
Descending the long summit ridge of Bow Peak.
Descending the long summit ridge of Bow Peak.
Descending the long summit ridge of Bow Peak.
Descending the long summit ridge of Bow Peak.
Views south are awesome!
Views south are awesome!
Views over our approach route to Bow Lake.
Views over our approach route to Bow Lake.
Descending the long summit ridge of Bow Peak.
Descending the long summit ridge of Bow Peak.
Descending the long summit ridge of Bow Peak.
Descending the long summit ridge of Bow Peak.
Mount Temple shows up to the south.
Mount Temple shows up to the south.
Looking back and east off the nw ridge. Noseeum just left of center.
Looking back and east off the nw ridge. Noseeum just left of center.
Ready to descend the fun way - on skis!
Ready to descend the fun way - on skis!
Looking back up the punchy crust we descended at right.
Looking back up the punchy crust we descended at right.
Descending back from Crowfoot Pass.
Descending back from Crowfoot Pass.
Great view of Crowfoot on the left and the terrain to the pass.
Great view of Crowfoot on the left and the terrain to the pass.
Descending back from Crowfoot Pass.
Descending back from Crowfoot Pass.
Skiing back from the pass - Bow Peak on the left.
Skiing back from the pass - Bow Peak on the left.
Skiing back down to Bow Lake.
Skiing back down to Bow Lake.
Skiing back down to Bow Lake.
Skiing back down to Bow Lake.
Re-crossing Bow Lake.
Re-crossing Bow Lake.
The final steps to the parking area on hwy 93.
The final steps to the parking area on hwy 93.

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