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Des Poilus, Mont

Summit Elevation (m): 3161
Elevation Gain (m): 2000
Round Trip Time (hr): 14+
Total Trip Distance (km): 38
Quick ‘n Easy Rating: Class 2/3 – You fall you 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: MN6; YDS (I)
Map: Google Maps


After an approach to the des Poilus glacier and an ascent of Yoho Peak, I found myself oversleeping my alarm on Sunday, August 14 – our planned ascent day for Mount Des Poilus. The moon was so bright as I emerged from my bivy sack, that I was casting a shadow! The full moon would only make our ascent of the glacier easier. Raf and Alan were getting up too, and soon the water was boiling for breakfast. It was very warm, around 8 degrees at camp as we roped up and set off up the glacier by 04:30.

Mont des Poilus Route Map

Raf set an excellent pace on the approach and we stuck generally to the center of the glacier until we arrived at the neve. Raf again set a nice pace up the steepening snow slope – sticking mostly to right (climber’s) of center. We weren’t seeing any big holes and still hadn’t come across the trail we spotted the day before from Yoho Peak. At the first bit of complex terrain we spotted the tracks and moved slightly left to gain them. The snow was quite firm and the crampons were biting beautifully. Any warmer and we would have been dealing with slushy conditions. As we ascended higher, daylight began breaking over the Wapta Icefield and Mount Hector to the east. We stopped often for photos during the next 30 minutes.

Already quite high, still using head lamps at this point but what a view looking back towards Mount Balfour (C).

We crossed the ‘schrund no problem – it was so filled in that we could hardly tell it was a ‘schrund, and beat our way up steep snow slopes on a staircase of kicked steps to the final summit ridge on relatively firm snow. We could see how soft the snow had been for the two climbers we’d spotted the day before, they didn’t even bothered with crampons near the top of the route.

Dawn breaks over the glacier and Hector (L), Balfour, Yoho and The Presidents (R).
Sunrise over Mount Hector

We took the crampons and rope off for the final 100 vertical meters since it looked to be nothing more than scrambling on blocky, rocky terrain. This was indeed the case and at 07:30, exactly 3 hours from camp we were on the summit of des Poilus with a great panorama in all directions. After posing for Alan and snapping our own shots for 30 minutes, we got tired of the cool breeze and began the descent while the snow pack was still stable.

Dawn breaks over the glacier and Hector (L), Balfour, Yoho and The Presidents (R).
Views include Lake Louise at distant left, Yoho at near left, Amiskwi Lake and Laussedat at center right and the Freshfield Icefield at distance right.

Our exit went without incident and soon we were trudging across the ice and rivers of melt water on the main glacier again. We were back at camp at 10:30 for a round trip time of 6 hours – including 30 minutes on the summit and taking our time on the way up and down. Raf and I both commented repeatedly that this ascent reminded us of our tramp up the President and Vice President back in 2008. As a matter of fact, we found des Poilus an easier ascent than the Presidents – probably due to a heavy snow pack and great conditions, not to mention a good track on the upper mountain.

Descending back to the des Poilus Glacier.

There are some huge crevasses on the des Poilus glacier and this trip should not be taken lightly if you don’t know where they are (generally more to climber’s left) but if you have great conditions this is a highly recommended peak which will give stunning views both at the summit and on the approach.

Exiting back down to Waterfall Valley – a last glance back at the glacier and our peak.

The trudge out to the parking lot was a bit mind-numbing but still beautiful and wrapped up a great weekend with fun company and lots of laughs.

Mont des Poilus
The long exposure makes 04:00 look like mid afternoon! Except for the stars...
The long exposure makes 04:00 look like mid afternoon! Except for the stars...
Already quite high, still using head lamps at this point but what a view looking back!
Already quite high, still using head lamps at this point but what a view looking back!
Dawn breaks over the glacier and Yoho Peak behind us.
Dawn breaks over the glacier and Yoho Peak behind us.
Alan takes in the wonderful views.
Alan takes in the wonderful views.
A steep roll on the glacier.
A steep roll on the glacier.
Looking back over the des Poilus Glacier.
Looking back over the des Poilus Glacier.
Sunrise over Mount Hector
Sunrise over Mount Hector
Sunrise over Mount Hector
Sunrise over Mount Hector
Collie, Hector, Balfour and Yoho (R to L) in early morning lighting.
Collie, Hector, Balfour and Yoho (R to L) in early morning lighting.
Steeper upper slopes.
Steeper upper slopes.
Much higher than Yoho Peak.
Much higher than Yoho Peak.
Raf is enjoying himself!
Raf is enjoying himself!
The steepest roll just before we were off snow and on rock to the summit.
The steepest roll just before we were off snow and on rock to the summit.
Higher than Arete (R) and way higher than Yoho (L).
Higher than Arete (R) and way higher than Yoho (L).
Alan comes up the rubble behind me.
Alan comes up the rubble behind me.
Alan comes up the rubble behind me.
Alan comes up the rubble behind me.
Loose boulders near the summit. Hungabee, Biddle and Stephen in the bg (L to R).
Loose boulders near the summit. Hungabee, Biddle and Stephen in the bg (L to R).
The Presidents and McArthur at left, the Freshfield Icefield at right.
The Presidents and McArthur at left, the Freshfield Icefield at right.
Ayesha, Baker Collie, Rhondda, Thompson, Olive, Gordon, Hector and Balfour (L to R).
Ayesha, Baker Collie, Rhondda, Thompson, Olive, Gordon, Hector and Balfour (L to R).
Laussedat
Laussedat
Goodsir Towers over the Presidents Col.
Goodsir Towers over the Presidents Col.
Mount Vaux
Mount Vaux
Forbes at left.
Forbes at left.
Mount Amery and Hooge Peak.
Mount Amery and Hooge Peak.
Hector and clouds.
Hector and clouds.
On the summit of des Poilus.
On the summit of des Poilus.
Looking over Amiskwi Lake towards  Sheppard, Mather and Laussedat.
Looking over Amiskwi Lake towards Sheppard, Mather and Laussedat.
Abstruse (L) and Recondite (R)>
Abstruse (L) and Recondite (R)>
Looking over Amiskwi Lodge
Looking over Amiskwi Lodge
Looking over Amiskwi Lodge to the Mummery Icefield.
Looking over Amiskwi Lodge to the Mummery Icefield.
Heading back down.
Heading back down.
Arete Peak rises in front of us as we descend des Poilus.
Arete Peak rises in front of us as we descend des Poilus.
Descending to the des Poilus Glacier.
Descending to the des Poilus Glacier.
Descending to the des Poilus Glacier.
Descending to the des Poilus Glacier.
Descending the des Poilus Glacier.
Descending the des Poilus Glacier.
Descending the des Poilus Glacier.
Descending the des Poilus Glacier.
Descending the des Poilus Glacier.
Descending the des Poilus Glacier.
Looking back at mont des Poilus.
Looking back at mont des Poilus.
Exploring the edge of the glacier near our bivy site.
Exploring the edge of the glacier near our bivy site.
Exploring the edge of the glacier near our bivy site.
Exploring the edge of the glacier near our bivy site.
Exploring the edge of the glacier near our bivy site.
Exploring the edge of the glacier near our bivy site.
Exiting the des Poilus Glacier.
Exiting the des Poilus Glacier.
Exiting the des Poilus Glacier.
Exiting the des Poilus Glacier.
Hiking back along des Poilus Tarn.
Hiking back along des Poilus Tarn.
Hiking back along des Poilus Tarn.
Hiking back along des Poilus Tarn.
On the glacial flats again.
On the glacial flats again.
Last glimpse of Des Poilus over Twin Falls Creek.
Last glimpse of Des Poilus over Twin Falls Creek.
Twin Falls Creek
Twin Falls Creek
Descending the steep Twin Falls trail back to the Little Yoho Valley.
Descending the steep Twin Falls trail back to the Little Yoho Valley.
Twin Falls
Twin Falls
Twin Falls
Twin Falls

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