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Habel, Mount (North Rhondda)

Summit Elevation (m): 3073
Elevation Gain (m): 1151
Round Trip Time (hr): 9
Total Trip Distance (km): 27
Quick ‘n Easy Rating: Class 4/5 – You fall you hurt bad or die. If you’re caught in an avalanche you could also hurt or die. This mountain could kill you. But it probably won’t. 😉
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: MN7; YDS (5.0)
MapGoogle Maps


On March 23/24 I joined Kevin Papke for the first summit attempt on his quest for 50 summits in a “Summits for Seniors” fundraiser in his 50th year. Considering his birthday is on March 22nd Kev wasted no time to start his summit bids! We decided that in order to make a big day trip slightly shorter we would ski into the Bow Hut on Friday evening and summit Habel on Saturday before heading home. We left the parking lot under warm conditions, lots of fresh snow and cloudy skies – but with high hopes that the weather forecast for Saturday would come true with a mix of sun and cloud and little wind.

Mount Habel Route Map

Right up front I should comment on the name of this peak. I mentioned that we were climbing “Habel” to a few people in the hut and since then and everyone assumes that I’ve made up the name. Not so my friends! Habel was named already back in 1986. “North Rhondda” may be a more common name but it’s not the real one in this case. The trip into the hut went smoothly. There was much more snow than when I did Little Crowfoot a few weekends ago and the trail was very conservative in avoiding avalanche terrain where possible.

At the hut we met a bunch of interesting folks, including John Shellenberg from Edmonton who is a regular on the clubtread.com forums (Johngx) and who was leading a Grant McEwan club trip up Mount Gordon on Saturday. It’s always cool to meet fellow mountain aficionados, conversation is easy and pleasant! Around 20:30 we went to bed but sleep didn’t come to me until well after midnight, thanks to a full hut and a LOT of snoring, sniffling and I think even some farting on my bunk level (not me)… Add to that people with small bladders and the ‘party crowd’ coming in at 21:30 and I remembered why I should never forget ear plugs while staying in a hut. There’s a reason I love bivying…

Kev skis above the lower headwall towards the Bow Hut in evening lighting.

Oh well. We got up at 06:00 and after a leisure breakfast we were on our way up the headwall to the Wapta Icefield above the hut. The headwall went quickly. For some reason after spending 2.5 days on the Columbia Icefield in February, the Wapta seemed nice and cozy! The headwall used to seem quite large, and the peaks were far apart but now I thought everything was much closer together than I remembered – except the peaks at the far reaches of the Wapta like Collie, Ayesha or Mistaya of course.

Kev skis out of the morning shadow with Collie, Rhondda, Habel, Thompson and Portal in clear view.
Kev breaks trail towards Habel. Despite appearances, Rhondda (on the left) is lower than Habel (right).

Kev broke trail almost all the way up Habel on his super-light gear. My gear felt heavy and I felt sluggish. I was carrying the rope but that shouldn’t have made me feel so heavy. The views continued to impress as we got higher, most impressive was the north face of Mount Rhondda and eventually the very impressive summit cap on Mount Ayesha. The ridge was heavily corniced to our left (east side) but we managed to avoid too much exposure to them and soon found ourselves looking at the final summit block over a small notch in the ridge.

Kev on the summit ridge of Habel.
Kev negotiates the ridge ahead of me approaching the false summit. Collie and Ayesha to the right of us.

The summit of Habel is actually not often ascended. Apparently most parties are content to ‘almost summit’ due to the exposure of the final block – especially while wearing ski boots and usually in the winter when the weather isn’t the most pleasant to be setting up belays etc. Goldenscrambles.ca had a nice picture of their route up the summit block, but TJ had sent me an easier option that him and Jason Wilcox did a few years ago, not even bothering with any protection. After putting on crampons and setting up a belay around a huge rock, Kev proceeded to check things out. He didn’t really like the exposure on TJ’s route so he tried the other one, not liking it either. Eventually we decided to let me check things out and I found a 3rd route up the summit block! In the following photo, Josee and Fab’s route is in red, TJ and JW’s route is green and our route is purple. The rocks are the crux for the red route while the exposed snow traverse to the shallow gullies is the crux for the other two routes. Kev also tried the crack to the left of the red route but it was almost over hanging with no good holds so he backed off.

Kev belays me over to the start of the crux. I’ve marked three routes here. Red is best with low snow, green is steep and purple is the most traversing but easiest line once you’re in it – that’s the route we took.

Our route was nice because we could easily protect both sides of the crux off of slings, but a fall would’ve hurt like heck no matter what, due to the direction of the fall relative to our gear. A 30 meter rope was just enough to cover the entire blue line of our route! Once on top we were treated to fabulous views of the entire Wapta. Habel is even higher than Rhondda, which surprised me a little. Kevin was ecstatic to make the first peak of his 50 in such great conditions!

Summit panorama includes Thompson, Portal, Crowfoot, Vulture, St. Nicholas, Olive, Rhondda and Gordon (L to R).
Our crux on the left, Ayesha in the center and Baker on the right. Mummery and many other peaks in between!
Kev at the summit with his cool “Summits for Seniors” flag. Cool cause too.

After a few photos we headed down – we still had a ways to go before heading home and with 3 hours of sleep we didn’t want to be driving too late.

There is a slight ascent on the way back to the Bow Hut. Not bad, but I skinned up for it. Kev had some kick wax that worked very well. I think I’ll do that next time!

The ski down was fantastic! Even the headwall above the Bow Hut was skiable – usually it’s wind scoured when I try to descend it. After a quick hut-stop to pack up our sleeping bags and extra gear we completed the easy slog back to the car. Habel surprised me with outstanding views and a great little summit block challenge. Highly recommended.

Mount Habel (Rhondda North)
Gearing up in the Bow Lake parking lot.
Gearing up in the Bow Lake parking lot.
Crossing Bow Lake.
Crossing Bow Lake.
Entering Bow Canyon.
Entering Bow Canyon.
Kev skies up the canyon on approach the evening before our climb.
Kev skies up the canyon on approach the evening before our climb.
Skiing up Bow Canyon.
Skiing up Bow Canyon.
Approaching the Bow Hut.
Approaching the Bow Hut.
Approaching the Bow Hut, Kev ascends the lower headwall.
Approaching the Bow Hut, Kev ascends the lower headwall.
Above the lower headwall, Kev approaching the Bow Hut in evening lighting.
Above the lower headwall, Kev approaching the Bow Hut in evening lighting.
Ascending the Bow Glacier headwall above the Bow Hut.
Ascending the Bow Glacier headwall above the Bow Hut.
Kev skis out of the morning shadow with Collie, Rhondda, Habel and Thompson in clear view.
Kev skis out of the morning shadow with Collie, Rhondda, Habel and Thompson in clear view.
Skiing across the Wapta Icefield towards Mount Habel.
Skiing across the Wapta Icefield towards Mount Habel.
Kev breaks trail towards Habel. Despite appearances, Rhondda (on the left) is lower than Habel (right).
Kev breaks trail towards Habel. Despite appearances, Rhondda (on the left) is lower than Habel (right).
Kev breaks trail towards Habel.
Kev breaks trail towards Habel.
Starting to ascend to the summit ridge now.
Starting to ascend to the summit ridge now.
Starting to ascend to the summit ridge now.
Starting to ascend to the summit ridge now.
Starting to ascend to the summit ridge now.
Starting to ascend to the summit ridge now.
Kev breaks trail onto the ridge.
Kev breaks trail onto the ridge.
Kev breaks trail onto the ridge.
Kev breaks trail onto the ridge.
Gorgeous views of Rhondda with Olive in the far distance at left.
Gorgeous views of Rhondda with Olive in the far distance at left.
Starting up the ridge.
Starting up the ridge.
Many peaks on the Wapta are visible here including (from left) Thompson, Vulture, St Nicholas, Olive, Balfour, Gordon, Rhondda and Habel.
Many peaks on the Wapta are visible here including (from left) Thompson, Vulture, St Nicholas, Olive, Balfour, Gordon, Rhondda and Habel.
The summit ridge on Mount Habel is somewhat exposed to the east.
The summit ridge on Mount Habel is somewhat exposed to the east.
Looking back at Mount Baker.
Looking back at Mount Baker.
Looking west to Ayesha.
Looking west to Ayesha.
Kev follows me up the shoulder of Mount Habel on route to the summit ridge.
Kev follows me up the shoulder of Mount Habel on route to the summit ridge.
Ayesha.
Ayesha.
Kev negotiates the ridge ahead of me with Collie and Ayesha visible now.
Kev negotiates the ridge ahead of me with Collie and Ayesha visible now.
Ascending to the false summit.
Ascending to the false summit.
At the false summit - the true one visible just beyond.
At the false summit - the true one visible just beyond.
Kev waits at our belay. We didn't really need it for the section between us here, it was set up for the following section.
Kev waits at our belay. We didn't really need it for the section between us here, it was set up for the following section.
This gives a better idea of the terrain around the crux of the summit block.
This gives a better idea of the terrain around the crux of the summit block.
Kev comes up to the summit while I belay him off the summit cairn. (Just kidding about the belay - it was around a rock horn.)
Kev comes up to the summit while I belay him off the summit cairn. (Just kidding about the belay - it was around a rock horn.)
Kev at the summit of Mount Habel.
Kev at the summit of Mount Habel.
Views over the east (L) and west (R) Wapta from Olive to Collie.
Views over the east (L) and west (R) Wapta from Olive to Collie.
Mount Baker from the summit.
Mount Baker from the summit.
Kev at the summit of Mount Habel.
Kev at the summit of Mount Habel.
Looking over Rhondda towards Gordon. Olive and Hector at left.
Looking over Rhondda towards Gordon. Olive and Hector at left.
Crowfoot, Vulture, St. Nich and Olive.
Crowfoot, Vulture, St. Nich and Olive.
Thompson, Portal and Dolomite lie to the east.
Thompson, Portal and Dolomite lie to the east.
Summit panorama includes Thompson, Portal, Crowfoot, Vulture, St. Nicholas, Olive, Rhondda and Gordon (L to R).
Summit panorama includes Thompson, Portal, Crowfoot, Vulture, St. Nicholas, Olive, Rhondda and Gordon (L to R).
Vern at the summit of Mount Habel.
Vern at the summit of Mount Habel.
Looking back over the summit ridge and the false summit
Looking back over the summit ridge and the false summit
Kev descends to the crux.
Kev descends to the crux.
Kev descends to the crux.
Kev descends to the crux.
My view as I descend.
My view as I descend.
Descending to the crux.
Descending to the crux.
The crux is much easier now that there's tracks and we're ascending it rather than descending.
The crux is much easier now that there's tracks and we're ascending it rather than descending.
Our crux on the left, Ayesha in the center and Baker on the right. Mummery and many other peaks in between!
Our crux on the left, Ayesha in the center and Baker on the right. Mummery and many other peaks in between!
Kev on the descent ridge. Patterson to his left and above him with Baker in the foreground.
Kev on the descent ridge. Patterson to his left and above him with Baker in the foreground.
Looking back at our tracks. Mount Collie is calling my name to the right of the ridge.
Looking back at our tracks. Mount Collie is calling my name to the right of the ridge.
Kev descends the ridge.
Kev descends the ridge.
Kev descends the ridge.
Kev descends the ridge.
Wild views of the Wapta Icefield.
Wild views of the Wapta Icefield.
A very fun (but way too short) descent off Habel's ridge!
A very fun (but way too short) descent off Habel's ridge!
There is a slight ascent on the way back to the Bow Hut. Not bad, but I skinned up for it.
There is a slight ascent on the way back to the Bow Hut. Not bad, but I skinned up for it.
Skiing across the Wapta.
Skiing across the Wapta.
Looking over at a couple of skiers ascending the headwall under St. Nicholas.
Looking over at a couple of skiers ascending the headwall under St. Nicholas.
Back at Bow Hut.
Back at Bow Hut.
Descending to Bow Canyon.
Descending to Bow Canyon.
Descending to Bow Canyon.
Descending to Bow Canyon.
Skiing back across Bow Lake.
Skiing back across Bow Lake.
49 more peaks to go for Summits for Seniors!
49 more peaks to go for Summits for Seniors!

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