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Crowfoot Mountain (Redux)

Summit Elevation (m): 3050
Trip Date: Saturday, March 16, 2019
Elevation Gain (m): 1250
Round Trip Time (hr): 6.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 19.5
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 and on Saturday March 16 2019 I repeated it with Wietse Bijlsma. I always figured I’d repeat this mountain since it’s relatively easy and a surprisingly short day despite being over 1200 meters of height gain and almost 20 km of distance from the Bow Lake parking lot. The weather forecast wasn’t perfect but SpotWX was showing enough clear sky to justify getting up at 05:30 and making the effort. Avalanche conditions were still OK for Saturday but were forecast to shoot up dramatically on Sunday thanks to a drastic warming trend.

Crowfoot Mountain Route Map

As usual, Bow Lake was the coldest place on the planet at around 09:00 as we skied across it. It was -17 and our hands almost froze before we got our core temperature up a bit and the sun started hitting us near the back of the lake. After crossing Hector Lake only 6 days previous Bow Lake was a cute little ski. 🙂 Wietse has lost a bunch of weight this year and was raring to go! Starting on the “bump” at the end of the Bow Lake flats just before the canyon, he set a rapid pace. In between me trying to get some video and still feeling the BowCrow effect, I had a tough time keeping pace with the flying Dutchman. The canyon was as filled in as I’ve seen it with very little flowing water visible. There was a highway beaten into the slopes above the canyon too, leading all the way to the turnoff for Crowfoot Mountain.

Wietse was ahead of me at the key drainage which marks the left-hand uphill turnoff to accessing the NW alpine bowl beneath Crowfoot, which meant by the time I got his attention we were on the far side (south) of the drainage. I wasn’t sure this was a great line, and we had a brief discussion before shrugging our shoulders and heading up the  untracked right-hand side of the drainage. On hindsight I prefer this route although I must caution that it traverses slightly more exposed avalanche terrain coming off of Vulture Peak.

From our top-out point on the shoulder we first ascended towards Vulture Peak before using the terrain to lose as little height as possible to the “regular” route. We were following an old skin track the whole way. Once joining the other track Wietse broke trail on it (mostly windblown to ankle deep) up past Little Crowfoot and onto the bigger west slopes of Crowfoot. We skinned almost to the summit ridge before taking off the skis and walking the last ~500 meters to the windy and chilly summit. I didn’t linger since I’ve been up there in clearer conditions before. It was interesting to look over BowCrow Peak having just been there 6 day previous. We met several parties on descent. The skiing was excellent to acceptable with some sections of wind slab.

Our round trip time of 6.5 hours felt very fast to me, but apparently I was in even better shape last time I did this mountain because So and I did it in 6 hours back then. Hmmm. It’s not a bloody race is it?! 🙂 Obviously I recommend this ski trip since I’ve repeated it. I consider it a good Wapta “warm-up”. It’s shorter and easier than anything I’ve done on the icefields and is a good introduction to the approach canyon and type of terrain to expect on the easier summits of the icefields. If you’re lucky you’ll even get decent snow conditions!

Crowfoot Mountain - Redux 2019
A chilly start to the day on Bow Lake.
A chilly start to the day on Bow Lake.
The Bow Lake gravel flats.
The Bow Lake gravel flats.
Skinning up the "bump" at the back of Bow Lake.
Skinning up the "bump" at the back of Bow Lake.
Skiing down the "bump" on our way to the canyon.
Skiing down the "bump" on our way to the canyon.
The Bow / Wapta approach canyon.
The Bow / Wapta approach canyon.
The Bow / Wapta approach canyon.
The Bow / Wapta approach canyon.
The Bow / Wapta approach canyon.
The Bow / Wapta approach canyon.
Exiting the canyon.
Exiting the canyon.
Exiting the canyon.
Exiting the canyon.
Nearing the alpine bowl under Vulture Peak.
Nearing the alpine bowl under Vulture Peak.
Staring up to the Crowfoot bowl - we're on the right-hand side of the drainage visible in front here
Staring up to the Crowfoot bowl - we're on the right-hand side of the drainage visible in front here
Looking to the treed slope we'll ascend. The 'normal' route oos at left.
Looking to the treed slope we'll ascend. The 'normal' route oos at left.
Breaking trail to the top of the ridge.
Breaking trail to the top of the ridge.
Breaking trail to the top of the ridge.
Breaking trail to the top of the ridge.
On the ridge, Skiing towards Vulture Peak. Eventually we'll contour to rejoin the other line at left
On the ridge, Skiing towards Vulture Peak. Eventually we'll contour to rejoin the other line at left
Contouring under Vulture Peak (R), towards the left-hand line.
Contouring under Vulture Peak (R), towards the left-hand line.
Contouring under Vulture Peak (R), towards the left-hand line.
Contouring under Vulture Peak (R), towards the left-hand line.
Contouring under Vulture Peak (R), towards the left-hand line.
Contouring under Vulture Peak (R), towards the left-hand line.
Contouring under Vulture Peak (R), towards the left-hand line.
Contouring under Vulture Peak (R), towards the left-hand line.
Wietse went right, I went left around the bump and joined the left-hand track.
Wietse went right, I went left around the bump and joined the left-hand track.
Wietse follows me to the left of the bump.
Wietse follows me to the left of the bump.
Skinning up to the Crowfoot Glacier.
Skinning up to the Crowfoot Glacier.
Skinning up to the Crowfoot Glacier.
Skinning up to the Crowfoot Glacier.
Skinning up to the Crowfoot Glacier.
Skinning up to the Crowfoot Glacier.
Skinning up to the Crowfoot Glacier.
Skinning up to the Crowfoot Glacier.
Skinning up the Crowfoot Glacier.
Skinning up the Crowfoot Glacier.
Skinning up the Crowfoot Glacier.
Skinning up the Crowfoot Glacier.
Little Crowfoot.
Little Crowfoot.
Mount Balfour.
Mount Balfour.
Skiing up the west slopes of Crowfoot.
Skiing up the west slopes of Crowfoot.
Skiing up the west slopes of Crowfoot.
Skiing up the west slopes of Crowfoot.
Skiing up the west slopes of Crowfoot.
Skiing up the west slopes of Crowfoot.
Skiing up the west slopes of Crowfoot.
Skiing up the west slopes of Crowfoot.
The Waputik Glacier (L) and Mount Balfour (R).
The Waputik Glacier (L) and Mount Balfour (R).
Skiing up the west slopes of Crowfoot.
Skiing up the west slopes of Crowfoot.
Skiing up the west slopes of Crowfoot.
Skiing up the west slopes of Crowfoot.
Off the skis, traversing the windblasted summit ridge to the distant summit.
Off the skis, traversing the windblasted summit ridge to the distant summit.
The summit ridge of Crowfoot Mountain.
The summit ridge of Crowfoot Mountain.
The summit ridge of Crowfoot Mountain.
The summit ridge of Crowfoot Mountain.
Looking back over the slightly lower north summit.
Looking back over the slightly lower north summit.
Views towards Augusta and Recondite past Bobac (L) and Dolomite (R).
Views towards Augusta and Recondite past Bobac (L) and Dolomite (R).
Devon (L) and Deluc (R).
Devon (L) and Deluc (R).
Looking over BowCrow Peak towards Dolomite and Hector (R).
Looking over BowCrow Peak towards Dolomite and Hector (R).
Views over Noseeum towards Cataract Peak.
Views over Noseeum towards Cataract Peak.
Clouds hug the Wapta including Olive, Vulture and Rhondda.
Clouds hug the Wapta including Olive, Vulture and Rhondda.
The views to the south are also clouding up - this was our approach for BowCrow 6 days earlier.
The views to the south are also clouding up - this was our approach for BowCrow 6 days earlier.
Wietse skis the west slopes of Crowfoot Mountain.
Wietse skis the west slopes of Crowfoot Mountain.
A short uphill struggle on return.
A short uphill struggle on return.
Skiing down to the Bow Canyon.
Skiing down to the Bow Canyon.
Skiing down to the Bow Canyon.
Skiing down to the Bow Canyon.
Skiing down to the Bow Canyon.
Skiing down to the Bow Canyon.
Skiing down to the Bow Canyon.
Skiing down to the Bow Canyon.
Exiting the Bow Canyon.
Exiting the Bow Canyon.
Don't ask. Wietse lost his skis somehow! :P
Don't ask. Wietse lost his skis somehow! 😛

2 thoughts on Crowfoot Mountain (Redux)

  1. I think there is something to be said about getting “moody” light though. I was up on Crowfoot last last December before I began venturing onto the Wapta and I got clear views similar to your first experience. As long as it’s not a white out, I’ll take it!

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