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; RE3
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.
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!