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Fairweather

Best Mount Columbia Approach?

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I went up to climb this last summer and it was crevasse city...big yawkers. It sounds like late Spring/early Summer is the best time, and bring skis. As trainwreck states, the Saskatchewan glacier is longer, but less technical. There is supposed to be an approach from the Bush River road (especially for the North Ridge). I don't have fond memories of driving this road...long, dusty, and bumpy. Good luck!

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Thanks. What month did you try? We're looking at the third week in June, but I haven't heard what kind of winter they've had up there snow pack-wise. Are the Snow Dome seracs that serious of a deal? How long does the passage beneath take?

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We went up mid August. Our original plan had been Robson, but the foot of new snow on the Kain Face changed that, so we headed to the Columbia Icefields area... probably much too late in the year for Columbia. Trainwreck could give you more up to date information (How are you doing Grant? Thanks for the help last year!) I'm planning on another foray to Robson, but if conditions are bad again, we'll be back in your neck of the woods. Cheers!

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Not sure how the winter/spring snowpack is looking. I have done Columbia as a ski trip in mid-April in an average snowpack year, and it sure felt pretty wintery up there. I think if the snowpack is anywhere near normal, then you will be fine up to late-April. My experience in the Rockies with skiing in May is that it is starting to get a little late - the snowpack and bridges rot out a lot earlier than on the coast. Having said that, I have had GREAT May ski trips on the Wapta. The main problem with later in the season on the Columbia Glacier will be crevasses lower down, below the headwall.

 

In terms of objective hazard: the year I was there the seracs were pretty tame. I guess they change from year to year, but the hazard seemed low too. I don't remember even seeing much debris. Unless you see a mile of overhanging seracs, with fresh debris everywhere, I wouldn't worry about it at all. Definitely not worth detouring up the Sask Glacier because of it (go up there if you want different scenery and want to wade for miles).

 

Everyone talks about the "Headwall" below the icefield itself being a slot-ridden nightmare. I didn't see any. Rope up on the way up and use your brain and you'll be fine.

 

The real challenge up there is whiteout. Finding your way off the correct spot on Headwall might be a challenge, but still not impossible, esp. nowadays with GPS. We managed with a compass, map and dead-reakoning. I wouldn't bother going up there tho unless the forecast is decent. Not much to do or see up there unless the viz is decent.

 

The rangers at the Icefields Centre are helpful apparently so give them a call. not sure if the centre is open yet. Also check MCR - the guides go up there lots and post conditions reports.

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Thanks to both for the good info. Sounds like late June might be a mine-field. There's lots to do, so we're not commited to Columbia so much as just having some fun--Skyladder, Silverhorn, etc. Our last time up there we settled for Athabasca N Glacier as the weather moved in. Yea, Robson is on our list too--maybe in late August/early Sept. I've always thought the Kain Face would be a good objective since Resplendent sits nearby as a good plan-B. (Defeatist thought, I know.) Is the Patterson Couloir a reasonable shortcut to The Dome? Too technical w/full packs? Canadian Rocky Mountain Drift...

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We did Columbia in early July and went up the Saskatchewan. We had originally planned on the Athabasca but while we were sitting in the parking lot looking at the route it got dusted by serac fall. That said... the Saskatchewan is a #@$% slog.

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