2023 Summer Season Courses:
The following information provides the most likely itinerary for our Beginner Mountaineering Courses. Please note however that changes to the following logistics may be possible for reasons which include but are not limited to: higher risk mountain weather or climbing conditions, unexpectedly high volumes of visitor traffic in the National Parks.
Please contact our Program Managers for updated information on potential impacts to any of our programs.
Day 1 – Snow & Ice • Snow Travel Foundation
- 0900hrs - Course Open. Columbia Icefields Campground, HWY 93N.
- Student Welcome & Introductions
- Review of Course Agenda & Logistics
- Technical Gear Sign Out
- Update on Expected Conditions
- Student Risk Profile Discussion
- Review of Emergency Response Methods & Resources if Required on Course
- Waiver Presentation
- Campsite setup
- 0945hrs - Depart for Snow School - Field Day Venue (Parkers Ridge).
- 1000 to 1530hrs - During the Field Day we will cover the following:
- Safe Movement, Tracksetting, Footwork and Ice Axe Techniques for Moderate Angle Snow Travel
- Carrying the Ice Axe
- Self Belaying
- The Rest Step & Step Kicking
- Descending Moderate Angle Snow
- Self Arrest - With and without Ice Axe
- Multi Position Self Arrest
- Limitations of Self Arrest
- Snow Anchors including:
- T Slots
- Snow Picket Placements - Top Clip & Mid Clip
- Snow Bollards
- Pitched Climbing on Steep Snow
- Introduction to Belay Station Management
- 1600hrs - Return to Icefields Carpark
- Review of Pre-Course Route Planning for Day 2
Day 2 – Snow & Ice • Glacier Travel & Ice Skills Foundation
- 0800hrs - Meet at Icefields Carpark for 2nd Field Day on Athabasca Glacier
- 0900 - 1600hrs - Approach Field Day Site on Athabasca Glacier. Skills delivered will include the following:
- Glacier Morphology
- Learn how and where crevasses form
- Learn the basics of how Glaciers flow, and the effects of terrain on Crevasse formation
- Learn to plan routes in Glaciated Terrain to minimize the likelihood of unexpected crevasse falls
- Crampon Use and Footwork including:
- French Technique (flat footing)
- German Technique (front pointing)
- Vertical Ice Climbing Techniques
- Ice Axe Techniques - General & Technical Ice Tools
- Roping Up for Glacier Travel (Glacier Travel Mode)
- When to Apply the Rope?
- How to Divide the Rope for the Climbing Team
- Tying & Clipping In - Attaching Climbers to the Rope Team
- When and How to Apply Prussiks to the Rope Team
- Identifying Hidden Crevasses & Snow Plugs during travel
- Technical Ice Climbing Skills
- Learn the basics of climbing vertical ice inside the crevasses of the Athabasca Glacier
- Crevasse Rescue Systems
- Drop Loop 2:1 System Introduced for all Students
- Learn to add mechanical advantage increasing to 6:1
Day 3 – Snow & Ice • TECHNICAL ASCENT
This Technical Ascent will take place on one of the high alpine Snow & Ice Capped peaks in the Columbia Icefields area. The focus of this day is to bring context and an understanding of how to apply learned skills on Day 1 and Day 2 while using your new skills in context during a full day summit attempt.
Peaks ascended on course can include Mount Athabasca, Mount Andromeda as primary objectives, or A2 and Boundary Peak as secondary objectives should conditions or the group require it.
The Itinerary as follows is susceptible to change pending current conditions at the time of your course, or as the group requires to provide the best chances of success while on ascent. (Please note that timings for the day are conditions dependent).
0330hrs - Arrival at carpark
0345hrs - Review of essential equipment, our intended routes, and plan for the day.
0400hrs - Team departure for the Technical Ascent.
Mid Afternoon Return Times - See below for average ascent times. An early to mid afternoon return time is generally the norm on our ascent day.
Ascent times will vary on the selected route chosen by Students and our Guides in collaboration. In excellent conditions, with exceptionally fit students ascent times can be expected to be between 6-8 hours return. On average, ascent times between 9-11 hours should be considered the norm. During periods of exceptionally challenging or physically intensive conditions on the mountain, or for teams requiring additional time, ascent times can extend upwards of 14hrs. This should however be considered to be a rare exception for most students.
The end of our Snow & Ice Technical Ascent Day officially wraps up the Snow & Ice Components of the program, with a switch to Alpine Rock Skill Sets for Day 4.
Day 4 – Alpine Rock • Traditional Climbing Systems
Our day will begin by departing the Icefields Campground at approximately 0630hrs for travel to the Back of the Lake Crag in the Lake Louise area.
The Traditional Climbing Systems component of the course will provide the skills required to place and assess your own removable (non-bolted) protection, essential for protecting rope teams in technical rock terrain. An essential skill for travelling in technical rock terrain in the high alpine.
We cover the following:
0730hrs - Meet at the Lake Louise Townsite
0800 - 0845hrs - Approach the Back of the Lake Rock Climbing Crags
0845 - 1200hrs - Our first session will cover and provide you with the following:
- Gear and Equipment Introduction
- Discuss essential equipment for Traditional Climbing, including camming devices, nuts, and pitons.
- Learn to assess the strengths and limitations of each piece of gear presented in a variety of circumstances.
- Introduction to Placing Traditional Gear & Assessment Processes
- Is the size of piece correct?
- Have you assessed the likely direction of pull?
- Learn to assess rock quality supporting your placements
- Can you ID any potential for multiplied forces within you protection systems?
- Learn to grade each placement systematically.
- Learn to build and assess Traditional Anchors (anchors you build yourself with removable protection)
- Learn to create equalized or "IDEAL" anchors using a variety of materials and formats
- Learn a variety of belay methods for use in technical climbing, and understand how and when to apply them;
- Direct Anchor Belay (multipitch)
- Redirected Belay (multipitch)
- Fixed Point Belay (multipitch)
- Standard Leader Belay (singlepitch and multipitch)
- Learn to construct and rig your own rappell systems for use as an individual or teams while descending either single or multipitch technical terrain
1200 - 1245 - Lunch
1245 - 1530hrs - Introduction to Leading Traditionally Protected Rock Climbs
- Introduction to Traditional Protection Strategies for pitched climbing
- Follow a process from our Guides which will take you from your first steps on Traditional routes, through a tactic we call "mock-leading" allowing you to practice on both lead and top rope at the same time, and progressing toward your very first live Traditional Lead.
*** Lead Climbing traditional routes presents a substantial increase in risk, over and above leading on bolted protection. Students who demonstrate requisite levels of competence will be given the opportunity to lead a pitch live during this session, however this will be at your Guides discretion. If the option is not presented during this session, our Guides will work to provide clear direction for you on areas to focus which will facilitate progression towards this goal, and work to provide you the option to do so before course close.
Again - please note: any leading taking place on course will be at the sole discretion of the lead guide in the field.
1530 - 1630hrs - Return to Lake Louise Carpark - End of day
Day 5 – Alpine Rock • Short Roping & 4th Class Protection techniques
The goal of Day 5 will be to introduce the principles of peer team shortroping. While more commonly viewed as a Guiding Technique in North America, short roping provides a reliable system for teams to protect themselves while moving through 4th class and easy 5th class terrain. These techniques focus on protection strategies that will help students to understand how rope and climber positioning in the terrain can take advantage of the friction available in the system to protect the team commonly without the need to place removable (traditional) protection for anchors or running protection. Venue TBD on course, but will be central to the Lake Louise region. Commonly we will use areas in the Castle Mountain region, or above Moraine Lake for this module.
0700hrs - Arrival at Venue
0730 - 0900hrs - Approach from Parking / Trailhead to Venue
0900 - 1500hrs - Shortroping and 4th Class Protection Techniques Clinic. Learned skills to include:
- Picking up (body) coils for travel Shortroping.
- Essential commands / communications for team travel
- Body Belay's - Strengths and Limitations
- Hip Belay
- Standing Hip Belay
- Hand Belay (incorporating terrain friction)
- Building Traditional Anchors & Shortroping
- Short Pitching
- Anticipating Transitions (short roping to short pitching to pitching)
- Limitations of Shortroping Systems
Day 6 – Alpine Rock • Technical ASCEnt
This Technical Ascent will take place most commonly around the Lake Louise area, this could include ascents off Castle Mountain, or even closer to Lake Louise. Routes for Castle Mountain could include: The Eisenhower Tower, Brewers Buttress or Bass Buttress. Routes closer to Lake Louise could include: The Tower of Babel or The Grand Sentinel. The focus of this day is to bring context and an understanding of how to apply your newly learned Traditional Climbing Skills and Shortroping Protection strategies on a full day Alpine Rock Ascent.
The Itinerary as follows is susceptible to change pending current conditions at the time of your course, or as the group requires to provide the best chances of success while on the ascent.
The itinerary provided below outlines our ascent of Eisenhower Tower on Castle Mountain. The most common objective completed on the Alpine Rock Technical Ascent Day.
0330hrs - Arrival at Rockbound Lake (Castle Mountain) Trailhead. Discuss plan for the day
0400hrs - Depart Rockbound Lake Trailhead for Eisenhower Tower
0530hrs - Base of Climbing Reached - Shortroping & Shortpitching work begin through lower tier of Castle Mountain
0645hrs - Goat Plateau reached. The halfway point between the lower and upper tiers of Castle Mountain
0700 - 1100hrs - Ascent of Eisenhower Tower via the Dragons Back (5.3)
1130 - 1600hrs - Reverse Route from Summit and Descend back to Trailhead via Rockbound Lake Trail.
1630 - 1700hrs - Course Close & Week Debrief