April 7, 2012
Icefield Parkway (South), AB
Crowfoot Mountain is a fairly major, but relatively straightforward winter ascent on the edge of Wapta Icefield (not actually on the Icefield). It’s also my first trip walking on a glacier. Technically it’s a mountaineering ascent but mom and I did it in a scrambler’s way. The spring of 2012 had lots of snowfall and the glacier on Crowfoot is relatively tame so we didn’t have much to worry. The temperature dropped to -19 degrees at night at the Bow Lake parking lot… And this was definitely the coldest night I’ve ever experienced in the Rockies yet.
The crux of the day was to get everything started in the morning, including eating frozen food, drinking water ice mixture, and wearing snowshoes. The approach was via the popular Bow Hut ski approach and we were lucky to have a highway of tracks to follow. There’s essentially no route-finding but given the fact it’s my first time visiting this area we still had to pay extra attention. I did lots of homework studying the route description and we had no issue following the sequence: lake crossing, first canyon bypass and then through the second canyon (terrain trap). After exiting the second canyon we paid close attention to the tracks leading uphill on climber’s left. We located them correctly and they led us out of the trees onto the (very foreshortened) slope and ahead would be the high col on Crowfoot Mountain.
The plod took us a long while even though we didn’t need to do any trail breaking by following the skin tracks. From the col, there’s still a long way to go. We again, followed skier’s tracks zig-zagging up the huge slope. Unfortunately the weather was getting bad now and Mt. Balfour never showed up for us. Once topping out on the summit ridge I removed the snowshoes and easily ascended to the summit. There were a few large cornices to avoid and mom was quite a ways behind me so I didn’t linger too long on the top (no views anyway). I joined mom on the summit ridge and we waited about 1 hour but there was no sign of improving and we decided to head down…
Snowshoeing downhill was definitely much slower than skiing down, but I would say it takes very little energy anyway. The weather improved significantly one hour later, and I took lots of photos on the way back to the parking lot.
Our round trip time was just about as expected and I felt especially good to tag my first summit with glacier ascent. And now with improving weather it’s time to rest and get ready for the ascent of Wapta the next day.