April 19, 2015
Columbia Icefield, AB/BC
Among the 54 famous 11,000ers in the Canadian Rockies, Snow Dome isn’t a sexy peak, but a truly geologically significant one. It’s the hydrological apex of the North America continent. The glaciers from its top flow into Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific Oceans via N. Saskatchewan River, Athabasca River and Columbia River, respectively. In climbing perspective, its steep East side offers arguably the hardest ice climbing route in the Canadian Rockies – the Slipstream. But for ski mountaineers, it’s simply a “walk-up” from Columbia Icefield. From either the southwest or northwest aspect you barely need to use the heal-lifts, and the summit is rounded/flat enough that you probably need to walk around for a good amount of time to fully soak in the views. It’s not a peak to take lightly though, and just like any other ascent on the Columbia, the challenges come from both weather and crevasses.
This peak is often served as a back-up plan in case the bigger objectives (Mt. Columbia, North Twin) do not work out for this or that reasons. I rarely hear people skiing up the icefields just to ascend Snow Dome.. For Ben and I, it served perfectly as a bonus objective after a successful ascent of Mt. Columbia. All of the approach and return is written in my Mt. Columbia’s trip report, and this one only focuses on the 3-hour detour to get Snow Dome.
Due to the presence of a highway of snowmobile tracks Ben and I ditched almost everything possible at its base. We’d only carry our poles, camera, jacket and a bit of food and water. I ended up not eating nor drinking anything so we could have left them behind too… The ascent was nothing fancy but quite a grind considering how foreshortening that view was… After what seemed like a long drag we slowly approached the true apex. It was quite windy up there so we didn’t bother to walk around for more views, but rather immediately focused on the descent.
Skiing back down the south slopes was fast and fun and in short time we made back to our backpacks. After a necessary break we soon started skiing back towards the top of the Ramp where we met Vern who just set up our new camp. Then we’d be off to ascend the last objective in this trip – Androlumbia.