Mount Athabasca

Featured photo of Mount Athabasca

Mount Athabasca is one of the most popular objectives in the Canadian Rockies. Its quick access via the Columbia Icefield Parkway lends to its popularity no doubt. It is sandwiched between the Athabasca and Saskatchewan Glaciers on the border of Banff and Jasper National Parks. These are two of the four adjoining national parks that make up the central Canadian Rockies. Athabasca is the Cree Indian name for "where there are reeds" and originally was referring to Lake Athabasca. It was named and first ascended by Norman Collie and Hermann Woolley in 1898.

Mount Athabasca, in its entirety, is above tree line. The main ascent for Mount Athabasca’s five routes is the Little A Glacier to the north (aka North Glacier). You can follow this glacier all the way to the summit (Alpine II) or climb an ice bulge closer to the summit known as the Silverhorn route (Alpine II) or head to the base of the north face which contains three Alpine III routes, Regular, Hourglass and North Ridge.

The Columbia Icefield is the largest in the Canadian Rockies and Mount Athabasca is only one of ten high Canadian peaks that encircle it (Stutfield Peak, North Twin Peak, South Twin Peak, Mount King Edward, Mount Columbia, Mount Bryce, Mount Andromeda, Snow Dome and Mount Kitchener). It covers over three hundred square kilometers and its depth varies from 100 to 365 meters.

Getting There- The Trans-Canada Highway dissects Banff National Park east to west as you come in from Calgary. Continue past the Banff and Sunshine Ski Resort exits to Lake Louise. Exit onto the Icefields Parkway. Drive 130 kms+/- northwest to the Columbia Icefield Center. Turn left onto the shuttle road and continue to a small parking area and trail head on your left.

There is a park kiosk as you enter the Icefields Parkway which serves as a forced stop to check park driving permits which you should already have. The Icefields Parkway is probably the most “wildlife viewed” road in all of North America. I have witnessed moose and bear crossing the road in this area. I advise following the speed limit for that reason. We encountered a black bear crossing the parkway at Mosquito Creek in 2005.

Red Tape- You will be required to purchase a national park pass as you enter the parks via Banff, Jasper or Rocky Mountain House. This pass is good for all four national parks. If you plan many visits to Canadian National Parks within one year, you should purchase an annual pass. There are no permit requirements to climb in the National Parks, but all camping is regulated. There is also a backcountry permit required if you plan on spending a night in the backcountry versus the town campsites. This can be obtained via the parks website which is included in the camping section below. Park headquarters are located in Banff and Jasper and you will drive through the manned kiosks as you enter the parks from any direction.

When To Climb- As with most climbs in the Canadian Rockies, the driest time is from June through September. I climbed Mount Athabasca in August and it was in relatively dry condition. Most of the existing crevases at lower elevations were in plain view. There are no published backcountry ski routes up Mount Athabasca.

Camping- The closest camping is located back east a kilometer at the Columbia Icefield Campground located on the north side off of the Columbia Icefields Parkway. You can go on line at Jasper National Park to pick your camp site and obtain your camping permit. You will also be required to obtain your backcountry permit, if you are going to use a backcountry site, which is separate, but can be obtained simultaneously.

Mountain Conditions- The National Park website has weather, wildlife reports, trail closures, etc. Outside of the parks web site, Canadian Avalanche Association is also useful, particularly for winter travel. Canadian Alpine Accident Reports is also extremely relevant.

There are 21 accident reports relating specifically to climbing Mount Athabasca, therefore, caution is advised.

Silverhorn route description and photos can be found at the dowclimbing.com link or my attached summit log.

Elevation (feet): 11,452
Elevation (meters): 3,491
Continent: North America
Country: Canada
Range/Region: Canadian Rockies
Province: Alberta
Latitude: 52.180353
Longitude: -117.201548
Difficulty: Technical Climb
Year first climbed: 1898
First successful climber(s): J. Norman Collie, Herman Wooley
Nearest major airport: Calgary, Alberta
Convenient Center: Jasper, Alberta

Thanks to Dow Williams for adding this peak.

Trip Reports

NOTE: Trip reports were previously called "Summit Logs" - same feature, new name

There are 49 trip reports for Mount Athabasca.

Select any entry from the list below:

  • Log #21173 - by Frank Reddick on Feb 04, 2008
    Went up the Silverhorn route. Pretty icy that day and socked in/windy. Great route, though, and a wonderful peak. If you like snow routes with sustained moderate slopes (40 deg), this is a good one.
  • Log #20834 - by Lisa on June 19, 2007
    Mostly snow-covered from the glacier onwards to the summit. Mix of weather conditions. Warm and sunny as well as windy and blustery near the top. Reached the summit in 8 hours.
  • Log #20548 - by Stuart Mortimer on Dec 21, 2006
    set off at the base at 2am to get to the summit by daybreak and before the sun started to soften the snow, journey up was easy enough but on the way down encountered several small avalanches one of...
  • Log #20421 - by Dennis Norris on Oct 07, 2006
    Having just looked some old photographs, there was one of the only 'real' mountain that I ever climbed - Mount Athabasca. It was whilst I was serving in the Army and participating in adventure...
  • Log #270 - by Dow Williams on Nov 01, 2004
    Route-Silverhorn This is a 4700'+/- ascent day. We took off on the trailhead at 5:00 AM and used lamps for about 2000' up rocky moraine to an entry point on the glacier (there was a bivy site at...
  • Log #265 - by Markus on Sep 15, 2004
    Summited Mt Athabasca with Yan via Silverhorn route. Weather was awesome. We had lots of fresh snow - partly knee-deep. We started at 5am and reached the summit at 10.
  • Log #266 - by Kathie Wagar on Aug 17, 2004
    Had a 4:30 start - normal north glacier route - many on Silverhorn. Clouds obscured the peak of the mountain but temps were cool and the views on Silverhorn were great. Once off the glacier we took...
  • Log #267 - by Pawel Krol on Aug 02, 2004
    Made the Silverhorn (II-III) ascent, used two bolts, two ice tools, crampons, made a 11h00 around trip with lost of rest and photograpy. Great ascent, great weather, very hot, snow melt +++ ice...
  • Log #268 - by Mike Troschuk on July 26, 2004
    AA col with Danny Gallagher from calgary. First of many for myself. Great views once you hit the ridge.
  • Log #269 - by Michael Gibbs on July 21, 2004
    Very few crevasses. Those present were obvious and easily navigated. Mixed sun and cloud and a great day overall for climbing. Summited via the Silverhorn route.
  • Log #271 - by Stephanie Nibler on June 02, 2004
    Incredible climb. No crevasse or schrund issues, whiteout conditions on Silverhorn...summitted at 0830. Scott, Julie, Peter and Chris--thank you!! You are all so awesome!!
  • Log #272 - by julielilienkamp on May 31, 2004
    Silverhorn Rt. - left at 12:15 am, to summit "graduation climb" with 9 other teams from the Spokane Mountaineers. Scott E. was our leader for our 5-person team. What a spectacular climb!!!...
  • Log #273 - by skip spangenburg on May 02, 2004
    north face,03 saw record heat and dry conditions. a short approach to the glacier with easy rt finding to the base of the face(beware of the active hanging glacier)simul climbed the face(good...
  • Log #275 - by Dale Poe on Nov 06, 2003
    Successful in reaching summit via Normal Route, 7 1/2 hour round trip. Good snow conditions, no crevasse hassles.
  • Log #276 - by Craig Knelsen on Oct 24, 2003
    We did the standard route on the Yamnuska Snow & Ice Long weekend with a 4am start. Three guided teams, two teams of 4 and one team of 3. Excellent weather although the snow was a bit slushy even...
  • Log #277 - by Mark & Tanya Koob, Carol Martens on Oct 23, 2003
    North Glacier route. Snow on upper glacier still very solid, and route was in good shape. Had some seracs fall while descending though. Smokey.
  • Log #278 - by Nabeel Atique on Aug 26, 2003
    Climbed the Silver Horn Direct to the summit along with Zac Robinson and Shane Jensen. Decsended the AA Col. Both routes were very icy. Spectacular summit views from the top.
  • Log #279 - by Climbing with Bob on Aug 25, 2003
    Back again, this time for the Silverhorn Route. Route to base of Silverhorn was warm with a good bit of running water on the lower portion of the glacier. Mid glacier to base of Silverhorn was good...
  • Log #280 - by Graham Longford on June 10, 2003
    Summited via the AA Col route. Original plan was via North Glacier or Silverhorn, but our guide, Grant Meekison, felt these were unsafe. Still lots of winter snow to come down. We could see large...
  • Log #281 - by Kevin Muscat & Olga Krzywoszynska on June 09, 2003
    Climbed via the North Glacier Route. The most beautiful sunrise ever, but we saw clouds coming in from the distance. Towards summit time of around 11:41am, the weather worsened, but we managed to...
  • Log #282 - by Tom Williams on Feb 06, 2003
    Silverhorn route, 5 am start. Perfectly clear day, not as dry as previous year. Fantastic view of Mt Bryce to the west. Capped off by a cold Pilsner (or two) back at camp.
  • Log #283 - by Pat Bates on Sep 15, 2002
    North face route with Pete Leibel and Kari Medig. Good conditions, with about 8" of new (as in several days old) snow on the flatter parts of the route. One other party of two ahead of us;...
  • Log #284 - by Climbing with Bob on Sep 14, 2002
    Successful climb, lower parking lot to summit and back in 7 1/2 hours, started at 5 a.m. Good snow conditions, no crevasse hassles, probably 20 all together on peak that day (all misc. groups...
  • Log #285 - by Danny Gallagher on July 30, 2002
    Via AA Col, with Mike Troschuk from Winnipeg
  • Log #286 - by Russ Osborne on July 30, 2002
    North Glacier route with Darcy Michaelchuk, Will McCallum, and Derek Stevenson
  • Log #287 - by Troy Dooley & Mark Bramble on July 29, 2002
    Took Silverhorn up, Left 3:30am and got back at car at 5:00pm. Conditions were good, weather was perfect. 2 small 'schrunds on the route were the crux, other than that it was straight forward. Lots...
  • Log #288 - by Barret Marshall on Feb 08, 2002
    went up the north face with colin pinkoski and ryan soley
  • Log #289 - by slobodan perovic on Sep 03, 2001
    Three of us (Sanja, Ivan, Slobodan) climbed the North Glacier Route. We started around 4am. Few people we met in the morning gave up due to dark clouds in the sky. We were lucky with the weather:...
  • Log #290 - by Erik & Janelle van Noort on Sep 02, 2001
    Via A-A Col (walls to left). 5:30 start. 6.5h up, 3.5 down (including hanging around).
  • Log #291 - by Yan Godbout on June 03, 2001
    Normal route with "shortcut" on Silverhorn. Soft snow in the afternoon. Snow bridges are solid over crevasses. Darcy keating and Yan Godbout.
  • Log #292 - by Dale Johnson on May 30, 2001
    I climbed with Spokane Mountaineers up the standard route in balmy night air and full stars. First teams up the mountain made summit just after sunrise. Warm morning sun made the headwall very soft...
  • Log #293 - by Aaron Bryant on Apr 17, 2001
    Up North Face with Dave Shulman, perfect conditions, gorgeous view.
  • Log #294 - by Scott Stanley on Mar 16, 2001
    Summitted with Yamnuska on their Snow and Ice Long Wknd. A great experience to get a start in mountaineering. Our guide was Andy, a Kiwi leading his first trip. I recommend this trip to any Americans...
  • Log #295 - by Max Darrah and Mathew Martin on Mar 12, 2001
    We had a good day out on the Silverhorn route except for the RELENTLESS wind. Left Edmonton after work on Saturday and returned home Sunday eve. Approach took longer than expected because of the snow...
  • Log #296 - by Mark Koob on Mar 01, 2001
    Whiteout conditions at the top meant my stay at the top was short. Took the A1 route, 6 hour ascent time.
  • Log #298 - by Chris Wood on Oct 20, 2000
    Everyone should see the Columbia Icefields from one of its major peaks on a day this beautiful. Conditions were ideal, hardly a cloud in the sky and hard, cold conditions on the snow.
  • Log #299 - by Rick Reilly on Aug 29, 2000
    Yamnuska Snow and Ice Weekend. Excellent intro into mountaineering. Great guides. Perfect weather.
  • Log #300 - by Jason Camp on July 11, 2000
    Helen Pascoe and I set out to do the Skyladder route on Andromeda but found that the glacier at the base was too fractured to make a safe go of it (not to mention that this was Helen's second...
  • Log #301 - by Stephane Durocher on June 26, 2000
    guided by Yamnuska Snow and Ice Long Weekend
  • Log #302 - by Geoff Ruttan on Feb 22, 2000
    Majestic Athabasca. We climbed the North Ridge in 1998 and had an interesting time with it. Maybe it was just because it was so dry that year, but I've never seen rock that loose before. It's worse...
  • Log #303 - by harold stanley on Jan 14, 2000
    Summitted peak as part of a snow and ice climbing school during Victoria Day weekend. Heavy snow previous 3 days made it a "snow and snow" weekend. Climbed via col between Athabasca and...
  • Log #304 - by Alan Gay on Dec 29, 1999
    Leaving at 1:00 am, ascended via Standard Athabasca Glacier route, up col to summit ridge; beautiful, clear, moderate wind, sufficient snow for good roped travel over glacier. Returned by...
  • Log #305 - by Grant McDonald on Nov 10, 1999
    Via North Face. Excellent conditions with good ice on face and little snow in gulley above rock band. Rock band was melted out, making it a little trickier than ususal. Wx was clear and warm with no...
  • Log #306 - by Steph on Sep 12, 1999
    I wanted so bad to climb this mountain. Unfortunatly, my group was robbed of its summit due to unpreventable circumstances. This mountain lives inside of me every waking day and it hurts me that I...
  • Log #307 - by Ken Gray on Sep 07, 1999
    Gorgeous day, ideal conditions. Nice walk to the top along the Normal route. 4:30 am start, summit at 10:30, down at 2 pm, and we were taking our time. Exposure on traverse to col bothered a couple...
  • Log #308 - by Bill Grenfell and Crai Taylor on July 19, 1999
    3:30am start time, summit 8:30am, 1:00pm finish(Normal Route) Heavy snow two weeks prior filled in most crevasses and the burgshrund. Early morning snow was firm despite warmer temps. Late morning...
  • Log #309 - by Chris Westfalewski on Mar 11, 1999
    We took Silverhorn route. A very hot day caused our descending not a very plasent one.
  • Log #310 - by Pat McNulty on Feb 26, 1999
    We ascended by the normal route. After a winter of low snow, there were more open crevasses than expected, but no difficulties experienced. The ridge from the col was a rock walk all the way - also...
  • Log #311 - by Fred Spicker on Jan 18, 1999
    Ascent via Silverhorn About two feet of new snow. Another party was caught in a small avalanche on the descent.