Columbia Icefield

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Columbia Icefield
  • Location: Jasper National Park
  • Activity: Ski Mountaineering
  • Height: 2,830 m (9,285 ft)
  • Elevation Gain: 1,140 m (3,740 ft)
  • Distance: 21.0 km / One Way (13.0 mi)
  • Avg Steepness: 3.1°
  • Estimated Time: 10-12 hrs
  • Technicality: Expert.I
  • Fitness Level: Athlete
Seeing very very exciting weekend forecasts, we came up with a lot of plans. Suggested objectives became bigger and bigger, and after zillion emails flying back and forth, we settled to Mount Columbia, the second tallest in the Canadian Rockies.

Columbia Icefield:
We decided to take safer Saskatchewan Glacier approach to the icefield. We were little worried about crossing a creek at parking lot, but turned out to be it was piece of cake this time around. We had couple of snow bridges to use. After that we followed trail to Saskatchewan Glacier. Again this time around, everything was snow covered and frozen, we could keep our skies on rather than carrying them. I cannot imagine carrying skies and boots on top of heavy big multi-day pack on muddy wetland in spring like many people have done... The glacier was very well filled. It was simply a long and way toooooo gentle uphill.

We camped at GR797755 not because we wanted but because we were too exhausted to continue. It would be better to at least go 3km farther before a prominent trench like described in the 11,000ers book.

Mount Columbia:
I somehow managed to injure my left leg from slogging on Saskatchewan, it was apparent that I would not make it. So less than 1 km away from the camp, I decided to turn around. So rest of the stories you have to check out Vern's TR.

Descent:
We went back Saskatchewan under whiteout.

Tips:
After this experience, next time I would go up Athabasca and use Saskatchewan for descent even this means requiring two cars. Shorter and less elevation gain with Athabasca should help to camp closer to the Columbia and take safer Saskatchewan for descent especially with skis make a lot of sense to me.

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The beginning of a long slog.

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Crossing creek.

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Sun hitting Mount Andromeda's SE ridge and Hilda Ridge? (I'm very confused about the ridge connects Athabasca and Parker Ridge. Is it really called Hilda Ridge or I am mistaken?)

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Right before entering Saskatchewan Glacier. It was like frozen sea.

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Mount Columbia east ridge right in front.

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Sunset time at the icefield. The white wall, Castleguard Mountain on left and another 11,000er in the area, Mount Bryce on the right.

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… Something very very magical.

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As much as I wanted to stay out to enjoy the views, we had to get ready for tomorrow for Mount Columbia.

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Finally first time with Ferenc, the Banded King. You may know him from Nugara's website or from Banded Peak Challenge. He is the current defending champion and… not sure are you the current record holder too?

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Day to attempt Mount Columbia. It was the ideal weather.

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Less then 1 km from the tent, I realized the pain I felt in the morning was too much, so I had to give up Columbia.

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I spent rest of the day sitting outside. Too much time to kill but yet I enjoyed it actually.

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Me at the summit of Columbia, Vern and Ferenc were too old, they could not go up east ridge.

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Seriously what is the big deal with Mount Columbia? My skies are taller than the peak.

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What a blue sky.

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King's chair.

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I figured out how to ski tour minimizing pain for descent.

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Humm how many of alike pictures I took…

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After 11 hours, Ferenc and Vern came back.

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Night at Columbia Icefield. Other two were too tired to bother taking pictures of this view of mountains under full moon light.

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With warm temperature and calm wind, it was very comfortable winter camping.

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Bryce in night.

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Majestic Castleguard.

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… why?

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Country Roads, take me home to the place I belong ♪ That is if you can see the road.

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The end.


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