Mt Athabasca

A spectacular peak at the Columbia Icefields that is one of the most popular glaciated mountains in the Rockies.  With routes ranging from beginner glacier ascents to steep ice faces and challenging mixed ridges this peak has something for every mountaineer!  An attempt at Mt. Athabasca is also a highlight of our Alpine Skills Courses.  Our head guide Jay Mills has climbed Mount Athabasca over 100 times via 13 different routes with a very high success rate.

Climbing Mt. Athabasca during a mountaineering course.

Elevation: 3491m / 11453ft

Location: Columbia Icefields.  2.5 hours from Canmore, 1 hour from Jasper

Difficulty: Beginner to advanced skill level.  Intermediate fitness level.

Logistics: Season runs from late May to late September.  Early starts are required (usually about 2am) so camping at the Icefields the night before is recommended. 

Prerequisites: Glacier Travel Course, custom training day or similar experience.  Good fitness.  More advanced climbing skills are required for the harder routes. 

Climbing the summit ridge of Mt Athabasca


AA Col Route (II): A great route for your first big glaciated peak!  This is the most popular way up the mountain and is the safest option under most conditions.  Involves glacier travel, a long steep snow gully and a spectacular snow ridge to the summit.  9-14 hours round trip. Group size up to 4.

North Glacier (II): Another excellent introductory route on the mountain with bigger & more complicated glacier travel.  Requires very stable snow conditions but when in shape it makes a great tour of the mountain to go up this route and down the AA Col.  8-12 hours round trip.  Group size up to 4.

Silverhorn (II): The Silverhorn route on Mt. Athabasca is one of the finest moderate alpine ice routes in the Canadian Rockies. A few hours of hiking and moderate glacier travel bring us to the base of the Silverhorn. The route itself consists of 500 meters of 40 degree ice & snow to the Silverhorn sub-summit. A spectacular final traverse along the narrow summit ridge brings us to the top of Mt. Athabasca and incredible views of the Columbia Icefields.  8-12 hours round trip.  Max group size of 2 under most conditions.

North Face (III 5.7):  This climb is ideal as a first difficult North Face route and is often considered mandatory training for those looking to do bigger routes such as Mt. Robson or Mt. Bryce. After making a tricky bergshrund crossing, 8 long ropelengths of 50 degree ice lead to the rockband. The rockband is climbed via a hidden gully involving steeper ice climbing and a few body lengths of vertical drytooling. Above this crux, another 100 meters of steep snow and ice lead directly to the summit of the mountain. An ascent of this route will not soon be forgotten!  9-13 hours round trip.  Group size up to 2, but 1 is preferable. 

North Ridge (III 5.5): A long and involved rock ridge with many pitches of rock, ice and snow climbing.  The hardest of the usual routes to the summit.  12-15 hours round trip.  Group size of 1 only.

Mount Athabasca and Mount Andromeda

Gear List

All technical equipment is provided free of charge except for boots. However, if you have any of your own climbing gear feel free to use it! Rental and purchase information for boots, clothing and camping gear can be found here. If you are unable to locate any of these items or have any questions, feel free to contact us at any time for assistance.

  • Ice Climbing/Mountaineering Boots
  • Small Pack (about 30 litres) – available for loan
  • Crampons – available for loan
  • Mountaineering Axe (most routes)- available for loan
  • 2 Ice Climbing Axes (N. Face & N. Ridge Routes) – available for loan
  • Harness – available for loan
  • Helmet – available for loan
  • Avalanche Gear – available for loan and dependent on season.
  • Sweater/Fleece
  • Winter Jacket or Goretex/Softshell Jacket
  • Winter Pants or Goretex/Softshell Pants
  • Long Underwear
  • Gloves (2 pairs)
  • Toque
  • Sunglasses (important!)
  • Headlamp
  • Sunscreen
  • Gaiters
  • Water Bottles (2 litres)
  • Lunch