ApproachThis is a 3800’+/- ascent day. I recorded 4000’ on my altimeter for accumulated elevation. Beware, as this is not a common objective, the route is not clean and loose rock is the norm. Don’t let this deter you however, The Mitre is a fun route with great views of hanging ice coming off of adjacent Mount Lefroy. There are two approaches, the least technical, but longer approach through Paradise Valley, or the glacier approach from Lake Louise. Sean Doughterty’s book recommends the Paradise Valley approach. I recommend the Lake Louise approach. My recommendation is based on various reasons, but the primary limiting factor to the Paradise Valley approach is the year after year trail restriction/closure due to bear activity.
From the Lake Louise trailhead parking lot, catch the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail and circumvent the lake on the north shore. You have two options here, we used both. You can continue on the trail until the Mitre comes into view and then gain the moraine heading into Victoria, drop down and climb back up to the Lefroy Glacier aiming straight for the Mitre at the glaciers south end.
The optional ascent/descent is to leave the trail shortly after the reaching the west end of the lake and proceed through a short bushwhack up and onto the Victoria Glacier moraine, following the right side of the drainage until you reach the ice. Utilizing either option will put you at the eastern edge of the Victoria Glacier where you will cross the drainage in several places and gain the Lefroy Glacier heading into the Mitre.
Route DescriptionStay fairly centered as you progress on the Lefroy Glacier, eventually angling left to the base of the ice/snow couloir up to the left col between the Mitre and the extended ridge of Aberdeen. Use crampons to ascend this couloir staying away from the wall and potential rock fall hazard. As you approach the upper slope, take the right fork via a narrow band of snow/ice to finish to the col. For a fit team, it should take approximately 3 hours to reach the col from the parking area.
From the col, drop down slightly on the south side and traverse ledges approximately 300’-400’ over to a fairly wide, wet, and probably snow filled gully. This route was somewhat marked by cairns in 2005, but there are quite a few cairns in different locations, so beware of getting into more technical terrain. Once in the wet gully, you might want to rope up for some firm (by Mitre standards) rock (5.5) that leads up about 150’ to optional features.
A significant sized keyhole is directly above you and to your left is a 15” crack. We chose to squeeze (hope you ate a light breakfast) through the crack and bypass the keyhole to the west. After you are through the crack, keep moving left on some ledges up and over a rappel station. This area was well marked with cairns in 2005. Continue up back right until at another rappel station directly across from the top of the keyhole via some exposed ledges. Cross these ledges and you will be at the top of the keyhole, which has its own rappel station.
Continue up a loose gulley, staying close to avoid rock fall hazard. Eventually you come to a small cave to your left, ascend the firm rock to your far right and continue to the eastern ridge of the Mitre opening up to tremendous views of Mount Temple over your left shoulder and Mount Lefroy and its hanging ice straight away. In fact this ice avalanched off of steep walls twice while we were on the ridge.
Continue along the ridge having to do some climbing on the right side fairly immediate to regain it. Then the ridge goes easy on the left side until you reach a significant buttress. Proceed on its right side to one of two options. Either climb up and over a boulder in a chimney or continue on around a few meters further to a crack climb. Neither are overwhelming objectives (5.5). We took the crack climb and roped up. Once at the top of the crack and on the ridge, continue on to the summit with one more tricky hands on move in between.
The register was missing in 2005. It took us less than three hours to reach the summit from the col, but that is moving along. On descent we found all rappel stations in decent shape in 2005. The 1st short rappel station is one that takes you back over that last “hands on” move you did. It is located on the south side of the ridge. The 2nd short station is back down the chimney, even if you used the crack on ascent, descend through the chimney with a boulder in it. The 3rd short rappel station is down the north side of the ridge as you are about to head off the ridge on the south side. Downclimb until right above the small cave and find the 4th longer, but low angled, rappel station on your left. This puts you back down to the top of the key hole. There is a rappel station here, but we returned the ledges back to our 5th rappel station southwest of the keyhole and descended to just west of the crack. Then a 6th rappel (without returning through the crack) puts you down to the snow filled firm rock gully where you started your technical climbing. Traverse back the ledges on return to the col and descend the ice/snow slope and Lefroy Glacier. Move right as you exit the glacier and cross a significant drainage cut into the ice to find softer ground leading down the moraine to the edge of the Victoria Glacier. Cross the drainage here and follow the left side of this drainage all the way back to the lake where you will have a short bushwalk left to regain the trail leading back to the parking lot.