OverviewHawk Mountain is a member of the Colin Range in Jasper National Park, one of four connecting national parks that make up the central Canadian Rockies in Alberta/British Columbia. The mountain was officially named in 1916….you guessed it, because a hawk was seen near its summit by someone official. The first ascent was by Joe Weiss.
The only published route up Hawk Mountain is the difficult scramble via its south facing west ridge. The most recent edition of the Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies guide book gives inappropriate times for this objective. I completed this route at a marathon pace of 6.5 hours, never veering of course. For 90% of the objectives listed in the book my completion time is well under the lowest estimated time given. However, it states 5-8 hours for completion of this objective. You have a 1.5 hour return approach before you gain any elevation. Hawk Mountain is a 5000’+ ascent objective. Therefore, I can only assume a transposition error in the guide book. A more realistic estimation of round trip completion would be 7-10 hours.
The approach starts at the popular sport climbing area below Morro Peak, 20kms northeast of Jasper. On a clear day you should be treated to views of Mount Robson and Mount Edith Cavell, but on my summit day, fires filled the scene with thick haze. Even so, clean slabby limestone on Hawk Mountain’s spine and higher reaches make this a three star route.
Getting ThereTake Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) north of Jasper (toward Edmonton) for approximately 20kms and park at the pull out on the right hand side just after crossing the bridge over the Athabasca River.
Red TapeYou will be required to purchase a national park pass as you enter the park. 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 Jasper National Park, 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 Jasper and you will drive through the manned kiosks as you enter the park.
This is active grizzly country, therefore, you should always have bear spray on your person. I advise checking with Parks Canada for any area and/or trail closures.
When To ClimbAs with most climbs in the Canadian Rockies, the driest time is from June through September. I climbed Hawk Mountain in August and the route was free of snow. There are no published backcountry ski routes on Hawk Mountain, nor would it seem conducive to ski the scramble route.
CampingCamping near the area is plentiful and varied. I camped in town at the Wapiti Campground. As the name implies, Elk are plentiful. The cost was in excess of $20 per night in 2005. You can go on line at Jasper National Park to pick a camp site and obtain your camping permit. You will also be required to obtain your backcountry permit which is separate, but can be obtained simultaneously if you plan on camping at a backcountry site. Of course those with luxury on their mind can stay at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, one of the finer mountain lodge resorts in the world.
Cocos is good for coffee and lunch but does not open that early. The Bearspaw opens early and offers good coffee, quick breakfast and fresh baked goods. La Fiesta (Spanish Tapas) is a solid place for dinner.