Mount Kitchener is one of the coveted 54 11,000’+ peaks in the Canadian Rockies. A relatively modest summer ascent of Mount Kitchener can be made by its East Ridge route which includes scrambling up and over a subsidiary peak named Mount K2. It was named such in 1938 to signify the second peak to Mount Kitchener versus any resemblance to the infamous K2 in south Asia. Mount K2 was first climbed in 1938 by Christian Hasler via the scree col between Mount Kitchener and itself.
I am not sure when the first ascent of the entire east ridge was made, but located a summit log with one entry on top of Mount K2 made in 1998.
What drew me to the East Ridge versus easily skiing Mount Kitchener in winter were Bill Corbett’s comments: “A much more aesthetic line is the East Ridge, rising almost directly from the highway and offering fine views over the Sunwapta Valley.” Although the views were exceptional as just about any ridge route in the Columbia Icefield region would offer up, the route itself was less than stellar. A 700’ loss from Mount K2 to the Mount Kitchener col was one disappointment. A bone jarring descent down the firm scree towards and following out the moraine of the Dome Glacier was another. To cap it off: a death defying warm afternoon Sunwapta River crossing. I had crossed the Sunwapta many times, but never this close to its origin (Athabasca and Dome Glaciers) that late in the day. In the end, the views made up for it, I guess.
Route Description (s)Aim for the ridge that runs along the right side (north) of the Dome Glacier drainage and its moraine. For the most part you can completely avoid the trees and bush. Continue angling up and right at tree line through pleasant ground and eventually onto shale scree. Scramble up the first bump in the ridge (subsidiary peak of Mount K2). Lose a short amount of elevation down to the col between this point and K2’s actual summit. A short bit of down climbing is involved and I advise staying true to the ridge for the easiest descent. Scramble up to K2’s summit (approximately 10,300’) by climbing a few short 5th class rock ledges up the left side. There was a summit cairn and log book on Mount K2 in 2011. I was the second entry, the first being 1998. It took me over 2 hours to reach this summit and approximately 3800’ elevation gain from the river.
DescentAfter a short down climb, lose 700’ down the broad scree slopes of K2 to the col (9,600’+/-) between K2 and Mount Kitchener. Whether you continue on to Mount Kitchener or not, this col is the point of descent.
Descend the southern scree slope/drainage all the way to the moraine/drainage field of Dome Glacier. Follow this rough moraine back out to the river crossing. Stay on the left side and avoid steep exposed ice slopes towards the end. It eventually turns into a fast moving rapid. Follow this back to the Sunwapta River. Be smart about where to cross the river. I believe the best spot might be a heavily braided area where the Dome Glacier melt rapid runs into the Athabasca Glacier melt which forms the start of the river itself. There is an option of crossing over the Dome Glacier moraine field before it turns into a rapid and climbing up and over a ridge to gain the Athabasca Glacier if in fact you want to avoid the Sunwapta River Crossing. However, I can’t confirm what obstacles you might find doing that and it would involve a lot more energy. I crossed the river right across from the small parking spot referenced in the approach and can’t recommend that crossing on return.
External Links100’s of Canmore and Banff National Park multi-pitch rock climbs, ice climbs, alpine climbs and scrambles, just scroll down to routes
Banff National Park, Parks Canada
Best Eats in Canmore: Iron Goat, tons of organic/free range fare, my favorite is the game meat loaf. As good as prices as anywhere really and the staff is made up of a few aspiring climbers. The main man works his heart out making everything run smooth, not a given in Canmore. Best dining views (and sunny outdoor seating) in town bar none, from Mount Lougheed to Mount Rundle traverses, two of my trademark beta contributions near the town of Canmore. True best of the best mountain local dining experience.
Best Eats in Banff: The Bison, all organic/free range fare, with a detailed description of their suppliers. Recently expanded (2010), I recommend sticking with the downstairs. Better menu, prices and social ambience. Maybe retire to the bar upstairs for sunset or late night. Bison chili is amazing!
Best Coffee in Canmore: Beamers, the locals favorite, super wholesome lunch stuff, local guys, no attitude on service
Best Climbers Hangout: Summit Café, most likely place to find me or my brethren shooting the bull about beta. Best breakfast place in town, good coffee as well, serve Mennonite meats from Valbella, which is the best place to buy free range products anywhere in the world, right here in Canmore.
Climbing Gear: All way too expensive in the Bow Valley, but if you must, Mountain Magic in Banff is far superior to service and actual knowledge about climbing than the two in Canmore.