Mount Woolley and Mount Diadem are rare in that they represent only a handful of the exclusive 11,000’+ peaks in the Canadian Rockies that can be bagged in the same climbing day. This is made possible by a high col resting above a heavily crevassed ice fall in the Columbia Icefield region of Jasper National Park. Once you have reached this col by ascent of the southeast face of Diadem Peak and subsequent descent of its south ridge, the summit of Mount Woolley is a short elevation gain away (less than 1000’) via its north ridge.
Mount Woolley was named after Herman Woolley (past President of Great Britain’s alpine club) by Norman Collie and Hugh Stutfield, early british pioneers of Canadian Rockies exploration. Woolley had made a failed attempt of the peak with Collie and Stutfield. He was with Collie when they first discovered the Columbia Icefield from atop Mount Athabasca, but they all failed to summit Mount Woolley itself. It was left alone after numerous attempts failed until the same Japanese team who made the first ascent of Mount Alberta in 1925, followed up with a first ascent of Mount Woolley just days after via the south face. I as well, first made the summit of Mount Alberta, then returned a year later to summit Mount Woolley and Diadem Peak as afterthoughts and being intrigued by their spectacular ice fall on the approach to Mount Alberta. The north ridge, which is the most common way to summit Mount Woolley today, was not done until 1948. It is one of only two published routes to date on Mount Woolley.
Drive north on the Icefield Parkway approximatly 12km from the Columbia Icefield Visitor Center. Park at a large pull out on the right side of the road. Cross the road and ford the glacier fed Sunwapta River. I prefer to bring extra shorts, neoprene booties and tennis shoes that I end up leaving on the other side for the return. Poles are quite helpful as this crossing can be waist deep in spots. Angle northwest towards an obvious canyon entrance (Woolley Creek).
Find a trail just south of this entrance that immediately rises above Woolley Creek on the left which passes above an incredible hidden waterfall. Follow the trail into the upper creek and follow the intermittent washed out trail (sometimes on the bank through the brush, sometimes skipping rocks) along the creek until you reach a huge boulder field. Take a center break through this area, tediously hopping large boulders and scree until you reach a headwater junction. Crossing the rapids on the left can be the crux of your trip via your approach or return depending on the time of day and just how warm (glacier melt) it gets. There should be cairns (2010) directing you to at least two possibilities, both can be unnerving if the water is high. Once on the other side of this left fork drainage, continue along the right fork on the left side via a decent trail that gains elevation as it follows Woolley Creek to its origin at the base of Woolley and Diadem’s glacier and icefall. This is the bivy site for the common routes on these two objectives. Continue on to the Lloyd MacKay hut for the south face route.
When to ClimbI climbed Mount Woolley and Diadem Peak in mid August and found the snow couloir up the southeast face of Diadem in good condition for travel. An early start would be imperative to avoid rock missiles. The very upper part of the left fork was mostly ice in mid August and a rock step looked exposed via the right fork as well as a significant cornice hung over it. Mount Woolley does not present to many issues except to stay clear of the numerous cornices that line the summit ridge no matter what time of year. A high bergschrund also appears close to the summit ridge in mid August. Stay right when ascending the initial north ridge of Mount Woolley.
External Links100’s of Banff and Jasper National Park multi-pitch rock climbs, ice climbs, alpine climbs and scrambles, just scroll down to routes
Jasper National Park, Parks Canada
Best Eats in Canmore: Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company, all organic fare, not just a pizza place, but a true best of the best mountain local dining experience, great on site owner and customer service with a smile, not easily obtained in Canmore
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.