OverviewMont des Poilus is located in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, near the Continental Divide, just south of the Wapta Icefield. The surrounding alpine environs are extensively covered in glacial fields, with many high elevation summits nearby. This rugged and pointed peak reaches an elevation of 3161 metres (10,371 ft.). To south of Mont des Poilus, Glacier des Poilus falls into the scenic Waterfall Valley.
Once referred to as Hidden Peak, and once named Mount Habel (after Jean Habel, first European to explore the Yoho Valley in 1890’s), the current name was applied in 1917 to honour the “Poilu”, the lowest ranking soldiers of the French Army who courageous battled the invading Germany armies during the First World War. First ascent in 1901 by J. Outram, E. Whymper, C. Kaufmann, C. Klucker and J. Pollinger via Glacier des Poilus and South Ridge.
Getting There/ApproachTypically ascents of Mont des Poilus occur during the height of summer in August, with most parties approaching from Waterfall Valley in Yoho National Park. Yoho is located on the Trans Canada Highway, approximately 210 kilometres west from Calgary, 80 kilometres west of Banff and about 55 km east of Golden, British Columbia.
The Takakkaw Falls road, typically closed from September to June, provides vehicle access to the upper Yoho River Valley. Approach from the Banff-Jasper highway is fairly common in the winter or spring, but requires extensive glacier travel over significant distances.
An ascent of Mont des Poilus is an excellent addition to the Bow to Yoho Traverse of the Wapta Icefield. For the Bow-Yoho traverse, park a vehicle at southern end of the trip, closure of Takakkaw Falls road near Field, B.C. and start your trip from Bow Lake, 38 km north of Lake Louise.
Red TapeA permit or fee is not required to climb in Yoho National Park, however; Yoho NP is one of the most regulated backcountry areas within Canada. Any overnight stay, be it in a designated backcountry campground, in an Alpine Club of Canada hut, a hanging bivy or a cozy camp within a crevasse, requires a wilderness pass.
Yoho winter backcountry link
When to SkiSki mountaineering ascents generally have the best conditions in the spring, March through May. An ascent at anytime of the year is subject to avalanche danger.
Route DescriptionFirst ascent in August 1901 by J. Outram, E. Whymper, C. Kaufmann, C. Klucker and J. Pollinger. First winter ascent unknown.
- South Ridge, Alpine II
Moderate snow/ice glacier mountaineering route. From main Glacier des Poilus, head up glacier on southern slopes of des Poilus. In summer conditions many large crevasses are exposed, and hidden, on the route, attention is required. Glacial slopes steepen nearing South Ridge. Depending on conditions, a bergschrund may be visible. In late winter or early spring the glacier is usually well covered with 2 to 5 metres of snow; with this snow depth crevasses danger is lowered, but upper slopes more prone to avalanche.
Final 40 metres to ridge line steep, about 40 degrees, typically hard packed snow, even in winter; skis usually left at the base of this slope. Upper snow slopes are south facing and often wind loaded, careful assessment of snow stability is a must. Final summit ridge of about 150 horizontal metres is a hike on rock or snow. Descent the same route, usually a great ski run.
Ski mountaineering boots, skis, climbing skins, poles, crampons and mountaineering axe (in late spring ski crampons may be needed, depending on snow conditions).
Standard glacier travel and crevasse rescue gear; depending on snow coverage, pickets or ice screws, pulleys, locking carabiners and carabiners, slings and prussiks. Probe is useful for detecting crevasses and assisting in any avalanche rescue.
Standard avalanche rescue gear, avalanche transceiver, probe, shovel and your preference for snow stability assessment tools.
Waterproof storm shell, down jacket, waterproof boots and good food as required, based on weather or season. High altitude camping gear for bivy camp. We had overnight temperatures of -12 C (10 F) in mid February, but it is common for overnight temperatures to be below -30 C in winter.
ReferenceChic Scott’s book, Summits & Icefields: Alpine Ski Tours in the Canadian Rockies, provides excellent route and approach information for ski touring and ski mountaineering through the region.
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