Unnamed Peak is as official of a name as any other simply because it has been called that for so long. It is the mountain located between Popes Peak and Mount Collier to the northeast of Mount Victoria. Unnamed Peak is situated on the Continental Divide which serves as the border between Yoho and Banff National Parks and is part of the historical Lake Louise group.
The approach in to Unnamed Peak takes you on the popular Plain of Six Glaciers Trail that originates at the Chateau Lake Louise and diverts at the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House. There are no viable ski routes up the mountain. There are several interesting alternative descents, one down the northeast ridge of Mount Victoria via steep glacier terrain presenting a variety of objectionable hazards or a descent down Mount Collier’s north glacier into Lake O’Hara . Popes Peak looks like a reasonable traverse as well. We descended the East Ridge route back to the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House.
Unnamed Peak’s East Ridge is the only published route up the mountain and is listed in Sean Dougherty’s “Selected Alpine Climbs in the Canadian Rockies” as an Alpine II, 5.4 climb. The route has quite a bit of history due to its proximity to other more infamous routes of the Lake Louise area. Barry Blanchard also offers it as one of his “Modern Alpinism with Barry Blanchard” climbs. I was invited to join another SP’er (Fury) and his partner on this climb and have to admit, if not for their suggestion, I am not sure I would have ever done this mountain or route. All being said it was an enjoyable enough climb except it was more than typically loose for the area. I was a little surprised that Barry chose it for one of his courses. Due to no summit log or cairn and minimal other evidence, I suggest that few if any traipse up the ridge except for Yamnuska guiding. Somewhere I saw it stated that the east ridge route on Unnamed was good rock for the area. I have to adamantly disagree with that statement. It is as loose as any and never really firms up much at any section. It rates as just about the worse ridge climb I have done in reference to that particular characteristic. There are a few fun short pitches, but you top out right back on loose shale, etc. The hanging ice seracs mentioned in the guidebook have become more like a sliding glacier today. The main hazard moving underneath the ice is the shooting gallery of rocks that thaw out of the ice several thousand feet above during sunny days. Of course the views from the summit just about make up for any negativity you could drum up on the route. They include Mount Victoria, The Mitre and Mount Lefroy to the south, Popes Peak, Mount Niblock and Mount Whyte to the north and the Wapta Icefield to the northwest.
The Trans-Canada dissects Banff National Park east to west as you come in from Calgary. Travel to the Lake Louise exit and turn left through town and follow this road 5kms to its end at the Lake Louise parking area. The trailhead parking lot is to the left and is free of charge. There are restrooms at this location. Head west for the lake and follow it to its right. Eventually this will turn into a wide trail and leave the hotel complex behind.
You 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 Banff or Yoho National Parks, 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 above. Park headquarters are located in Banff 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 during non-hibernation months. I advise checking with Parks Canada for any area and/or trail closures, however, the trail to the back of the lake if rarely if ever closed.
The closest camp site would be back in town at the Lake Louise Campground. You can go on line at Banff 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. The Lake Louise Alpine Center Hostel is a great place to eat and has been recently renovated, but is more expensive than your average hostel. Of course those with the big bucks can camp out at the Chateau itself.
When to Climb
I climbed Unnamed Peak in early July and the route was in good shape. I would avoid getting a late start on a warm sunny day due to the fact that you have to traverse under a hanging glacier to get to the start to the ridge. If you are descending the same route, this could be the most treacherous aspect of the entire day. Rocks fall from high up on Unnamed’s eastern flank. They get embedded into the glacier and thaw out during warm sunny days. Because this is ice and not snow, the rocks slide several thousand feet down to the ledge you must traverse. This makes sort of a shooting gallery effect. We witnessed it firsthand. There are plenty of decent short cliffs to traverse under for protection, but at times you will be exposed to this phenomenon.
""You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.""