Uto Peak lies in the Selkirk mountains of British Columbia, just south of Rogers Pass. It is difficult to see from the road, and is overshadowed by its taller, more famous neighbor Mount Sir Donald, whose Northwest Ridge was justifiably included in Roper & Steck’s Fifty Classic Climbs of North America. That notwithstanding, Uto Peak makes for a fine day out, with spectacular views of the Asulkan and Bonney groups to the west, and Mount Rogers and the Hermit group to the north. The Southwest Ridge is a particularly fine climb, reputed to be similar in character to Sir Donald’s Northwest Ridge, though somewhat shorter, easier, and less sustained.
Uto was first climbed via the Northwest Ridge (now commonly used as a descent route) on July 23, 1890 by Swiss amateurs Carl Sulzer and Emil Huber. Their climb was a warm-up for the more challenging Sir Donald, which they bagged three days later. While on the summit, the pair sized up the Northwest Ridge of Sir Donald, and decided to attempt the higher peak by an easier route.
Uto was named by Charles Fay, another prolific alpinist of the late nineteenth century, after the Uto section of the Swiss Alpine Club, to which the Sulzer and Huber belonged.
Uto Peak is most easily reached from the Transcanada Highway a few kilometers west of Rogers Pass. The nearest towns are Golden to the east, and Revelstoke to the west. There is a Parks Canada information center, a hotel, and a gas station/convenience store at Rogers Pass, but not much else. It’s best to stock up on the necessities in either Golden or Revelstoke. About 3 kilometers west of Rogers Pass there is a signed turnout for the Illecillewaet campground on the south side of the road. Follow this through the campground to a parking area just before the road ahead is barred by a post and turns to dirt. The Sir Donald Trail starts here.
Red TapeUto Peak lies within Glacier National Park. Visitors will need to display a parks pass in their car while stopped in the park. In 2009 user fees were $7.80 CAD per day for individuals, and $19.60 CAD per day for groups. Annual passes and other permutations on access fees are also available—check the Parks Canada website for details. Wilderness permits are required for overnight camping in the backcountry, and are available from the wardens at information centers. Wilderness permits were $7.80 CAD per person per night in 2009.
CampingCamping at the Illecillewaet campground (running water, flush toilets) is $ 21.50 CAD per night. There are two other campgrounds within a few miles of the trailhead. Loop Brook campground is similar in nature to Illecillewaet, and costs the same. The Mount Sir Donald campground has no facilities, and costs $ 15.70 CAD per night. All three campgrounds are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
While not exactly camping, the Alpine Club of Canada maintains the A. O. Wheeler hut about 50 yards from road's end in the Illicillewaet campground. The hut sleeps 30 in the summer and 24 in the winter. It has a kitchen, propane lighting, and wood-burning stoves for heat in the winter, but no running water or electricity. Contact the ACC at 403-678-3200 or info@AlpineClubofCanada.ca for details and reservations.
ResourcesThe parks staff at Rogers Pass uses the weather forecast for Revelstoke as a proxy for the Rogers Pass area (adjusting for the 2,000 feet elevation difference). Environment Canada puts out a point forecast for Revelstoke and other select locations twice per day.
A wealth of climbing information for Uto and the surrounding area can be found in David P. Jones’ Selkirks South (2001, Elaho Publishing, ISBN 0968247245).