Skiers approach the top of the Haig glacier in February 2009.
A joy to visit on skis or snow shoes in the winter. A longer trek in the summer months if avalanche conditions are safe. The Haig glacier via the French or Robertson glaciers is worthwhile place to visit.
Approaching the base of the French glacier. February 2009.
There are two ways to get to the trailhead depending on your point of departure. From Calgary take the trans-Canada highway. Then take the 40 south towards Fortress Junction. Just past here turn right on the Kananaskis trail and then right onto the Spray lakes road. Follow this road till you see signs for the Chester Lakes Day parking. Here turn left into the parking across the way next to the trail to Burstall pass. About 1 hour 20 minutes drive.
If you are coming from Canmore, head out on the Smith-Dorrien/Spray Lakes road past the Grassi Lakes and the Goat Creek day use parking. Continue on the unpaved Spray lakes road for about 45km. Turn right at the Burstall pass parking just opposite the large Chester lake parking, this is about 3 kms from the Engadine Lodge road. Park here in this large parking lot. Follow the Burstall trail west along a dirt road for 3-400 meters then take the first cutline to the left. This is right where there is a hikers trail sign signaling right. If you follow the wider road right this will take you to Burstall pass. Take the left route and go straight till you reach the creek (French Creek), resisting the temptation to turn right at two places on the trail. Once you have crossed the creek with should be iced over in the winter months. Keep to the left of this stream following the obvious alpine ski trail up and around to the left and above three waterfalls to the base of the French glacier. Here you leave the forest and cross the moraine to the toe of the glacier. Roping up here is the safe way to go but you will notice almost no evidence of cravasses the whole way up to the top of the ice field which is the Haig glacier. From here you can descend the same way or traverse over to the Sir Douglas Robertson col pick your way up and over and drop down and out the Robertson glacier joining up with the Brustall pass route and out to the same parking spot
Fastest is in winter if conditions warrant. Can be done in the summer months but will be longer and less rewarding. Summer involves more forest travel as the creek will not be iced over. Winter on snowshoes or skis. If the weather is good you should be able to follow the route without problems.
Descending to the base of the French glacier. February 2009.
No red tape. This is a day trip. 7-10 hours depending on your skiing or snow shoeing ability. I found snow shoes actually to be best for heading up as we were able to pass skiers on the way up. But they had more fun I am sure on the way down except for the narrow forest bits.
Don't leave items visible in the back of your car. Why tempt fate
You are not allowed to camp in the area.
Spray Lake Ranger Station. (403) 678-5533
Alberta Tourist Visitor Centre (403) 678-5277
The Alpine Club of Canada (403) 678-3200, ext 1
or (403) 762-2088 for weather conditions
Alpine Club of Canada
Mount Sir Douglas
Joining a club such as The Alpine Club of Canada is recommended when climbing in Canada. While it is not obligatory, useful information can be had at any of their Clubhouse in Canmore, or at their website which is open to everyone.
Staying at the club in Canmore is about 26$ Canadian for members and a little more for non-members. It can get quite crowded in the summer so a reservation is recommended.
On top of the glacier
Due to the fragility of the area there is no camping on the mountain and surrounding area.
There are other campgrounds in the area if desired.
Spray Lakes West Shore Campground has 50 sites (403) 591-7226
There is also the Alpine Club of Canada lodge in Canmore with rooms and excellent facilities. The Alpine Club of Canada (403) 678-3200, ext 1
Engadine Lodge is a good base camp if you want some comfort at the end of the day.
Box 40025 Canmore, Alberta T1W 3H9
Tel.: (403) 678-4080
Web address www.mountengadine.com
View from the top of the Haig glacier Mounts Robertson and Mount Sir Douglas among others