Isabelle Peak is located on the continental divide
(re: Storm Mountain
and Mount Bosworth
), therefore, on the border of Alberta and British Columbia as well as Banff and Kootenay National Parks, two of four connecting parks that make up the central Canadian Rockies. Isabelle makes up the southern portion of the Ball Range, Mount Ball being a more prominent glaciated mountain directly to the north, therefore receiving more attention. Both Isabelle Peak and Mount Ball make up the primary view point for visitors to Shadow Lake Lodge who ski or hike to Shadow Lake for the grand view these mountains provide.
Isabelle Peak was named after the sister of a prominent mountaineer, Charles Thompson, in the Canadian Rockies in 1906 and first ascended by an Interprovincial Boundary team in 1913.
The only published route for Isabelle is a long scramble via the east-southeast ridge. There are no published alpine or ski routes up the mountain. The views could be exceptional, although I did not get to enjoy them due to cloud cover. But Mount Assiniboine and Mount Sir Douglas
are in clear view to the south, the Goodsirs are clear to the north and the close up views of Mount Ball’s hanging ice are spectacular.
The Trans-Canada Highway runs from Calgary through Banff on its way through the parks. Between Banff and Lake Louise is Highway 93. Take the Highway 93 exit off the Trans-Canada and proceed south into British Columbia and Kootenay National Park. After approximately 22 km into British Columbia, look for the Hawk Creek trailhead parking area on your right. Much of this area suffered a major forest fire in 2003 including Marble Canyon which you pass on your right.
Red TapeThe summit of Isabelle Peak is in Kootenay and Banff National Parks, however, the scramble starts in Kootenay.
You will be required to purchase a national park pass as you enter Banff National Park on the Trans-Canada. 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 Kootenay National Park, 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 in the camping section below. Kootenay National Park headquarters are located in Radium Hot Springs, BC and you will drive through the manned national park kiosks as you enter Banff National Park on the Trans-Canada.
This is active grizzly country, therefore, you should always have bear spray on your person. I advise checking with Parks Canada
for any area and/or trail closures.
When To Climb
As with most scrambles in the Canadian Rockies, the driest time is from June through September. I climbed Isabelle Peak in July and it was in good condition with minimal snow on the east ridge or slopes. There are no published backcountry ski routes on Isabelle, nor would it be conducive to ski to the summit.
The closest camp site would be the Ball Pass Junction, RE21, backcountry site in Banff National Park and would make for a great traverse from Highway 93 to the Trans-Canada. You could really live it up with a reservation at Shadow Lake Lodge
. They feed you well and even have a homemade sauna (live fire) which I have experienced on a winter ski trip. There are several more backcountry sites in the area. 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.
Mountain ConditionsKootenay National Park’s website
has weather, wildlife reports, trail closures, etc. Outside of the parks web site, Canadian Avalanche Association
is also useful, particularly for winter travel.
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