Mount Bell Banff NE Ridge 5.3

Mount Bell Banff NE Ridge 5.3

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 51.28330°N / 116.1014°W
Additional Information Route Type: Mountaineering
Seasons Season: Summer
Additional Information Time Required: Most of a day
Additional Information Rock Difficulty: 5.3 (YDS)
Additional Information Grade: II
Sign the Climber's Log


Bell NE Ridge 5.3/5.4 from South.(AKA East ridge 5.4)
Ridge can be described from right to left as lower easy section, then lower steep section with 5.3 slab, flatter middle section, two big steps and then 3 upper smaller steps to summit.

Mount Bell NE ridge 5.3 from South

This is a 1500 m(5000 ft) elevation gain day with a 7 km approach to start of the rock- descent is down a snow gully which will require ice axe

Easy climb/scramble of a good Quartzite ridge in Banff National Park near Lake Louise. Comparable to other quartzite ridges in the Canadian Rockies like upper part of Edith Cavell but easier than Uto and Sir Donald Ridges. Mostly good solid rock on the climbing sections with lots of broken rock on the lower angle sections.
Note quartzite is very slippery when wet so try pick a nice day.
There is a bailoff ledge system that we scrambled down from the flat middle section of the ridge after a getting hit with a rain, hail and lightning storm in 2010.

Getting There

The Trans-Canada #1 Highway goes through Banff National Park east to west as you come in from Calgary. Continue West past Banff, the Sunshine Ski Resort and the Castle Junction(#93). The TransCanada is now all 4 lane divided highway here. Continue for 8.1 km beyond Castle Junction (Hwy 93) to the Taylor Lake marked trailhead on your left. If coming East from Lake Louise the Taylor Lake trailhead will be on your right.
The taylor Lake trail is well maintained switchback trail that goes up about 700m and 6.5 km to Taylor Lake and to a junction with a trail to O'Brien Lake trail(poorer wet trail)

Route Description

Bell NE ridge from East. Descent gully off to left. Summit has small snow patch.
Bell NE ridge from East

This is a long day as it took us 13 hours car to car. We took the shortcut direct to the ridge from the Taylor lake trail junction which saved about 1 hour and were on top in about 7 hours including lunches.

Hike up to Taylor Lake junction with O'Brien Lake trail. Take O'Brien trail for 200m past creek crossing then right into trees for short 15 min bushwack to open scree slope below ridge. Several routes up some dirty loose scree in larches to start of ridge.
Bell NE Ridge 5.3 - Approach from Taylor Lake

Gained the ridge near start of rock and then scrambled up easy rock steps with one diversion left 20 m off the ridge crest at a short wall. Great views off right side down to Taylor lake. There is one gully /chimney potential shortcut that comes up to ridge from the lake shore but it is reported as loose, wet and 5.6 - has snow in pic above - not recommended.

Ridge steepens up to the 5.3/5.4 slab – pitched out 40 m and then carried rope up easier ground and across large flatter middle section to the fist big step.
Bell NE Ridge - climbing 5.3 slabby section

Note - There is a bailoff ledge system that we scrambled down from the flat middle section of the ridge after a getting hit with a rain, hail and lightning storm in 2010.
Bell NE Ridge from O Brien Lake

Scrambled with odd short rope over first and second big steps. See climber for scale.

Bell NE Ridge 5.3 - flat middle section before first big step

The final three steps.

Bell NE Ridge 5.3 - last three steps

Went left side on first step and then right or over the last 2 steps before summit. Rock is generally solid for any climbing parts but lots of broken crap on ledges. We were passed near the top by a solo guy from Canmore.

Took the scramble route down which was loose and crappy(out of view to the right of next pic) and then left across to top of gully/couloir on poor sidehilling.
Bell NE Ridge - descent gully from summit

Snow down gully/couloir was soft enough in the heat to make steps, around the 4 lakes and then lots of mindnumbing down on the trails. Note no water on ridge or top of mountain until bottom of gully.

This ridge is a fun climb on mostly good rock and would be a lot more popular without the approach!

Essential Gear

Route can be easily soloed/scrambled if comfortable on easy class 5 rock. We carried a rope and used it on the 5.3 section where we placed the odd cam and belayed. Two or three light cams in .5 to 1.5 are sufficient.
Carry an ice axe for the descent down the gully/couloir and maybe crampons if it is a cool day or if expect gully to be icy.
There is no water on this ridge or mountain until back down in O'Brien valley where there are various streams/seeps running into 4 separate lakes.

External Links

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