Mount Bell was named after its first ascender, Nora Bell, in 1910 and is located near the Lake Louise portion of Banff National Park
, one of four connecting national parks in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. Previously it was known as Mount Bellevue. Mount Bell is the highest peak on the ridge that lies between Boom Lake and the Bow Valley corridor. It is separated from Panorama Ridge to the north, thus Valley of the Ten Peaks, by Taylor Pass. This is high alpine lake country. The approach takes you by Taylor and O’Brien Lakes and once on Bell’s southeast ridge, you are served up Boom Lake to the south. Not to mention the tarns you bypass on the ascent itself.
The published scramble is a long, but moderate day. I climbed Mount Bell in June of 2005 after an unusual spat of weather. My scramble, therefore, became a full on Alpine climb. No glacier travel, but a 700’ steep snow couloir to ascend with an overhanging cornice and the main crux, traversing a steep corniced snow slope towards the final summit.
Without the snow, I am sure the route is much tamer. I have skied the 6.3 km up to Taylor Lake which allows for backcountry ski trips to the north and south, however, there are no reasonable ski routes to the summit. There are no published alpine rock routes on Mount Bell.
The Trans-Canada Highway dissects Banff National Park east to west as you come in from Calgary. Continue past the Banff and Sunshine Ski Resort exits. Trans-Canada is a four lane interstate type of highway, but eventually turns into a two lane section after Castle Junction. Continue for 8.1 km beyond Castle Junction (Hwy 93) to an unmarked trailhead on your left. You are not supposed to cross traffic into this trailhead, thus, why it is unmarked traveling from the south. Turn around where feasible and return to the Taylor Lake trailhead.
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 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. 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. We just had a grizzly fatality in Canmore, June, 2005. I do advise checking with Parks Canada
for possible trail closures.
When To Climb
As with most scrambles in the Canadian Rockies, the driest time is from June through September. I climbed Mount Bell in June in alpine conditions. You can ski the 6.3 km up to Taylor Lake in the winter which allows for backcountry ski trips to the north and south, but no reasonable ski routes to the summit.
Mount Bell has a solid camping option, Banff National Park site Ta6
at Taylor Lake. You can go on line at Banff National Park
to pick your 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.
Mountain ConditionsBanff 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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