Mount Bryce is a rugged and remote peak located in the Canadian Rockies just south of the Columbia Icefields. Mount Bryce consists of a ridge containing two summits over 11,000 feet and a third summit just under 11,000ft. Main peak (11,506'), Center peak (11,053') and North east summit (~10800'). By traversing the north-east ridge route it is possible to climb all three summits. A more common and shorter route for climbing Mount Bryce is the South Face/Glacier route.
From Golden, B.C. drive west on the TransCanada highway about 27km towards Donald B.C. You will want to turn onto the BUSH RIVER ROAD. which is at the Evans Products lumber mill at Donald. Do not cross the railway tracks or Columbia river on the TransCanada highway. If so, you've gone too far and missed the turn. The BUSH RIVER ROAD is a dirt/gravel logging road. For the most part it is a good quality road until near its end. It is used by loggers quite frequently, so large semitrucks need to be able to negioate it. It is generally good for 2 wheel drive vehicles. Be cautious of logging trucks while driving on this road. They typically move fast and are often carrying full loads of recently cut trees for milling.
You will quickly know if you are on the Bush River road because there will be kilometer signs every kilometer starting with the number 1 soon after turning off the TransCanadian highway. Apparently these signs have been renumbered in recent years. They previously started counting from near Golden. Old guidebooks with directions may give incorrect kilometer sign numbers because of the recent renumbering starting from the TransCanadian Highway instead of from Golden.
Somewhere around the 55-60 km mark you will get good views of Vertebra Ridge. At about 68km, near a bridge, there is a small developed campsite with 2-3 sites with an outhouse on a short right spur road. This is the last developed campsite along the road driving from Golden. There may be other camping spots further up the road, but they are completely undeveloped.
For routes on Mount Bryce, turn RIGHT onto Rice Brook main road from the Bush River road at about kilometer sign 98. The Rice Brook road is a logging road that is slowing getting out of shape. The road has been officially decommissioned about 4km up. It is possible to drive two wheel drive, high clearence vehicles probably about 2-3km up the existing road. More adventerous drivers, or those with high clearence four wheel drive vehicles can go the full 4km to reach the old decommisioned road.
Depending on where you park you'll want to walk up the old decommisioned road about 4.2 km until you reach the Rice Brook. The road is in a state of decay. In August of 2006 the road bed had turned into mostly loose rocks and various overgrown brush. I'd say that the road has detoriated to the point to where it is somewhat more difficult than hiking on a trail due to the number of loose rocks and brush/bush-wacking. Biking up the road is probably not viable.
Some guidebooks mention a bridge here. The bridge is long gone. The glacier stream can be forded by going right/east of the old bridge location about 50-100 meter upstream.
Glacier Stream Crossing
Depending on water levels you may find better or worse crossings, but generally they are better upstream. In August of 2006, water was only knee to thigh deep when crossing upstream of the old bridge site.
It is good to bring tennis shoes, or some kind of non-essential footwear to cross the stream.
Once across, continue up the old road for about 1km. The brush and weeds get taller and taller, but if you concentrate you shouldn't have too much trouble following the old road bed for awhile longer. You will pass some beautiful meadows on your right. Eventually you will come across a large "cut-block" on your left. A "cut-block"
is a field that has been logged so there are no trees there anymore. Instead of trees there are willow bushes, and other various new growth plants. Above the cut-block there is still a dense forest. Right after the cut-block there is a thin strand of trees that goes up. And to the right of the strand of trees there are some rather hugh avalanche paths if you go too far.
Ascending the watercourse
The trick is to begin your ascent at the very right edge between the cut-block and the thin strand of trees. (about 5400') You will want to go up this boundary between the cut-block and trees, and start to angle right and up. Choose the path of least resistance while bushwacking and going up and right. Eventually you should start to enter the small strand of trees and bushwacking will take on a more woodsy feel. Start going up more, and right less. Eventually you should find yourself in a "watercourse"
which is a small stream/drainage that is cascading down the mountain slopes here. Now, climb the water course directly. Go up scree and gravel. You will gain a lot of vertical up this unlikely route (1500') so get comfortable with this sort of travel. For the most part going up the watercourse is MUCH MUCH easier than bushwacking. You may have to go around a few steeper rock bands in the watercourse as you ascend.
Go really high until you are above treeline (about 7000'). Once above treeline to the point where any bushwacking is minimal, start going left and up a little. You will leave the friendly confines of the watercourse and start tackling steep scree and talus slopes now. Sometimes the slopes are very steep (class 2-3 climbing). Some of the travel gets unpleasant and frustrating at times. Try not to think you're lost. If you are lucky, you might find old footprints or paths to follow up and left. You should not be climbing as much, but traversing left mostly now. Eventually you will cross a somewhat powerful stream/waterfall which may require some route finding to cross, but it not too difficult and you should be able to cross without getting wet depending on the season.
After this (about 6900') start going up and left again. At some point you should be able to identify a gully of sorts, stop going left, and go up the gully or adjacent slopes until reaching and climbing over a saddle. (7700'). Once over the saddle walk up talus a short ways where you will find a few tent sites for a bivy. This is the typical bivy site for climbing the South Face/Glacier route on Mount Bryce. From the bivy site you will have good views of the somewhat small south glacier of Mount Bryce.
No permits needed. Mount Bryce is outside of all of the national parks.
You may want to check the conditions of the logging road, and of the rice brook road. You can call the Evans Products Mill at 250-344-8800. You may want to call in advance of your trip as it may be hard to reach anyone other than a secretary at the Mill. (the loggers, the people who drive the roads are usually out logging)
You may be able to find climbing conditions information by contacting park safety wardens at Banff, Jasper, and or Glacier National Parks. Although it may be hard to talk to anyone who has climbed Bryce recently, the safety wardens may have useful information about general conditions/weather. The Columbia Icefields area is likely to have similar conditions and weather as Mount Bryce.
At kilometer marker 68, there is a campsite called Valenciennes River.
There are 2-3 developed car camping sites here. There are a few picnic tables and an outhouse. This is the last developed campsite when driving up the Bush River Logging Road. There are several other campsites before this one.
Alan Kane has posted a trip report
for the south face/glacier route on his website.
He has also posted a map
of the logging road.
Current access/route information may be found on the Association of Canadian Mountain Guide's mountain conditions report archives
The Weather Network produces this forecast
for the Columbia Icefields Region.