Mount Harrison is the most southerly 11,000’er in the Canadian Rockies and was the last primary summit over 11,000 feet in the Canadian Rockies to be ascended. Mount Harrison is located west of the continental divide, entirely within the province of British Columbia. Relatively hidden away in the south west side of the Rockies, far from the focus on alpinist and mountaineering in Jasper and Banff National Parks, and far away from the population of Calgary, the summit remained off the radar until it was given an official height exceeding 11,000 feet.
Reaching 3359 metres (11,021 ft.) this summit is 53 on the generally accepted list of 54 summits exceeding 11,000 feet in the Canadian Rockies. Named in 1964 for Francis A Harrison, from nearby Cranbrook, British Columbia, who was killed during WW II. Harrison was an airgunner aboard a Lancaster bomber that was attacking Duisburg when it was shot down. First ascended in August 1964 by W. Himmelsback, R. Hutchinson, J. Hutton, D. MacLaurin, B. Moss and P. Sherman.
The parking area for Mount Harrison is relatively easy to access by vehicle and the approach on foot is reasonably straightforward, considering the lack of any official trails or signage. A local author and climber, Bill Corbett, has a great guidebook, “The 11,000’ers of the Canadian Rockies” which details excellent driving directions. I would recommend referring to this guide for driving instructions.
Simple driving directions would be: from Radium take Highway 93/95 south for 65 km, turn east onto Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park road (start of km, 0 km). 32 km east, cross a bridge, turn right onto White River Road. 43.7 km from start of Whiteswan Lake PP road turn right onto Munroe Lake road, cross White River again, and at 45km take middle fork in the road. At 59 km go left towards Bull River, at 65 km turn right onto much rougher Bull River road. Drive as far as you can, usually about 10 km on Bull River road (75km from start of Whiteswan Lake PP). From road side camp follow drainage southwest through bush to a scree basin to reach north side of Mt. Harrison.
Mount Harrison, the parking area and the approach valley are outside of any designated recreation area or park and no permits or passes are required for climbing, parking or camping. Please note, the region contains high concentrations of elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, moose, cougar, black and grizzly bears. Be aware of wildlife and practice “Leave No Trace” ethics.
Camping and Bivouacs
Mount Harrison, the parking area and the approach valley are in a wilderness area, without any designated campsites. Typical bivy site for most routes are from a camp at 75 km from start of Whiteswan Lake PP along Bull River road.
When to Climb
Typical Canadian Rockies situation with July and August providing the best conditions for high elevation climbing. Often September and October have stable and dry weather, but conditions can change dramatically. Fall climbing does provide colder temperatures for snow climbing, but with less snow for climbing and bridging of crevasses.
The complicated road access is not maintained or plowed in the winter and would make a winter (or early spring) ascent an epic adventure. There is no record of a winter ascent.
Four climbing routes have been documented on Mount Harrison. Documented routes include:
- South-West Face (Normal Route), Alpine II
Line of the first ascent in August 1964. From northern slopes of Harrison, traverse to west side along easy scree slopes. Continue upward traverse and pass beneath a subsidiary summit until you reach the South West Face.
Long Scree Traverse
Traverse upward along steep, hard packed scree tending North East crossing three major scree basins. Then towards summit ridge, usually snow until late in the summer. Often cornices on summit ridge. Typically 30 to 40 degree snow to summit ridge, easy snow climb to summit. Descend the same route.
- West Ridge, Alpine II
First Ascent in 1972 (D. Forest, R. Matthews, L. Michaud and M. Simpson) from road side camp up drainage. Gain base of West Ridge and continue to summit ridge. Moderate rock scrambling and snow climb near summit. Descend the same route or South-West Face route.
North Face Routes
- North Couloir / West Ridge, Alpine II
First Ascent in 1978 (F. Campbell, B. Darragh, J. Darrage and P. Michael) from road side camp up drainage. Climbed right hand of two couloirs on North Face, steep snow and ice, 40 to 50 degrees. Gain West Ridge near summit, up ridge to summit. Descend the South-West Face route.
- North Couloir / East Ridge, Alpine III
First Ascent in 1978 (J. Francini, D. Pouliot, D. Malkin and A. Larson) from road side camp up drainage. Climbed left hand of two couloirs on North Face, steep snow and ice, 40 to 50 degrees. This couloir narrower and steep than main gully. Recently this gully system is mostly rock, not snow. Gain East Ridge near summit, up ridge to summit. Descend the South-West Face route.
Bill Corbett’s book, The 11,000ers of the Canadian Rockies, provides a comprehensive climber’s guide and history to the 54 11,000-foot peaks in the Canadian Rockies.
11,000ers of the Canadian Rockies