Mount Lyautey is a beautifully jagged and ruggedly serrated mountain surrounded by several glaciers. Nestled on the edge of the backcountry and the busy front country area of the Kananaskis Lakes area, the true summit is only visible once you venture into the stunning wilderness. A significant outlier of Lyautey borders the gorgeous Upper Kananaskis Lake, but this broad shoulder doesn’t compare to the splendour of the sharp dog toothed summit ridge. This impressive summit ridge is likely most often viewed by backcountry hikers on their way to Aster Lake, or mountaineers on the approach to Mt. Joffre, nearing Fossil Falls as the trail climbs steeply into the high hanging valley. A small glacier lies below the South East Face and two larger glaciers spill from the wide North Face aspect; these larger northern glaciers provide excellent year round skiing.
There appears to be some discrepancy about the official height of Mount Lyautey, with sources ranging from 3000 to 3082 metres. Three topographic map sources, including the official Canadian Government, Natural Resources Canada topographic map, have the highest contour line of 3040 metres. The quoted height of 3045 metres (9,990 feet) reflects a more likely summit elevation. Mount Lyautey is the 26th highest mountain in Kananaskis and one of the Kananaskis 3000+ ’ers
Height of the Joffre Group
Mount Lyautey is part of the Joffre Group, a range of high elevation summits along the Continental Divide. The summits along this section of the divide, and the adjacent connecting peaks, were named after World War I to commemorate the British and French military forces. Generally, from Mt. Nivelle north to Mt. Cordonnier are French military names and included in the Joffre Group of mountains; from Mt. Warrior north to Mt. Turbulent are British military names and included mostly in the Spray Range, but a few northern summits are in the Goat Range. A bit obscure, but some local mountaineers refer to the Joffre Group as the French Military Group.
Mount Lyautey was named in 1918 for General Louis Hubert Lyautey. General Lyautey was a French Army general, the first French Resident-General in Morocco from 1912 to 1925, and from 1921 a Marshal of France. During the Great War, he played a major role in maintaining the French grip on North Africa and preventing a feared rebellion in Morocco. Lyautey briefly served as France's Minister of War for three months in 1917. First ascent of the mountain in 1930 by Katie Gardiner, guided by Walter Feuz via the South Ridge from a camp at Aster Lake.
Best vehicle access from Canmore/Banff or Calgary is via the Trans Canada Highway, south along Highway 40. From the intersection of Highway 40 (Kananaskis Trail) and Highway 1 (Trans Canada Highway) travel south to the turnoff for Kananaskis Lakes (50 km).
Depending on route of choice, different parking lots and trailheads are recommended. For a climb on the south side of Mt. Lyautey park at the Upper Lake trailhead and approach via the Aster Lake trail. Parking lot is approximately 13.5 km from the turnoff off of Highway 40 (onto the Kananaskis Lakes road). If climbing the north side, park at the North Interlakes Parking Lot, 15 km from the turnoff off of Highway 40 (onto the Kananaskis Lakes road) with the approach via the Three Isle Lake trail.
Red Tape / Camping and Bivouacs
Once a true wilderness area, the backcountry regions of Peter Lougheed Provincial Park has become extremely busy and popular. This has required increased regulation of the backcountry in the last 10 to 15 years in an attempt to sustain the healthy ecosystem and wildlife populations. No permit is required to park or climb in Peter Lougheed Park and an ascent of Mount Lyautey can be accomplished in a day by any reasonably fit mountaineer.
If looking to extend your climb by enjoying a night in the wilderness, two campgrounds provide good access to the mountain. The Aster Lake campground, approximately 11 km from the Upper Lake parking lot provides access to the South Ridge route. If climbing on the northern flank of Lyautey, the Forks backcountry campground, approximately 7.3 km from the North Interlakes parking lot provides access to the northern routes. The Forks campground is on the Three Isle Lake trail, but about 0.5 km past the creek used to approach the northern side of Lyautey. Peter Lougheed Provincial Park only allows backcountry camping in designated backcountry campgrounds and no random backcountry camping is allowed.
Up to date information about Peter Lougheed Provincial Park available at:
Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
Area topo map
South Ridge Approach
From the Upper Lake trailhead parking lot approach via the Aster Lake trail. Travel around Hidden Lake can be a challenge; historically a good trail lead to Hidden Lake at the outlet, but travel around the lake was highly dependent on the lake level, which can change dramatically from spring to fall. Often a bush bash in trees along the southern shore was required. A good trail starts at the far end (south edge) of the lake leading to Fossil Falls. In July of 2011, I discovered a new primitive and unmarked trail had been hacked into the bush south of the historic trail. This rough trail avoided the bush and log piles on the southern lake shore, but was difficult to stay on the trail. Not sure of the current status of this trail, I believe it was created by Park Rangers, but it is not an official trail.
The trail up to and above Fossil Falls is scenic, but a bit treacherous, the trail is obvious, but care is required at several steep steps where a fall would be disastrous. Once at the falls, the trail flattens out and weaves to the official backcountry campground, just below Aster Lake, sheltered below the natural dam formation. From the campground head north, north-west to the South Ridge.
North Face Approach
From the North Interlakes parking lot approach via the Three Isle Lake trail. If camping at the Forks, hike 7.3 km to the campground, if day tripping, at approximately 6.8 km from the trailhead (UTM GR 255105), turn directly south and follow the creek that originates from the Lyautey Glacier and the north side of the mountain. There is no trail, but the trees are light and travel is easy. About 0.7 km from the main trail, the creek bed suddenly raises in a steep headwall. We ascended terrain just right (west) of a small waterfall, but several options are available. Once above this small headwall, the views open up, but the terrain becomes convoluted and rugged; deep creeks cut into the valley and several moraines make direct travel complicated. Head south for just over a 1 km (GR 255090) and choose your line of ascent. Travel from here is bit of rough boulders, slabby sections and up/down terrain, but not too bad; great sightlines to all routes make route finding generally easy.
When to Climb
Typical Canadian Rockies situation; best conditions for a high elevation alpine rock route is July to early September. The deep notches between the ribs on the North West and South East Faces often hold snow for the whole year, but likely best snow conditions would be mid July to mid August. No record of a winter ascent, but the North West Ridge, direct from base of the ridge emergence, would likely be a suitable winter route.
The only published information is in the now out of print guide, “The Rocky Mountains of Canada South”, Boles, G.W., Kruszyna R. & Putnam W.L. (1979). This excellent resource book provides information only on the South Ridge route.
Online information on Andrew Nugara’s website (Andrew’s site is often down, 50/50 chance you can access the information) and photo/trip report on Ferenc Jacso's photo site.
|South side of Mt. Lyautey |
- South Ridge, Alpine II
First ascent of the mountain in 1930 by Katie Gardiner, guided by Walter Feuz via the South Ridge from a camp at Aster Lake. Documented route in the guidebook provides little detail, but from camp at Aster Lake head north to the base of the South Ridge. Climb ridge on steep and loose rock to nearly the summit. Party climbed onto South Face to avoid loose rock. Descent via the same route.
|North side of Mt. Lyautey |
- North Glacier, North West Face, Alpine II
First ascent of this aspect of the mountain is unknown. Many variations exist from the two glaciers to the summit or upper summit ridge. Being far from most trails, likely has only had a handful of ascents. Ascent of the North-West Ridge was reported by Gary Fauland and Alan Kane in the summit register on July 15, 1998. Our ascent route was up the glacier identified as the Lyautey Glacier on the topo map, to a steep gully system just south of the North West Ridge buttress, then we gained the upper North West Ridge, then to the summit. Ferenc Jacso and Andrew Nugara ascended a steep snow couloir on North West Face, to the summit ridge, then onto the summit, descent via a different snow gully.
North side approaches and routes
On our ascent we gained the toe of the Lyautey Glacier and travelled along the eastern edge of the glacier. We had very little snow coverage and the few minor crevasses were well exposed and easy to avoid. Travelled up the glacier to near its end below the steep col west of the summit, just where the terrain changes from nearly flat to the steep ice approaching the col.
|Tim on approach to glacier |
|Toe of glacier |
|Easy travel on glacier
South of the rapidly raising North West Ridge, is a steep, but broad gully system that extends upward, nearly all the way to the summit. Easy scrambling on scree for the bottom two thirds of the gully, then moderate Class 3 terrain to the top out on the North West Ridge. The final section of the summit ridge is exposed, loose and difficult scrambling (Class 4). This final section is fairly short and leads directly to the main summit. Descent via the same route.
|Near col and top of glacier |
|Looking up lower scree guly |
|End of gully onto NW ridge
|Summit party |
|Looking down NW ridge |
|Looking down gully
Ferenc Jacso and Andrew Nugara approached the northern flanks of Lyautey via the terrain in between the two glaciers to avoid the necessity of roping up for the snow covered glacier. Eventually they decided to ascend a steep snow gully on the North West Face, more easterly then required. From the approach the eastern lower summit looks much taller, but the highest main summit is clearly the most western high point. After gaining the summit ridge they headed west to the main summit and descended a different snow gully directly beneath the summit, first ascending a rock rib to the avoid ice in the upper gully.
|Snow gullies on NW Face |
|Ferenc on ascent |
|Andrew on descent
Reference / External LinksBoles, G.W., Kruszyna R. & Putnam W.L. (1979). The Rocky Mountains of Canada South. 7 th edition. New York: American Alpine Club, Alpine Club of Canada. Out of print
Lots of photos from Andrew Nugara and Ferenc Jacso's ascent on July 25, 2009. (just five days before our ascent) on Ferenc's picasa photo log.