Mount Whyte, together with Mount Niblock, 1.2 km to the north, forms the backdrop for Lake Agnes and its teahouse 4000’ (summit elevation) above Lake Louise, Banff National Park. It is a difficult scramble and when combined with a summit traverse of Mount Niblock, the route makes for a long day in the mountains. Its summit can also be accessed via an alpine climb of its east ridge, the Perren Route (Alpine II 5.6). Its summit view gives way to the significant Victoria and Lefroy glaciers as well as the surrounding Lake Louise mountains.
Mount Whyte is a more technical and exposed undertaking than Mount Niblock. The vantage point is well worth the effort however. The route finding on the scramble route is challenging and many take rock gear to make the ascent as well as some rappel stations are in place. Of course the rock is marginal which is typical of the location. For those less inclined for such an adventure among your group, send them to Mt. St. Piran, Mt. Fairview and/or Mt. Sheol as parking will be the same for these Lake Louise objectives.
Mount Whyte was officially named in 1898 after a Canadian Pacific Railway executive and was first ascended by Edward Whymper in 1901 along with three guides, Kaufmann, Klucker and Pollinger.
The Trans-Canada dissects Banff National Park east to west as you come in from Calgary. Travel to the Lake Louise exit and turn left through town and follow this road 5 km to its end at the Lake Louise parking area.
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. This approach trail is rarely restricted as it leads to the Lake Agnes Tea House. However, I advise checking with Parks Canada for any area and/or trail closures.
When To Climb
As with most scrambles in the Canadian Rockies, the driest time is from June through September. I climbed Mount Niblock and Mount Whyte in August via the traverse and the route was in condition. There are no published backcountry ski routes on these mountains, nor would it be conducive to ski to the summits.
The closest camp site would be back in town at the Lake Louise Campground. You can go on line at Banff National Park to pick a 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 if you plan on camping at a backcountry site. The Lake Louise Alpine Center Hostel is a great place to eat and has been recently renovated, but is more expensive than your average hostel. Of course those with the big bucks can camp out at the Chateau itself.