Mount Kitchener and Snow Dome are two of the coveted 54 11,000’+ peaks
in the Canadian Rockies
. Both are typically and most easily ascended during the winter months via skis
(Mount Kitchener via its southwest slopes). However Mount Kitchener has quite a few other options, including the route I chose for a solo ascent, the East Ridge, II, 5.2
, which crosses over a subsidiary peak named K2
. I am not sure when the first ascent of the entire east ridge was made, but located a summit log with one entry on top of K2 made in 1998
. The much more hard core north face objectives on Mount Kitchener include the Grand Central Couloir, V, 5.9, A2, WI 5
and partners, 1975
) and the Ramp Route, V, 5.8, A1
and partners, 1971
). To quote Sean Dougherty regarding these rarely repeated routes, “The face consists of some of the worst rock that climbers will ever have the pleasure of touching. Cold nights are a useful ingredient for success and longevity of life.”
What drew me to the East Ridge versus easily skiing the mountain in winter were Bill Corbett’s comments: “A much more aesthetic line is the East Ridge, rising almost directly from the highway and offering fine views over the Sunwapta Valley.”
Although the views were exceptional as just about any ridge route in the Columbia Icefield region would offer up, the route itself was less than stellar
. A 700’ loss from K2 to the Mount Kitchener col was one disappointment. The isothermal snow conditions on the small glacier (southeast facing 1000’+/-; not a snow field as Corbett alludes to) ascent just below the summit notch on the ridge was yet another. Then along came the worst rock I have ever had to solo 5th class on: up and down one of the most exposed notches in the Canadian Rockies. Next up: a bone jarring descent down the firm scree towards and following out the moraine of the Dome Glacier. To cap it off: a death defying warm afternoon Sunwapta River crossing. I had crossed the Sunwapta many times, but never this close to its origin (Athabasca and Dome Glaciers) that late in the day. In the end, the views made up for it, I guess, since I am safe at home.
Mount Kitchener was first ascended in 1927 by Alfred Ostheimer and Hans Fuhrer
via the ski ascent up the southwest slopes. The mountain was named after a British WWI hero.
Route Description (s)
Southwest Slopes- I/
East Ridge- II, 5.2/ ......After a short down climb, lose 700’ down the broad scree slopes of K2 to the col (9,600’+/-) between K2 and Mount Kitchener. Continue up the broad scree and snow slopes above to the base of a small glacier on the east ridge of Mount Kitchener. Several holes and crevasses litter this glacier including one in 2011 that ran the width of the slope over to the loose rock on the left. It is not a snow slope as mentioned in the Bill Corbett’s guide book. Stay left of the glacier on the scree and/or snow and ascend to the lower left corner. From there about a 1000’ gain up the glacier to the apex above will land you right at the notch in the summit ridge which is the crux of the route. Watch for point release avalanches (photo), rock fall on the left side, holes on the right and the before mentioned crevasse about 2/3rds of the way up. This slope is 40-50 degrees near the top and I used crampons and an alpine axe to ascend it. Being southeast facing, the snow can be quite isothermal on a warm summer day......
Grand Central Couloir- V, 5.9, A2, WI 5/
Ramp Route- V, 5.8, A1/
When to Climb
As before mentioned, the ski route is obviously climbed in the dead of winter and normally done from a winter ski camp in which to tag Snow Dome and other 11er’s in the area. The two steep north face lines are also best done in the winter season to avoid horrendous rock fall hazard and take advantage of more ice making the route a more solid climb. I did the East Ridge a bit early in mid-August 2011. It would be best to make this a late summer climb, to have a cleaner notch (less snow) and firmer 1000’ ascent up the small glacier to the notch not to mention a lower river crossing on return.
External Links100’s of Canmore and Banff National Park multi-pitch rock climbs, ice climbs, alpine climbs and scrambles, just scroll down to routes
Banff National Park, Parks Canada
Best Eats in Canmore: Iron Goat
, tons of organic/free range fare, my favorite is the game meat loaf. As good as prices as anywhere really and the staff is made up of a few aspiring climbers. The main man works his heart out making everything run smooth, not a given in Canmore. Best dining views (and sunny outdoor seating) in town bar none, from Mount Lougheed to Mount Rundle traverses, two of my trademark beta contributions near the town of Canmore. True best of the best mountain local dining experience.
Best Eats in Banff: The Bison
, all organic/free range fare, with a detailed description of their suppliers. Recently expanded (2010), I recommend sticking with the downstairs. Better menu, prices and social ambience. Maybe retire to the bar upstairs for sunset or late night. Bison chili is amazing!
Best Coffee in Canmore: Beamers
, the locals favorite, super wholesome lunch stuff, local guys, no attitude on service
Best Climbers Hangout: Summit Café
, most likely place to find me or my brethren shooting the bull about beta. Best breakfast place in town, good coffee as well, serve Mennonite meats from Valbella
, which is the best place to buy free range products anywhere in the world, right here in Canmore.
All way too expensive in the Bow Valley, but if you must, Mountain Magic
in Banff is far superior to service and actual knowledge about climbing than the two in Canmore.