ApproachThis is a 4000’+/- ascent day, but I recorded 5400’ on my altimeter
. It depends on how many peaks you are ascending and/or which ones. Follow the old unmarked ski trail on the west side of the road up and over a ridge down to a much tamer portion of Helen Creek. This is a widely used animal trail today and is subject to bear closure by the parks.
There is a good chance, depending on when you are going in, that you will have to remove your boots to cross the creek. We ran across in gaiters and stayed relatively dry. Continue on the trail for 5 minutes to the second avalanche slope. Stay on the trail across this open area and leave the trail to your right on an upward diagonal into the trees and gain the ridge directly under the Dolomite Peak with a pinnacle to its right. We ascended the right hand side of this avalanche slope, only to have to traverse deep snow to the proper ridge.
Stay on firmer ground to the right, but notice the softer scree to your left, useful for descent. Ascend several thousand feet to the base of Dolomite Peaks. Several steep walls confront you with multiple gullies running out of these walls. They present you with several alternatives to the summit mass itself. Dealing with a ton of new snow, we first traversed left by a wide gully to a shorter one that started with a significant roof low to the base. We ascended the immediate left of the roof on rock and ice and felt somewhat protected. Continue left and traverse right to climb a short step up onto a horizontal deep snow ledge. Proceed to the left hand corner and turn right to ascend a final narrow snow gully that takes you around to solid climbing up peak number four (from the north). Downclimbing this route with prevalent snow and ice conditions demands attention.
Once back at the base, traverse back south to the wider gully and ascend deep and steep snow past several ice-rock bands to a narrow steeper section about 200’ above. Pass through this narrow section and traverse right to stay out of the middle avalanche area. Circumvent back around left to a small col that grants tremendous views out the “back door” of the Dolomite Peaks. Enjoy a rest and remove your alpine gloves for the challenging ascent to the final summit. Pass through a small opening on the right side of the “finger” gendarme to the base of a corner climb up solid rock. Notice the exposure over your right shoulder. A fall here could land you several thousand feet down the east side of the Dolomite Peaks.
Climb the corner crack to the final summit of peak 5. The summit gives way to the Wapta Icefield, Crowfoot Mountain and its glacier, Mt. Hector and the Molar glacier, Cirque Mountain (which shares the Dolomite Pass), Bow Summit/Bow Lake as well as the remote vast mountain ranges to the east.
Imagine the look on my face when on descent I observed that my ascent route had been rubbed out by a point avalanche that occurred when I was on the summit.
As my partner, who had stayed behind, surveyed the avalanche debris several thousand feet below, I descended the new route of rock and ice, minus the snow. Thus the need to pack that extra ice tool which I had. Once back out of the gully, take a breather and descend the ridge you ascended earlier in the day to your immediate left. Do not descend the avalanche gully directly below.
You will find fast and soft scree to descend, climbers right on the ridge. The bushwhacking below tree line on this ridge is easy going compared to most routes in the Canadian Rockies. Continue back down to Helen Creek and the old ski trail heading back south. I have purposely left Kane’s published book on Dolomite Peaks off of this page. We found it unreliable for this ascent, in these conditions.
Helmet, gaiters, bear spray, alpine ax, ice tool and crampons (if early season) and goggles for possible harsh winds and/or intermittent snow storms.