Mountain Climbing in Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies

Mountain Climbing in Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies
Part of a World Heritage Site, 4,200-square-mile Jasper National Park lies in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and includes the famous Columbia Icefield as well as the largest glacial-fed lake in the Canadian Rockies, Maligne Lake. It is also home to a plethora of mountains ideal for alpine climbing and mountaineering. A variety of landscapes and ecosystems exist, from glaciated alpine ranges on the west side of the park near the border of British Columbia and Alberta to ranges that see less precipitation to the east.

Winter climbing takes place between December and March. But beware, avalanche danger is a real threat in Jasper National Park. Climbers with little to no experience should not explore this region without expert guidance. Many 8,000- to 11,000-plus-foot peaks can be climbed throughout the summer, with north faces drying out in late summer for rock and mixed climbing. Some of the more classic popular and/or historic routes include The North Face of Mt. Edith Cavell, the Japanese Route on Mt. Alberta and Skyladder on Mt. Andromeda.

The North Face, Mt. Edith Cavell

At 11,033 feet, the highest of Mount Edith Cavell's summits is accessible via numerous routes and is popular among mountaineers. It lies in the Athabasca and Astoria River valleys in the Edith Cavell Region along the Continental Divide. One of the more famous routes---not for the inexperienced---is The North Face, which has three variations to different summits (the East Summit, the Colorado Spur and the Main Summit). The North Face is considered classic by climbers worldwide. The route is more than 5,000 vertical feet and includes a good amount of solid quartzite. Depending on the season, conditions and variations from the original route, there can be mixed snow, ice and rock terrain, as well as some glacier traversing.

This peak is not far from the town of Jasper and can be accessed by Highway 93A, which winds alongside the river through the Athabasca Valley. It leads to the slopes of the peak. The routes are accessible via a trailhead at the end of Cavell Road.


Japanese Route, Mt. Alberta

At 11,884 feet, Mount Alberta is the sixth highest peak in the Canadian Rockies and rises higher than any other peak in the Winston Churchill Range. One of the last summits reached in the Canadian Rockies, it lies far from any roads and includes a strenuous approach and difficult route just to get to the base. Although rated moderately by the six people from the Japanese Alpine Club and their two guides who first climbed it in 1925, the first part of the route includes various horizontal ledge systems covered with debris from the friable, vertical shale cliffs that rise 300- to 600-plus-feet above.

The descent reverses the route and, as with all mountain climbing, conditions vary depending on weather and season.

Skyladder, Mt. Andromeda

Located halfway between the towns of Jasper and Lake Louise at the Columbia Icefield, 11,318-foot Mt. Andromeda stands next to Mt. Athabasca and is surrounded by glaciers. The moderate ice climb Skyladder is the most popular route on the peak and was first climbed in 1960 by J. Fairly and B. Parks. The route climbs the right shoulder of the mountain, crossing a sometimes-difficult bergschrund (crevasse created by glacial ice separating from surface ice) up to an ice face that starts out as steep as 45 degrees but gradually kicks back as the ridge to the summit is approached. Various descents are available. Depending on the season, the ice will alternately stick around through the summer or melt away completely, and conditions vary widely.


Article Written By Lizzy Scully

Lizzy Scully is a senior contributing editor for Mountain Flyer magazine and the executive director of the nonprofit Girls Education International. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from University of Utah and Master of Science in journalism from Utah State University.

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