ACMG Mountain Conditions Summary for the Rockies and Columbia Mountains. August 16, 2018

Hot and smoky. That's OK for your local jazz bar but not so great for mountain activities...

Record high temperatures were recorded in some areas last week. I saw a 34 from my backyard weather station in Banff; the only other time I have seen that number it had a "-" in front of it.

We did have a brief respite last weekend when a cold front passed through all areas but there was more lightning than rain associated with it. Although the highest peaks had a dusting of snow on them on Monday morning it quickly melted.

Smoke cleared briefly but came back with a vengeance on Tuesday - I did not see a mountain until Castle Junction on the drive from Jasper to Banff on Wednesday.

Weather model runs for the next week show no appreciable precipitation. The smoke forecast shows the potential for a brief break over the next few days:

Conditions are simple. Trails are generally dry. Rock and alpine rock routes are in good shape. Any climbing with snow and ice involved is not recommended, with the exception of simple glaciers that have minimal crevasse issues.

Rockfall remains the major concern this week. Gullies, couloirs or faces that have any amount of snow or ice will be spitting rocks. Although the frequency of rockfall has probably lessened in the past week the consequences remain the same. If you travel in this sort of terrain and don't witness a rockfall it doesn't mean that the potential does not exist, it just means that you were lucky not to see something come down. I saw a significant rockfall out of a snow gully in the Rockies a few days ago and there have been two rescues on the Bugaboo-Snowpatch col this week after climbers were hit by rocks (both during cool parts of the morning/evening).

A special note is required for the Bugaboos, where talus slopes of large boulders below many climbs in the Crescent Glacier area sit on unseen ice. These areas are always unstable but they are even more so now and present a significant hazard.

The smoke is also a problem, with Special Air Quality Statements in effect pretty much everywhere. Intense activity is not recommended during these periods...

Smoke also reduces radiation cooling overnight, which results in soft snow conditions - causing difficult travel, soft crevasse bridges and increased chance of rockfall even at night.

OK, the good news is that there are still a lot of things to do. Hiking is in prime shape right now. And any rock climbing objective that doesn't hold snow will be good as well.

In the Rockies it's the prime season for The Fold, Grand Sentinel, Achilles Spire, Cadot Crack. In the Columbias think about Gimli, Sir Donald or Tupper. Consider avoiding the Bugaboos.

If you really need to get on snow and ice then consider lower angled routes with minimal overhead rockfall concerns like Athabasca or Wapta Icefield peaks in the Rockies or Terminal Peak in Rogers Pass.

If you do choose a route with more rockfall potential be cognizant of the hazard, use macro- and micro-routefinding to avoid the problem as much as possible, and reduce your exposure time when you are in the line of fire.

Mark Klassen
Mountain Guide

On The Map

These observations and opinions are those of the person who submitted them. The ACMG and its members take no responsibility for errors, omissions, or lapses in continuity. Conditions differ greatly over time and space due to the variable nature of mountain weather and terrain. Application of this information provides no guarantee of increased safety. Do not use the Mountain Conditions Report as the sole factor in planning trips or making decisions in the field.