ACMG Mountain Conditions Summary for the Rockies and Columbia Mountains. May 28, 2021

The past few days have been mixed with numerous small storms from the west carrying modest precip amount of rain and, above 2000 m, snow. Accumulations in the high alpine range from 20+ cm west of the divide to 10 cm or less further east. The forecast for the weekend is for drying out and clearing, with Sunday looking to be a lovely day to be in the mountains. There should be good overnight freezes with low temps in the alpine of -4 or colder, plenty of sun, and light winds.


Anyone who has been out rock climbing lately will have noticed that the handholds are especially friable after a many months of melting and freezing. Rockfall, whether human triggered or from snowmelt, is a big concern right now, especially in gully features or on faces that are melting out and exposing rock. Rockfall hazard will spike once temps rise above zero and/or the sun comes out. The sun starts hitting the high alpine first and so that's where things start heating up first, especially on rocky NE to E aspects at this time of the year as the sun rises and gains intensity.

For this time of the year bridges are hanging in really well. Glacier travel generally in great shape, but it's getting into late spring so go prepared to travel with normal caution -- meaning rope up in a group of 3 or more if you need to ski over sags, travel in thinner snowpack areas, or when the visibility craps out.

We've had our second fatality due to a bear attack this spring in the eastern slopes of the Rockies. Carry bear spray and make lots of noise, and be especially cautious rounding blind corners on trails.

We're well into a spring diurnal pattern, meaning that the avalanche hazard will be low or moderate to start the day and rise rapidly as the temps and sun heat things up. There has been a fair bit of new snow deposited in the high alpine, and possibly with some wind transport, so make a careful assessment of the slopes you expose yourself to.

This will be one of those weekends where all kinds of things are possible. You could join the hordes skiing up the Athabasca Glacier towards Mt. Columbia or the Twins, etc. Hector will likely be in great shape. Rogers Pass missions are a possibility still. The caveat? Below treeline travel will range from pleasant hiking on dry trails to misery & postholing in isothermal snow. You won't find good ski travel until you're above 2000 m, likely higher. But the rewards may well be worth the effort.

Rock climbing is off to a slow start, but low elevation climbing as well as sunny aspect alpine climbs are coming into shape. The main caveat here is loose rock. Test your holds carefully before committing to them and be aware of where the rock you do knock off will land.

Hiking below the treeline ranges from dry and pleasant to muddy. Search out trails with good drainage on sunny aspects, stay on the trails to avoid braiding, and be prepared to turn around or have a backup plan if conditions aren't what you expected.

There are almost 8 billion people on this planet and it was only a matter of time before they discovered the mountains of western Canada. Gone are the days when I could imagine I had the entire Rockies all to myself. We need to learn to live with each other. Fortunately the mountains are vast and there's still a spot for you to enjoy solitude without getting in the way of other mountain lovers -- you just have to put your mind to the problem of where that spot is. If someone else has wakened up earlier than you and beaten a track up an alpine face then maybe just let them have it. If you follow on their heels then you are taking on all kinds of risks as well as forcing on them the responsibility of taking care of you (i.e. not knocking snow, ice or rock on your head; helping you out if you get injured; etc.) in addition to likely compromising their own safety in doing so. Sure there are exceptions; there's nothing wrong with sharing the mountains either. But carefully consider the risks and the benefits. And finally, be respectful and compassionate with one other when things don't work out the way you hoped.

Have a great, safe weekend.

Tom Wolfe
Mountain Guide ACMG/IFMGA

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.