During the Guide Training Alpine from June 23 - June 30th we visited venues in the Bow Valley, Kananaskis, Banff NP and Jasper NP. Weather for the week was clear and hot! Wind and cloud cover was something we wished for but rarely observed.
Trip and Conditions Summary
June 23 -26
Kananaskis & Bow Valley:
Mt Baldy, West Summit via west ridge
Mt Buller, 1st Buttress
Mt Lorette, South ridge
Dry conditions where found on all routes except for Eisenhower.
Eisenhower had snow in the descent gully off of the dragons back. There was ample water flowing on the approach to the Castle Mountain Hut with snow lingering in the upper gulleys.
Columbia Icefields - In general the snow line in the area is around 2500m but retreating rapidly with notable changes day to day. Lows dipped to 15 degrees with day time highs to 30+ degrees. To help manage the extreme heat all routes were climbed starting at 2am and finishing by 10am and we did our best to choose objectives that had minimal rockfall and/or avalanche potential.
Athabasca North glacier via North tongue:
Large rocks perched on glacier ice.
High rockfall hazard!
Bare ice showing as you get onto the glacier. Height of snow ranged from bare ice to 3m. Snowpack was punchy in areas of 50cm or less of snow, otherwise reasonable travel. The bergschrund en-route to the upper glacier was still supportive and easily passible though we suspect this to change in a matter of days. The second bergschrund guarding access to the base of the route still had several options remaining for crossing. The Silverhorn had snowy ice on the face which required lots of digging to get good screws
A2 via Boundary glacier:
Height of snow varied from bare ice to 280cm. Travel was reasonable but gets punchy in shallow areas with less than 50cm of lingering snow. We opted to stick with the climbers right hand approach on the glacier and gave the steeper more direct left hand version a miss given all the liquid water moving in the base of the snowpack. The rock was dry on the summit block with no snow in the gully’s.
Overall conditions were changing very rapidly at the Columbia Icefields due to Extreme Heat! Our primary concerns were rockfall followed by loose wet avalanches. Audible rockfall was noted through out our days in the area and loose wet avalanches, while not directly observed, were starting to scour down to the bed surfaces. We also gave a large berth to the Ramp route Icefall and noted frequent small releases while in the area.
Play safe out there!
Submitted on behalf of the Instructors and Students from the ACMG TAP GTA 2