March 12, 2021
We always celebrate my husband’s birthday with some sort of ski adventure. This year, it was Crowfoot Mountain. Our Westphalia campervan had just come back from a year in the shop getting a completely new mechanical overhaul, so we decided to take it skiing for its maiden voyage.
While the mechanical is now top notch, there were still a lot of other issues to sort out, like the lack of heating in the back of the van. I absolutely froze trying to sleep, and I could tell how close to dawn it was when the temperature dipped even lower. When we finally dragged ourselves out into the chilly air, Mike’s coffee set up didn’t work properly. Under-slept, decaffeinated, and hungry after a very light breakfast, we started out across Bow Lake. Despite the rocky start, we nabbed the summit and actually had a pretty fun day.
In the winter, this is a ski touring trip, with full avalanche gear and training.
From the Bow Lake parking lot, ski across the lake to the canyon. At the top of the canyon and above the trees, instead of going straight ahead to Bow hut, turn left and head into the final set of trees, towards Crowfoot. Once out of the trees, you can plan your route up the undulating mounds. Summit ascent is either to the subpeak to the north of the summit, and then continuing along the ridge, or taking a long line below the summit. Return the way you came.
Parking and Trail Head
Park at the Bow Lake parking lot, which is the turnoff at Num-Ti-Jah Lodge. This is a fairly large parking lot with several outhouse buildings. Do not park on the highway pull out.
The trail head starts from the south end of the parking lot. This area gets enough use that the trail towards the lake should be in. If not, then enjoy your early season ski as you break trail towards to the lake.
Crossing Bow Lake can take forever, especially if there is a sharp wind.
At the end of the lake, head over to the trees at the base of the initial climb.
This section of the trail is a lovely, curved path that gently starts the elevation gain. On the way out, it is a super fast luge track, so keep your eyes open for downhill skiers if you are coming in later in the day.
We skied out of the trees and into an open area. This used to be thick trees, but a massive avalanche did some major logging. It is growing back now, but be aware.
Skirt around to the right, and continue across until you reach the top of the moraine.
At the base of the moraine is the entrance to the canyon. This area is absolutely gorgeous.
Head up the creek, and into the trees above the canyon.
At the end of the treed section, a wide panorama opens up. Up to the left is the route to Crowfoot Mountain. Straight ahead is the impressive headwall of Vulture Peak, and directly across on the right is Bow Hut, sitting on a rocky shelf.
From the trees, turn left and make your way up. This section is actually pretty steep, but also short.
Once out of the trees, there is a partial view of Crowfoot Mountain. The true summit is beyond the subpeak on the left.
Depending on conditions and hazards, pick a route up the undulating mounds. On climbers right are several skin and ski tracks from people skiing laps. We stayed in the middle to give us options for the final ascent of the ridge to the summit.
As we stood on a small mound just to the right of the subpeak, we got a great look at Mount Balfour, and the route to Balfour Col from the hut. It seemed like forever since I was there.
As the weather was warming up, Avalanche Canada was warning about collapsing cornices, so we decided to avoid the subpeak and more specifically, the walk along the ridge. We instead angled our way up the the final slope to the summit.
We eventually ran out of snow, and reluctantly left our skis behind. The final boot pack to the summit was actually pretty nice, with intense winds pushing us up.
The views were good to the south, but getting obscured by clouds to the north.
Distance to summit was 10.4 km, and 1,103 m elevation. Time to summit was 5 hours and 30 minutes on no coffee and little food. Not my best outing, but I got it done.
Crowfoot Mountain Return
We walked back to our skis, and followed our skin track back. Unfortunately, the snow was thinner than we thought, and we both caught some rocks. Good thing Mike is pretty darn talented at ski base repair and waxing.
Once back in the main basin, we kept to the middle. However, next time I might choose to go skiers left and try that line instead.
Near the bottom of the basin just above the trees, we went to the right of the creek drainage, and then skied down through the narrow trees. Next time, I would go left of the drainage, and then ski across to the top of the canyon.
Once we were above the canyon, it was a straight shot back down, up and over the moraine, and back across Bow Lake.
Totals – Tracked on Strava
Date: March 12, 2021
Group: Two (Alisen and Mike)
Distance: 20.7 km
Elevation: 1,103 m (3,640′)
Time: 8 hours (includes lunch & breaks) Elapsed time is 5 hrs 50 min.