Crowfoot Mountain Ski Ascent

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.

Gear

In the winter, this is a ski touring trip, with full avalanche gear and training.

Overview

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.

Here is a view of the entire trip up Crowfoot Mountain from the trees above the canyon on the bottom left, to the summit on the far right. Photo courtesy of our fellow blogger Monkey’s Tale.

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.

The start of the trail from the parking lot to Bow Lake. If in doubt, head towards Num-Ti-Jah Lodge.

Crossing Bow Lake can take forever, especially if there is a sharp wind.

Crossing Bow Lake. Behind the last skier is the domed roof of Num-Ti-Jah Lodge. Use this as a heading when crossing back across the lake if there are no discernable tracks.

Main Trail

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.

Behind me is the top of the ‘luge run’ in the trees. My father-in-law Franz Dopf has skied here since the early 1950s, and it was always treed. Franz and my husband Mike skied up over twenty years ago and were shocked to find the entire area wiped out from an avalanche.

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.

The entrance to the canyon. It starts out wide, and then gets narrower the deeper you go.

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.

This is looking back towards the treed section, as seen from the top of the headwall, just below the Bow hut. From the trees, instead of going straight, turn left and ski up and over the far ridge to start the trek up Crowfoot.

From the trees, turn left and make your way up. This section is actually pretty steep, but also short.

This is above the trees, above the canyon. To go to Bow Hut, you would go straight, Instead, take a hard left turn into the trees. This short bit is surprisingly steep.

Once out of the trees, there is a partial view of Crowfoot Mountain. The true summit is beyond the subpeak on the left.

Coming out of the trees and our first view of Crowfoot (left), with Vulture Peak on the right.

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.

The last lonely tree.
Mike working his way up, one mound after another. At this point, there was no wind, and with the sun coming out, it was shaping up to be a very hot day.
The best views were all behind us. We made sure to turn around every now and again to enjoy. Vulture Peak is on the left. St. Nicolas Peak is next. Right in the middle is Bow Hut. The round mound on the right is The Onion.

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.

Mt. Balfour is on the right, with it’s head in the clouds. The Wapta Traverse route from the Balfour Hut to the col is up the ramp at the base of the mountain.

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.

This is the route up to the peak before the main Crowfoot Mountain summit. I think most people go this way. With the thin snowpack on top, we thought we would get further skiing across that 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.

After ditching our skis, it was a short walk to the summit of Crowfoot Mountain.

The views were good to the south, but getting obscured by clouds to the north.

From the summit, looking north to the sub peak. The ridge is pretty bare, and infested with cornices. The lower route seemed like a good idea.
Looking east. I think the dome in the foreground is Bowcrow Peak. The other mountains are across the valley on the other side of Highway 93.
Looking south.

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.

Our ski tracks are on the left. I might try the line on the right nex time.

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.

If you found this post useful, please do me a huge favour and click the Star button to “Like” it. You can also follow my blog, follow me on Instagram, or join my FaceBook page Al’s Adventurers.

Alisen

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.

The amount of time spent on Crowfoot is not that long, but the approach makes for a long day. This is an ideal trip from the Bow Hut.
The real elevation gain doesn’t start until above the canyon. Then it’s more or less an unrelenting ascent, which of course, then makes for a delightful ski back down.
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Posted in Adventures, Skiing
34 comments on “Crowfoot Mountain Ski Ascent
  1. moragnoffke says:

    Wow! That’s amazing. I would hate to be that cold when starting out😅

  2. Doug Goodman says:

    What a trek! I love all the details you gave. You seem to really know the route to Crowfoot, but my guess is you’ve been there often!

    • alisendopf says:

      Thank you Doug. I’m glad you enjoyed the virtual tour. While I have been to that general area lots, I have never been up Crowfoot before. That comes from putting in 20+ years of mountain time 🙂

      The reason it’s so detailed is because other people use trip reports to plan their own outings. We all learn from each other.

      Thanks for visiting, and I hope you have an adventurous day – however that may look for you!

  3. Very nice trail description Alisen.

    The photo where you look to the east, with all the high peaks is really nice! I love to see all those peaks covered with snow!

  4. Great report of the trail up Crowfoot. It’s such a beautiful area, we’ve hardly been there this year. We’ve never seen an avalanche in that spot after the lake, but I’m always leary of it. We have seen a few slides in the narrow gulleys beyond the canyon. Gorgeous picutres. Maggie

    • alisendopf says:

      Hi Maggie,
      Thanks again for the photo. It was absolutely perfect for a whole view of the route.

      I know! I’ve not spent much time there either. Did Crowfoot Glades and Crystal Ridge, but not too much on the Wapta.

      Yes, I’ve seen slides in the gully, but I also skied a massive slide below the headwall going up to Bow hut (triggered by the overhead environment). The entire basin was debris. I now move just a little bit faster through that area…
      Alisen

  5. That’s such fascinating place to visit 😊.

  6. Happy birthday to your husband. What a wonderful way to celebrate a birthday. How brave to sleep in your campervan overnight without any heating in the back of the van! But looks like it was all worth it because this looks like such a lovely area to go cross-country skiing. I’m impressed at your ability to navigate through all the snow without getting lost.

    • alisendopf says:

      Thanks! I will pass that along to Mike.
      Well, had I KNOWN the heating wasn’t working, I might not have been so keen to go 🙂
      Normally, we would be at a remote hut for his birthday, but with covid, it’s almost impossible to book an entire hut with just immediate family. Too expensive. So, this was a good consolation prize. Next year! Right? Please tell me next year will be better 😦

  7. Msdedeng says:

    So much snow still!

  8. cheriewhite says:

    Wow! The scenery is breathtaking! I’m glad you had a great time! 🙂

    • alisendopf says:

      Thanks Cherie – it was a great time. It’s nice when you put a mountain on your list and it gets ticked off so quickly. That is NOT always the case 🙂

      • cheriewhite says:

        I totally agree. Sometimes we don’t get to tick off as many things on the bucket list as we’d like. I’m so glad you got that opportunity and I wish you many, many more! 😀

  9. lioran15 says:

    Beautiful treck, Stunning Pictures!

    • alisendopf says:

      Thankyou so much. I was looking at your GR4-GR400 hiking photos. Oh my goodness! So spectacular. What scenery. So lucky to live so close to that.

  10. Deborahjane says:

    That’s amazing hello

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