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Snow and Ice Mountaineering

This two day course covers all aspects of traveling on snow and ice. Safety techniques, including self arrest and crevasse rescue are covered, as well as the placement of snow and ice anchors. Add a third day and under the guidance of your instructor use your new skills to ascend Mt. Athabasca reaching 11,452' at the Columbia Icefields. (Dependent on conditions and group!) Considered a Classic Climb ! Snow Schools are held in the Columbia Icefields area where camping is available. All technical equipment is provided except boots. These can be rented locally. Gravity Gear in Jasper has a good selection of Plastic Boots, call (780) 852-3155

Course itinerary

Please download and print this next section, there are some important details.

Please Download and read the waiver.

Payment, transportation, and accomodation information

We will meet the morning of the first day at 08:30 MST. Meet at the Hilda Hostel parking lot. (Left hand side of road driving south, about 3km south of the Banff Park Boundary) The parking lot is kind of hidden so if you pass the hostel you will have gone to far. Click here for instructions


Make sure you fill out the Medical section included with the WAIVER

Here we will get all the equipment organized, sign waivers, collect any final payments, and discuss what will be covered over the weekend.

It will be good if people think about what they would like to see covered over the weekend, or if they have any expectations for the three days.

DAY 1 - Parkers Ridge

A 20 minute walk to treeline will take us to our first location. Here the following skills will be covered: Tying knots, including figure eight on a bight, overhand, single fisherman's on a bight, prussik knot, and tying into the rope. Following this we will cover how to walk on snow, a progression of steps, and the use of an ice axe. Self arresting will be covered followed by the use of different types of snow anchors. After lunch we will rope up, and head up to an area where we can practice crevasse rescue. We will also discuss belaying on snow, and climbing on steeper snow. We will then progress to a demonstration of a 2:1 crevasse rescue system. The remainder of the afternoon will consist of practicing this system.

DAY 2 - Toe of the North Glacier of Mount Athabasca

We will meet at 0800 at the parking lot with the gate where the buses drive up to the toe of the glacier. A 45 minute walk will take us to the toe of the north glacier. (Crampons will have been adjusted the evening before.) Start off with practicing French technique, flat footing and becoming comfortable with crampons, then the use of an ice axe with crampons. Following this we will practice the placement of ice anchors. This will include ice screws, ice pitons, bollards and abalakov threads. We will then continue to practice crevasse rescue using ice anchors. If time permits a short walk onto some steeper terrain may be undertaken. This will be an earlier day so we can prepare for Mt. Athabasca.

DAY 3 - Climb of Mount Athabasca or other Peak.

The third day depends on conditions and weather!

We will discuss this the evening before and look at the options. If decided, We will meet at 04:00 READY TO WALK! One of the easier routes on Mt Athabasca will be attempted. Remember this is totally dependent on conditions! We will talk about it objectives for the third day if it seems the weather is not looking good for a large alpine ascent. This will be a long day, approximately 10 hours. Elevation gain is about 4200 feet. This will be the culmination of all the skills taught over the first 2 days. Though technically straightforward, any route on Mt Athabasca requires timing, endurance, snow evaluation skills, and group planning. A debriefing will be done back at the parking lot. Return gear, and safely drive home again!

Equipment List

Clothing should be suitable for extreme climatic conditions varying form extreme heat to blowing cold winter conditions. A layering system is essential. Stay away from cotton type clothing ! Suggestions: Polypropylene next to the body; then pile or wool with a wind breaking jacket, i.e.: gortex, ultrex, coated nylon, etc.) Be sure to bring extra clothing for other days if yours gets wet.

  • Good mountaineering quality pair of leather (3/4 to full shank) or plastic climbing boots. No light gortex type hikers, as boots must be stiff enough to accept crampons. Should be classed as a light to medium mountaineering boot. PLASTIC BOOTS ARE BEST. THINK ABOUT RENTING SOME FOR THE COURSE.
  • Light down jacket or insulated parka for inactive sessions such as crevasse rescue.
  • 2 pairs of gloves or mitts with shells
  • Warm winter toque or ski hat.
  • Sun hat
  • Rain gear. (If your outer shell is not waterproof)
  • Knee high gaiters
  • Umbrella. (Optional)
  • Quality sunglasses or glacier glasses.
  • Goggles (optional, but a good idea for stormy weather)
  • 40-50 litre day pack
  • Water bottle (1 litre min)
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Flashlight or headlamp
  • Personal first aid kit
  • Blister kit
  • Knife
  • ski pole (optional, a collapsible ski pole is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for hiking)

All the technical climbing gear listed below is provided. If you have your own gear bring it along as it will be better to use the gear you will be using after the course.

Please call in advance to book the gear you will need from the list below....

  • Crampons that fit !
  • Sit or full body harness
  • Helmet
  • Ice axe (70cm mountaineering axe)
  • Prusik cords: 2 x 7mm diameter x 5m long (Don't Get 6mm Cord!)
  • 2 ice screws (optional)
  • 2 regular carabiners
  • 2 locking carabiners
  • 1 x 10ft long x 2.5cm wide nylon webbing sling


Participants are responsible for their own meals, camping, and tenting. Their are no grocery stores in the vicinity. Make sure you bring all the food and camping stuff you will need. Since its car camping you can drive to you site. The Hostel is a 200m walk from the road.

Payment, transportation, and accomodation information


Crevasse 101 (this file is a link for people taking one of our courses. It is a set of reminders for participants who have taken one of our courses)