As the second tallest peak in the Canadian Rockies, Mt Columbia is high on the list of spring skimo objectives. It’s no easy task however. Some choose to summit in a (very long!) day , but most camp out on the icefields. Expect to navigate crevasses and bergschrunds as well as avoiding serac icefall.
14-18 hrs/2 days
At the Icefields Discovery Centre, turn left and head down the road to park at the main parking lot. You’ll probably have to hike a little ways to the toe of the Athabasca where you can begin skinning. Skinning up the heavily crevassed Athabasca glacier can be the crux of the trip. The most straightforward route is looker’s right, under the Snowdome seracs. However, this is also the most dangerous – the seracs can be very active (even at night). The alternative is to traverse left along the heavily crevassed bench. In either case, be sure to heavily research the route. Proper glacier travel gear and rescue training are a must. Once on top of the icefields, you can begin the very long journey to the base of Mt Columbia. The route generally heads southwest. After roughly 6km from the top of the Athabasca glacier, you will reach the trench. It’s a short descent into this then a similarly short ascent coming out. From here, Mt Columbia should be in full view. Continue heading for the base while being mindful of the crevasses as you get nearer. At some point, you’ll probably find it best to bootpack up the east face to the summit, but be aware of the bergschrund as well as crevasses higher up.
Descent: There are some alternative descents but the most common is to ski down the ascent route.