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Mt. Athabasca, Alberta, Canada

I climbed Mt. Athabasca via the North Face Bypass (III 5.4) on Friday, June 26th.

We woke at 2:00am, had a quick breakfast and drove the short distance from the campground to a parking lot at the start of the coach road across from the icefields visitor center. By 2:45 we geared up and started walking up the coach road and onto the lateral moraine. At about 5am we reached the end of the moraine and put our crampons on to continue onto the glacier. We traversed across part of the glacier that was streaming with rivulets of melt water and climbed up on the left side of the glacier below Silverhorn to reduce our serac fall exposure. When we reached the bowl below the north face there was evidence of a recent huge serac failure. A 100x200m field of debris including chunks of ice the size of small cars.

We had originally planned to climb the North Face route but conditions were quite warm and rock fall was a major concern so we crossed the debris field and headed to the gullies on the east side of the face. We crossed the bergschrund crevasse on a good snow bridge and climbed up the gullies to reach the east shoulder of the north face at about 8:30am. By this time the sun was warming the north face and we could safely watch the rock fall from where we were and be glad we had made the right decision not to climb the face. At one point a large barrage of rocks ripped down the slopes as if someone had dumped a wheelbarrow full from the top.

A bit of climbing on poor quality rock covered with ice, a short traverse across the east side of the face and some low angle ice climbing up a hidden gully, then a bit more scrambling on ice covered rock saw us on the summit just before 11am. It was mostly sunny and excellent views of Mt. Columbia, Mt. Andromeda, Snow Dome, Mt. Kitchener, Mt Alberta, the Saskatchewan and Athabasca glaciers and the Columbia ice fields rewarded us.

We descended via the AA col (a col that separates Mt. Athabasca from Mt. Andromeda), walking over the summit of Silverhorn on the way, and got back to the car at 2:15pm. From there we returned to the campground, packed up our tent and headed back to Canmore.