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Mountaineering in Canada

Canadian mountaineering has only been a recreational sport for just over a hundred years. After the Europeans came to Canada in the 1950’s and 1960's and taught alpine climbing to the locals, mountaineering in Canada took off as a niche sport. The Canadian Rockies became a popular locale for many international mountain climbers.

History of Canadian Mountaineering

The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) completed its rail line through the Rocky Mountains to British Columbia in 1885 and Canadian mountaineering was born. The Rockies and Selkirk Mountains were explored to locate mountaineering opportunities. In the late 1880's, international mountain climbers gather at Glacier House below Rogers Pass. By the late 1890's, Lake Louise took over as the "place to be" for mountaineers.

Due to the increased popularity of mountaineering in Canada, the Alpine Club of Canada was formed in 1906. It wasn't long after formation that attempts were made on the highest Canadian peak of the Rockies; Mount Robson at 3,954 m in 1908. There were 5 failed attempts before Conrad Kain successfully scaled it. The Kain Face is named after him to commemorate what is considered to be one of the most remarkable mountain climbing achievements of its time.

In 1924, the Alpine Club of Canada targeted the ascension of Canada's highest peak in the St Elias Mountains of the Yukon; Mount Logan (5,959 meter). A team of mountain climbers led by Albert MacCarthy took two months to scale the mountain in 1925.

After World War II, many Europeans settled in Western Canada and began to teach alpine climbing to the locals. This core of Canadian mountain climbers led the way in tackling some of the most difficult ascents in the Rockies and elsewhere. Canadian mountaineering led to the limited popularity of ice climbing in Canada and rock climbing in Canada.

It wasn't until 1982 when Bill March of Calgary, Alberta led a Canadian contingent on a climb of Mt. Everest. Laurie Skreslet of Calgary became the first Canadian mountaineer to stand atop the highest elevation in the world.

Top Locations for Canadian Mountaineering

The Rocky Mountains are where Canadian mountaineering gained a "foothold", so to speak. There are plenty of opportunities for mountain climbing in the major National Parks such as Banff, Jasper, and Lake Louise.

  • Mount Athabasca in Lake Louise offers intermediate to expert alpine climbing.
  • Mount Louise in Banff National Park has expert mountain climbing with technical ascents combined with easy access.
  • Mount Edith is just outside the center of Banff and offers intermediate to expert climbs. There are difficult routes that require technical strategies as well as easier routes for the less skilled.
  • Banff's Mount Stanley has mountain climbing but is mainly used for those interested in ice climbing in Canada.
British Columbia
  • Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park in the Canadian Rockies is a popular spot for mountaineering in Canada. There are a number of routes to the summit. Access to Mount Assiniboine Lodge is by helicopter, hiking, or cross-country skiing.
  • Squamish, British Columbia is becoming world renowned for its big wall climbing. The Stratamus Chief is being hailed as one of the top big wall climbing locations in North America.
Canadian Mountaineering Schools & Guide Services

Yamnuska Mountain Adventures offers Canadian mountaineering training for beginner, intermediate, and advanced mountain climbing. There are courses in avalanche training and wilderness first aid as well as a 3-month Mountaineering in Canada Skills & Leadership Training.

For those that are accomplished climbers Yamnuska offers guided tours including: Canada West Mountain School offers mountain climbing and mountain safety training from their Squamish, B.C. headquarters. In operation since 1982 it has grown into the largest mountain climbing school in British Columbia. They will train you on some of the best areas for mountaineering in Canada.

Guided adventures include:
  • Rock and ice climbing
  • Ski touring
  • Mountaineering in Canada
  • Backcountry ski touring
Canadian Mountaineering Equipment

Depending on where you are mountaineering in Canada, you'll require the proper equipment to get you to the summit. If you are going on a guided mountain climbing adventure, some of the equipment will be supplied and inspected by the tour operator. If you plan on scaling the mountain with your own group, be sure you know the conditions you will be climbing through.
  • Mountaineering Boots and Crampons
  • Ice axe
  • Snowshoes
  • Avalanche kit
  • First aid kit
  • Climbing harnesses
  • Mountain climbing ropes
  • Climbing screws
  • Sun protection
  • Sleeping bag
  • Camp stove
  • Compass and maps
This is in no way a comprehensive list of the essential equipment you will require when mountaineering in Canada. Your favourite “outdoors” supplier can help you with your climbing needs.
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