Glacier National Park, British Columbia: Asulkan Valley

Hit four technical summits in the birthplace of North American mountaineering.
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Hit four technical summits in the birthplace of North American mountaineering.

Canada’s Glacier National Park, 200 miles north of Idaho in the moist Columbia Mountains, boasts all of the craggy splendor of its Montana namesake, but with more glaciers, more grizzlies, and better rock. In 1899, Swiss guides led the continent’s first alpine expeditions up the park’s then-unclimbed summits. Follow in their handholds in the historic Rogers Pass region on this 17.4-mile, four-day sampler of the area’s glacial terrain. Pack crampons, ice axe, crevasse rescue gear, a 30-meter rope, and a light rack (and have the skill to use them) or hire a guide (below).
From the Illecillewaet trailhead, backpack in 5.1 miles, gaining 2,900 feet to the Alpine Club of Canada’s Asulkan Hut, a two-story palace of wood and glass that sleeps 12. Day two, scout the neighborhood with a half-day climb of 9,341-foot Youngs Peak, a glaciated 1.5-mile, class 3 ascent just south of the hut. The summit offers vistas of the massive granite chisel of 10,816-foot Mt. Sir Donald and the broad icefields of the Glacier Crest.
The next day, embark on the Jupiter Traverse, a strenuous but technically straightforward 4.7-mile, class 4 climb across the three sub-peaks of 9,140-foot Mt. Jupiter, which dominates the hut’s western skyline. Wind through glacial icefalls on the Thorington Route to 8,361-foot Leda, Jupiter’s southernmost summit, then scramble across the exposed-but-easy quartzite knife-edge to the other sub-peaks, Pollux and Castor. Here you face a decision: Down climb steep, shattered ridgeline to a four-person metal bivouac shelter on icebound Sapphire Col (slow class 4), or return the way you came (easier, and a day shorter).
If you sleep in the Sapphire Col shelter, return to the Asulkan Hut and its approach trail by descending northeast to the foot of the icefield.
Map Chrismar Adventure Map Glacier NP--Rogers Pass ($13CAD; 905-852-6151; chrismar.com); NTS quad 082N05 ($16CAD for waterproof versions; 888-545-8111; fedmaps.com)
Huts $36CAD/person/night; (403) 678-3200; alpineclubofcanada.ca; Askulkan includes stove, fuel, cookward and sleeping pads; Sapphire Col is unequipped.
Guide Revelstoke Alpine Adventures; (877) 837-7141; revelstokealpine.ca
Contact (250) 837-7500; pc.gc.ca

Permit Entry $8CAD/person/day; Backcountry $10CAD/person/night

-Mapped by Steve Howe

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 28.0

Waypoints

ASH001

Location: 51.266225, -117.49431

Illecillewaet trailhead

ASH002

Location: 51.262326, -117.491314

Turn right at the junction.

ASH003

Location: 51.258826, -117.48838

Turn right at the second junction.

ASH004

Location: 51.223523, -117.470397

Timberline; this is a good break spot.

ASH005

Location: 51.214326, -117.469592

Asulkan Hut. Climb southeast to summit Youngs Peak.

YPK001

Location: 51.211627, -117.463643

Glacial tarn

YPK002

Location: 51.203666, -117.450246

Ridge

YPK003

Location: 51.205501, -117.447871

Youngs Peak

LPX001

Location: 51.205601, -117.49025

Leda Peak

LPX002

Location: 51.206585, -117.491921

Pollux Peak