Course Agenda - Introduction to Alpinism

General Course Agenda


Day 1 - Snow School & Evening Navigation Session

On the first day we meet at the Icefields Campground at 9:00am for Introductions, a course overview and to sign waivers. We will sign out our technical gear for the trip at this time as well. From here we travel down to the Snow School site where we cover the basics of safe movement. Ice axe technique, self-arrest, and snow anchors are all covered during our first day in the field. We'll return from the field for dinner, finishing off the day with an evening session on the fundamentals of mountain navigation.


Day 2 - Ice School & Evening Introduction to Route Planning

During the second day we cover proper crampon application and technique, as well as introduce a few new ways to use your ice axe. We'll introduce a variety of ice anchors, discuss ascent and descent techniques for alpine ice features as well as an introduction to glacier morphology and crevassing patterns. We'll also look at the difference between short-roping and roping up for glacier travel (long-rope), how to set up each of the two rope configurations and when to apply them.




Day three is the chance to directly apply your new knowledge on the ascent of a big alpine summit in the Columbia Icefields area! There are numerous options that will fit a variety of fitness and ability levels. The most common objectives include:


  • Mount Athabasca - 3491m
  • Boundary Peak - 2879m
  • A2 - 2957m




Day 4 - Travel Day & Introduction to Traditional Rock Protection at Lake Louise.
             Evening Session: Accident & Emergency Response

An early (but civilized) start gets us packing up our camp at the Icefields and ready to move down to the Lake Louise area for the 2nd half of the program. We'll spend the late morning and afternoon at the Back of the Lake in Lake Louise, a world class rock climbing venue where the focus of our day will be to introduce traditional rock protection. Here you will learn the basics of properly placing and assessing traditional protection, as well as learning to build your own anchors. There will be an introduction to leading and students will be given the opportunity to practice and be coached on their own protection placements on a mock-lead under the watchful eye of their guide.

At the day's end we'll retire back to Lake Louise for showers, dinner and our evening session.


Day 5 - Short-Roping Skills & Protecting 4th Class Rock Terrain.

We depart in the morning for the Castle Mountain Fire Lookout. A 20 minute drive, east of Lake Louise. 
Passing the lookout, we leave treeline behind and begin to ascend through 4th Class Rock Terrain, following weaknesses and gully systems amongst the huge vertical walls of Castle Mountain. This will be our venue for an introduction to short-roping. After we arrive at the Castle Mountain Bivi Hut, we'll unpack our gear and head out for the afternoon to continue practicing and introducing furthur techniques for movement over 4th class rock.

The night spent at the Castle Mountain Bivi is often a highlight of the trip. Despite the rustic nature of the hut, it hangs far above the valley floor with some of the most stunning views available in the Bow Valley. It also has the distinct honour of having the best outhouse in the Canadian Rockies. 





We will attempt an ascent to the top of Castle Mountain via one of 3 Alpine Rock Routes on the upper half of the mountain. The focus of the day will be to have your guide demonstrate proper application of technique, and the required fluidity to unlock these big objectives. It may not be realistic to have students leading these objectives, however your guide will continue to discuss with you each technique used and you will be an active part of the decision making process.


We will plan to descend via a different route, shuttling back to the Fire Lookout Trailhead. We'll close the course over some cold drinks at either Storm Mountain Lodge or Castle Junction. After high fives, handshakes and a big thanks from us, you'll be on your way to your next alpine mission!