Steven Song's Peak-bagging Journey

Home > Robson / Valemount > Canoe Mountain

Canoe Mountain

It's been a month since my last summit, Mount Solomon. Now comes the November long weekend, and weather forecast predicted a high pressure system moving in. This would bring in blue sky, but also -20 ish temperature.. Well, that's still better than having no view.

Edmonton got a near 40cm snow storm on Wednesday and Thursday, and roads got covered with a layer of ice, with snow on top... And then another big system moved in to Calgary and the front country of Kananaskis. 40cm new snow fallen on Friday means, K-Country could be inaccessible, especially given the fact I don't have snow tires.. Eventually I decided to set my goal to Valemount area, with the option to extend towards Kamloops, or driving back to Jasper. The crux would be the drive out of Edmonton.

The hardest part was to negotiate the snow covered road in my neighbourhood. Once I got to the main highway, things became easier. There were still ice patches on Highway 16, but at least not continuous ice. What normally took me less than 3 hours, took me more than 4 hours to get to Hinton. The road condition improved dramatically once entering the mountains. I eventually arrived at Valemount at 1am, and slept in car outside the A&W. Temperature had already dropped to -12 degree, and I soon fell asleep. The next morning, I woke up in a temperature of -18 degree... Good thing I could quickly move into the nearby A&W for warmth. Through the window, I could see the snowy Mount Pierre Elliot Trudeau, which I did in July. It was much more snowy than anticipated. It could be a challenging day.

Canoe Mountain situated 15km south of Valemount, in the Monashee Range of Columbia Mountains. It's the northernmost mountain of Monashees. Towards west across Kinbasket Lake, is the Rocky Mountains. Towards east is the Cariboo Range. The location guarantees great views from the top. In summer people can quad up the access road all the way to the summit. 13km one way, with elevation gain of 1850m. In winter, it would be 1850 vertical meters of trail-breaking and post-holing on snowshoes...

The access road (trail) is 15km south of the main street, according to the info I found. However, there are several other branches nearby which caused some confusion. I forgot to take a photo of the entrance, but I remembered it being almost exact 15km south of the A&W. Due to the snow, I could drive in so I just parked at the shoulder of Highway 5.

Snow was about 10-15cm deep initially, not deep enough for snowshoes. However the road was very slippery but I didn't bring microspikes. Therefore I just put on snowshoes at about 200m in. They gave me much traction and I could go much faster. There's very little to describe the slog. The snow gradually got deeper. The road went on and on. It's the theme of this area. It reminds me the tedious slog up Mount Terry Fox in July. The views won't show up until you make a good amount of elevation gain, typically around 1000m mark...

The post-holing started to get very tedious as approaching treeline. Instead of following the road up, I decided to take a short-cut and went straight up the slope. This way I could save some distance, and therefore doing less post-holing.. Not far up I started to enter the clouds... Oh no!! At treeline, it was extremely cold, and white-out.. With the peak in mind, I kept marching on. All the sudden, wow!! I topped out above the ceiling! Mount Robson, Whitehorn, and other Cariboo giants started to show up above the low clouds. And now I could finally see the summit. That's still a long way to go. But with the view like this, I didn't slow down. I picked a straight line up the slope. Later in the season you probably want to traverse towards climber's right to aim for the least steep area.

Another big wow moment, once I made to the north ridge. The other side fully opened up. There was still a good amount of work to get to the true summit, mainly because of the post-holing... The weather station made for some good photos. The summit is still about 15min away. It took me 6 hours to get up. In November we only have a bit more than 9 hours of daylight time, so I had to descend soon. Retracing my steps down was much easier and faster. It took me no time to descend back into the clouds. It wasn't that cold this time. I met a local solo skier on the way down.

Again, it was much faster to descend, soon I made back to the logging road. I re-joined mom further down and we grouped together for the rest of the day. The sun was setting soon and we got great evening views. Round Trip Time: 10 hours.

Overall, a highly recommended peak in winter. This's another highlight of this already awesome year. You probably want to do it on skis, but make sure you get mentally prepared for the 1850 vertical meters of trail-breaking..

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Photos taken by Steven