Mount King Edward 3490 m
A climbing group pauses at King Edward to witness the rare "Red line effect". The crux is right near the top.
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Mount King Edward is one of the seldom-climbed big peaks of the Canadian Rockies, sitting west of Mount Columbia and north of Mount Bryce at the western edge of Columbia Icefield. Tsar Mountain lies further west yet. Bush River logging road from Golden, British Columbia provides access, and it is 126 km from Golden. Most of this road is gravel. Bush River area is wild and remote, with vast glaciers, grizzlies and magnificent peaks all around. The mountain provides interesting climbing near the top, and you cross crevassed glacier to reach it.
On our first of three attempts, we drove from Calgary to a small campsite at km 96 on Bush River road, then to drove roads' end the next day and hiked in by late afternoon.
click photos to enlarge
After a fairly pleasant approach through forest from the last logging clearcut up Bush River, the group pauses to view the objective ahead, Mount King Edward.
Closer to the glacier and peak now, we can see the route across glacier to the peak. We crossed and camped close to the mountain.
It looks like you can reach the peak without crossing glacier, but in fact, it takes about 45 mins -1 hour to reach the base of the peak from the prow of rock jutting into the ice. There are several crevasses en route.
Camp at the south side of the peak, which gave a fine view of the north face of Mount Bryce. Car to camp was about 5 hours. You may not be able to drive quite as close as we could then, making the approach longer. But it isn't bushwhacking, anyway.
On this first attempt we didn't get to the top. Soft snow over ice and group size/ability prevented us from summitting, so we relaxed and had snacks here at the cliffband near the top. Mount Columbia is just visible to the east. My successful attempt was try #3, two years later.
My partner Andy, ascending the south slopes on my third attempt. The first time, in late July, avalanche-prone snow stopped us near the top. Second trip, bad weather stopped us from even crossing the glacier. This time, late September 1991, despite unsettled weather, we were finally successful.
Tsar Mountain, another Rockies 11,000er, from Mount King Edward. Not the best weather (or photo) but beggars can't be choosers.
On top, with bad weather all around. From our camp at the edge of the glacier, the climb took about 12 hours round trip. Our equipment included crampons, ice-axes, glacier travel gear, a 50 m rope, plus a few pins and screws and slings. The crux is just below the top, where you climb a rock chimney after traversing across an ice slope. Highly recommended mountaineering trip! You won't see a crowd here---guaranteed. It doesn't see more than a couple of attempts a year.
Like Mounts Tsar and Bryce, an ascent of Mount King Edward involves a lot more than just mountaineering. The approach is a long drive on gravel roads where active logging occurs, (logging trucks coming at you!) and wildlife (bears, porcupines) can pose challenges or at the very least, damage your vehicle. That will complicate your trip. Unlike more popular mountains like Rainier or The Matterhorn, there is no rescue service here. You're on your own. In the Canadian Rockies, big peaks like these are best done in August and September.
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© all photos copyright by the author 1999.