Max slope angle
15-30 Degrees
Primary aspect
North facing
Vertical descent
1,253.00 ft (381.91 m)
Distance
24.80 km (15.41 mi)
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Mount Olive is a classic route along the Wapta Icefields that offers easy and accessible ski mountaineering from late winter to spring. From summer through the fall, it is a great mountaineering objective. The peak is located on the same Massif as St. Nicholas Peak, and time permiting it's possible to do both in a day. It's very easily done in a day from Bow Lake. For beginners, in the summer, or for snowshoe mountaineers, it is more enjoyable to complete as a two-day trip with a stay at the ACC Bow Hut.

The trailhead is beside the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge on the shores of Bow Lake, about 30 minutes north of Lake Louise. The parking lot has good toilet facilities and is popular enough to deter the thieves who prowl ice field parkway parking lots. The trail starts at a wooden bridge opposite the lodge and continues along or over the lake depending on the season. In summer, the trail winds up the side of the canyon, across over a huge chockstone, and along the edge of the canyon. The canyon tapers away, and you can see hikers heading to Bow Falls across the river. Your trail ascends once more into the trees above the canyon, eventually emerging beneath the impressive cirque crowned by the cascading seracs of the Vulture Glacier.

In winter, the skin track passes through the woods to the south of the canyon, circumnavigating the first stretch before going straight up the canyon and eventually breaking onto the southern slope as the terrain becomes too steep and narrow. A quick jaunt through scraggly trees gains the cirque beneath the Vulture Glacier.

Walking along the flat valley over talus, you should spot the Bow Hut on the ride to the north. There are ramps going up broad gulleys at the western end of the valley. Be warned though, the first or second gulleys are best to take. Also, avoid the convex roll. In 2016, a serious avalanche gravely injured someone when they went too far back into the bowl and took the wrong gulley. Be wary, be informed, and be trained when approaching this section in winter. In summer it's less of a concern. 

Beyond this is the hut, perched very close to the glacier. The hut is stocked with a wood-burning fireplace, mats, propane stoves, and all the crockery required, including French press coffee options. There is even a stovetop for those who packed culinary inspiration. The hut stays decently warm, and three-season sleeping bags fair well even in the dead of winter. The hut can get very busy and earns its nickname, "The Bowtel." There are excellent cliffs and open crevasses near the hut that make for superb crevasse rescue practice opportunities if companions in your group aren't already familiar. It's also a great idea to head here the afternoon before you climb, as it's a good chance to scan for crevasses in the best light.

An early start in the morning is required to make the best of conditions. Navigating the glacier can be tricky or simple depending on conditions. Take a big "J" turn to avoid the area directly beneath St. Nicholas Peak, as it is where the largest crevasses are. Climb the gradually flattening Bow Glacier. Move down beside the steep west face until you reach a steep wind-blasted talus field that breaks the col between St. Nicholas and Mount Olive. Normally this is too rocky to ski up even in winter.

From here you can skin most of the way up the increasingly narrow ridge. When it gets to steep, remove skis and continue on foot. You may need an ice axe and crampons. There is a brief snowy step with some exposure that will need to be climbed. Past this, you can expect third-class terrain with some exposure, but nothing technical. The ridge flattens out considerably after about 150 meters, and you can walk easily to the first summit. The second summit is a little ways farther and requires a bit of third class scrambling toward the end.

Return to your skis and then decide how best to get down. The northeast face of St. Nicholas is the best way down, offering some pretty descent turns.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Spring

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

National or state forest pass

Open Year-round

Yes

Days

2

Pros

Straightforward. Near a hut. Great views.

Cons

Not a lot of good skiing for a lot of hiking.

Pets allowed

Not Allowed

Trailhead Elevation

6,364.83 ft (1,940.00 m)

Highest point

10,111.55 ft (3,082.00 m)

Total elevation gain

4,110.89 ft (1,253.00 m)

Features

Vault toilet
Glacier
Shelters
Big vistas
Warming hut
Wildlife

Trail type

There-and-back

Access

Vehicle

Typically multi-day

Yes

Shuttle required

No

Terrain type

Bowls

Snowmobiles allowed

No

Drinking water

Snowmelt

Location

Field Guide

Comments

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