Pulpit Peak

elevation: 2,727 m. height gain: 960 m. (includes height loss)
area: Icefields Parkway,AB map 82 N/9

The route we chose differs from the trail indicated on the topo map and usual way up Turquoise Lake. We parked on the west side of the highway at a pull with guardrails, 481134. We descended to valley bottom and aimed for a bend in the river, where a logjam exists, 470131. On the other side of the river, we bushwhacked to Pulpit Tarn, 448120. We climbed the south-east facing gully to a basin with another tarn. A scree slope leads to Pulpit's south-west ridge near some pinnacles. From there, we continued on the east side at first and after going through a notch, we travelled on the west aspect to the summit.
shallow braid

At a shallow braid of the Bow River with our objective to the right.
Scramble: 11.0; 5.75 up. The weather was unstable but we still wanted to go in the mountains. We thought this was the perfect opportunity to go scope out Pulpit Peak. Fab and I have stopped along the highway several times to take pictures of its south facing gully, thinking it could be a possible route that avoids the exposed ledge leading to Turquoise Lake (usual way up). Both routes require fording the Bow River, which is wide and smooth in places but still crotch deep; we brought runners and a towel for that! Charles decided to come for the adventure and good quality suffering; we met him at the pull and got on the way as daylight increased. At valley bottom, we came upon open, marshy terrain. We stayed close to trees and travelled on clumps of grass to the river. Fabrice had marked on the topo map a possible logjam seen on Google Earth and Bob Spirko had also crossed on a different logjam in 2001 (Pulpit Tarn); it was a gamble, would the logjams still be there... We got to the bend in the river and crossed an initial shallow braid; we still couldn't see the river. We continued on land and soon came to the main crossing, it is wide and deep; luckily for us, the logjam was still there. We worked our way to a big tree bridging the deepest section; Fab and I crossed it " cheval" while Charles walked across "comme un chat". On the other side, we started bushwhacking to Pulpit Tarn. We followed a bearing and negotiated shrubby treed terrain towards the tarn's headwall. The plod wasn't bad nor was it good, there's lots of undergrowth; it took us 3.5 hours to reach Pulpit Tarn's meadow. We climbed the talus slope to the gully and continued in the drainage on some steep hardpack ground, I knew this wouldn't be pleasant coming down... We soon regained favorable ground and made it on a shoulder, now we had the summit in view. At the opposite end of the basin, a scree slope leads to the summit ridge near fabulous pinnacles. The short ascent is tougher than it looks, the rubble is loose near the top. From there, we followed the ridge to the summit. As we reached the top, it started to drizzle. Fabrice found the register, there was 5 entries that included Rick Collier (of course) and Paul Zizka. We took a good break despite the weather. The descent went well, we were back at the mosquito-infested meadow in decent time. We then backtracked to the river using both traditional and modern technology; we made it within 100 meters of our runners. The crossing is exciting; I'm glad the fallen tree was there, it made things easier. Feeling happy about this unexpected successful trip.

(Some pictures courtesy of Charles Fortin)

runners on

Runners on, we cross a shallow braid.


Fabrice is very dramatic!

checking the crossing

Checking out the other end of the logjam before we commit.

a cheval

Crossing a fallen tree " cheval".

nearing pulpit tarn

Nearing Pulpit Tarn.

small meadow

Entering a small meadow with the ascent ahead.

gully ahead

Heading to the gully.

talus slope

A talus slope leads to steeper terrain.

steeper terrain

Straight up the center.

up the gully

Hardpack ground gives way to rock.

looking back

Looking back.

upper gully

Upper gully.


Pulpit Peak on the opposite side of the basin.

neat pinnacles

Loose scree below the pinnacles.

another tarn

There's a tarn at the bottom of the basin.

summit ridge ahead

Nearing the summit ridge, the notch in the black band is clearly visible.

obvious ramp

Travelling on an obvious ramp to the notch.

summit in sight

On the west side with the summit in sight.

mount daly

Reaching the top with Mount Daly's glaciated north face
in the background.

at the top

Whoot, whoot!

hector lake

Hector Lake's inlet and outflow on the right.

turquoise lake

Mount Balfour and Turquoise Lake.

our crossing below

The arrow indicates the location of our crossing.

leaving the summit

Leaving the summit, we're back at the notch quickly.

black band

Along the black band.


Neat pinnacles.

descending to the snow

Descending to the snow.

sun cups

Walking on sun cups.


Backtracking in the gully.

moderate challenge

The steep terrain along the way grants a moderate challenge.

pulpit tarn

Pulpit Tarn and the small mosquito-infested meadow.

valley bottom

Marshy valley bottom.

marshy terrain

Aiming for firm grass clumps!
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