Stephen, Mount

elevation: 3,199 m. height gain: 1,920 m.
area: Field,BC map 82 N/8

Ref: Alan Kane's Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies
permit required

A permit is required to allow access through the fossil beds.
Scramble: RT 13.0; 6.5 up. Mount Stephen is a serious scramble; not only does it require nearly 2000 m of height gain, it also grants a couple of sections of difficult scrambling with heady exposure. I've driven by the behemoth countless times, there's no missing it as it towers next to the Trans-Canada highway looming over the small town of Field. I tried this ascent almost 20 years ago but the crux proved to be too intimidating; now that I've acquired some experience, I figured I should give it another try. Jay and Ariane were on their way to the Kootenays for a vacation so I extended an invitation, it had been quite some time since Fab and I had seen them. They picked up their permits on saturday and we met them at the trailhead early morning on sunday. The hike in is nice as the trail climbs steadily. After about 700 meters of height gain, we came across the fossil beds. We slowed down dramatically to take pictures. The trail gets increasingly steep thereafter, we continued hiking thankful for the breeze on this hot bluebird day. After tackling a rather long talus slope, we reached the summit block. Route finding on the summit block isn't particularly difficult, several cairns indicate passages. The scrambling is mostly moderate until the crux is reached. The airy ridge that precedes the difficult scrambling is exciting and the sight of the crux provokes a rise in heart beats! At the "notch", we were relieved to see that it was unnecessary to jump it. We downclimbed to a shallow saddle that gives access to a narrow ledge, that ledge leads to an exposed weakness on the wall. This was the moment of truth, I wasn't sure how I would fair out climbing the crux; honestly, I didn't want to think about it too much. I carefully followed Jay on the ledge. Ariane and I joked nervously as he started his ascent, then it was our turn. The holds in the pronounced fissure are really positive and I think that helped, I focused on the climb without looking down. The top of the crux is a bit tougher and at this point I was looking forward to getting onto easier ground. The rest of the hike to the summit consisted of short scrambly bits and an airy walk on a broken narrow ridge. We were committed to the ridge because snow barred the way on the scree ledge bypass; we did get off the ridge momentarily just before reaching the top, it was a nice break from the heady exposure. A moment thereafter, we stepped on the heli-pad and dropped our packs. The view is exceptional, Mount Stephen appears to stand as high as the surrounding glaciated peaks, luckily the smoke from the forest fires wasn't too bad yet. We lingered at the top for an hour before considering our return. Backtracking the airy ridge was just as exciting as before. Once at the crux, I started getting nervous again, I knew using the short rope would be tricky. I watched Jay and Ariane go down the top pitch and followed suit. The top part is split up from the rest of the weakness by a short traverse to a protruding rock; I waited there so that Fab could pass me and downclimb below me in case I needed assistance with my feet placements. This worked out good. The rest of the descent was easy aside from the substantial height loss and pounding on our poor knees. It's fair to say we were all very tired and satisfied when we reached the trailhead. We stopped at the Truffle Pig for a well-deserved cold beer to finish off this fine day in style. Scrambling Mount Stephen is definitely A+!
pleasant approach

The trail offers a pleasant approach.

countless fossils

Countless fossils along the way.

a lot of elevation gain

Still a lot of elevation to gain beyond treeline.

wide weakness in the rockband

Aiming for a wide gully cleaving the rockband.

avoiding loose terrain

Staying on the side to avoid very loose terrain.

looking back

Looking back, Mount King appears small from here!

significant talus slope

A significant talus slope leads to the summit block.

summit block

At the summit block.

locating the access gully

Circumventing the summit block climber's right until we locate the weakness.

correct gully

This looks like the correct route.

fun scrambling

Fun scrambling and a bit of route finding.

nearing the crux

Nearing the crux that is partly visible on the upper right.

going to the ridge

Making our way to the ridge.

field looks tiny

The town of Field looks tiny.

crux ahead

The notch and the crux are just ahead of us.

airy ridge

Negotiating the airy ridge with Mount Vaux in the background.

down the gap

At the notch, we dipped down from the ridge to the ledge of the crux, no "gap jumping" is necessary.

another route

Looking at another route that leads to the notch, note the old rope; the ridge is the safest way in my opinion.

starting on the crux

Jay starts up on the crux.

climbing the crux

Fabrice takes pictures of us climbing the crux from the ridge.

upper part of the crux

Jay, Ariane and myself on the upper part of the crux.

summit ridge

On the summit ridge.

the hut is visible

The telemetry building is clearly visible.

fine scrambling

The ridge grants some fine scrambling opportunities.

exhilarating moments

The ridge also offers exhilarating moments.

more of the same

More of the same.


Summit of Mount Stephen.

signing the register

The register is inside the telemetry building.

a bit of humour

Nothing's wrong with a bit of humour!

ariane and me

Ariane and myself on the heli-pad.

fabrice and jay

Fabrice and Jay.


View east towards the Valley of Ten Peaks.


View south.


Northern view.

para-glider please

A para-glider could be a good option if it was permitted!

heading back down

Heading back down.

impressive amphitheater below

Impressive walls surround the amphitheater below.

airy section

An airy section along the summit ridge.

negotiating a small gap

A small gap is easily spanned from a seated position.

typical terrain

Typical terrain along the summit ridge.

rock step

Fabrice scrambles a rock step.

off the ridge to the crux

Descending from the ridge towards the crux.

upper part of the crux

Engaging the upper part of the crux, the exposure is real...

most unnerving

This section is the most unnerving.

base of the crux

On the ledge at the base of the crux with the notch ahead.

looking back

Looking back at the crux.

careful backtracking

Careful backtracking on the summit block.

some scrambling

Some scrambling.

some route finding

Some route finding.

some fooling around

...and some fooling around!

leaving the upper mountain behind

Leaving the upper mountain behind.

last glimpse

Last glimpse.

back in the trees

Back in the trees.



more trilobites

More Trilobites.

nice cold beer

Well-deserved beer at the end of a fabulous day out in the mountains.
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