|August, 2003 Gain- 5600'+/- Summit- 9971'+/- 7 Hours+/- Solo Difficult Scramble
|Lat/Lon: 51.4689°N, 116.5875°W
Mount Carnarvon is located in Yoho National Park, one of four connecting national
parks making up the central Canadian Rockies. It is part of the President Range
positioned north of Emerald Lake. You do pass a much smaller but just as scenic
lake on approach named Hamilton Lake. Mount Carnarvon was named after the 4th
“Earl of Carnarvon” and was first ascended in 1904 by a topographical survey team.
Mount Carnarvon offers better quality rock on its ridge than most Yoho scrambles. Its
pyramid shape dominates the skyline when viewed from the TransCanada. It still
has remnants of a glacier on its northeast face and summit. It is 11kms northwest of
Field, 4kms southwest of the President and Vice President and 4.75kms northwest
of Emerald Lake (as the crow flies that is).
The only published route on Mount Carnarvon is the scramble mentioned in
“Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies”. The final 400’+/- is considered difficult
scrambling. The views are expansive including Mount Marpole (photo) just 3kms to
the northeast, the President, Vice President and Emerald Glacier beyond Marpole,
Mount Burgess across the lake and Mount Stephen across the TransCanada.
The Trans-Canada Highway runs from Calgary through Banff and Yoho National
Parks on its way to Vancouver. Pass through Lake Louise heading westbound and
continue on the Trans-Canada on its way to Field, BC. After you pass Field, turn right
onto the road leading to Emerald Lake. Park at the lake and access the Hamilton
Field is a town of approximately 300 people located in the Kicking Horse River valley
of southeastern British Columbia in the confines of Yoho National Park. Field was
established during the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway as a locomotive
depot for pusher engines required to help trains over the nearby Field Hill and Big
Hill. Field is 27 km west of Lake Louise along the Trans-Canada Highway, the only
access to Field. The visitor centre for Yoho National Park is located in Field.
You will be required to purchase a national park pass as you enter Banff National
Park coming from the east on the Trans-Canada. This pass is good for all four
national parks. If you plan many visits to Canadian National Parks within one year,
you should purchase an annual pass. There are no permit requirements to climb in
Yoho National Park, but all camping is regulated. There is also a backcountry permit
required if you plan on spending a night in the backcountry versus the town
campsites. This can be obtained via the parks website which is included in the
camping section below. Yoho National Park headquarters are located in Field, BC
and you will drive through the manned national park kiosks as you enter Banff
National Park on the Trans-Canada.
This is active grizzly country, therefore, you should always have bear spray on your
person. I advise checking with Parks Canada for any area and/or trail closures.
I highly recommend eating at Truffle Pigs in Field. It is quite the experience in dining
and you will not be disappointed. We always make the effort to dine there when we
are in the area. They also sell produce and groceries if you are camping.
When To Climb
As with most scrambles in the Canadian Rockies, the driest time is from June
through September. I climbed Mount Carnarvon in August and still had plenty of
snow at the summit. This is a ridge you want to be snow free. Skiing to the summit is
The closest camp site would be quite in the distance at Yoho Pass, Yoho Campsite
#3. It is on Yoho Lake and I have hiked by this campsite. It is actually pretty nice, but
not relative at all to climbing Mount Carnarvon specifically. You can go on line at
Yoho National Park to pick a camp site and obtain your camping permit. You will also
be required to obtain your backcountry permit which is separate, but can be obtained
simultaneously if you plan on camping at a backcountry site like Yoho Pass. You
cannot camp outside of the marked specific camping areas.
Emerald Lake Lodge offers premium lodging where you parked. Field has one inn
and several B&B’s.
Yoho National Park has weather, wildlife reports, trail closures, etc. Outside of the
parks web site, Canadian Avalanche Association is also useful, particularly for winter
travel. Canadian Alpine Accident Reports are also extremely helpful.
This is a 5600’+/- ascent day. Proceed up the Hamilton Lake Trail west of the
Emerald Lake parking area. Ascend 6kms+/- to the outlet of Hamilton Lake. I did the
first 2000' elevation gain in an hour. At the lake, cross over the outlet and head
straight up the steep meadow (left) to the direct south ridge of Mount Carnarvon.
The landscape up on the ridge at 8300' is desolate and windswept. Tackle the ridge
head on (north). There are a few cruxes with enjoyable solid rock to climb straight on.
It would be safer no doubt to head left at each crux to deal with less steepness
Eventually you will approach the headwall to the summit. This is for sure the most
difficult climbing of the day. Look for cairns (there might not be many if at all)
that show your traverse left to the west side. Once you have circumvented to the
west, work your way up one of several loose gullies to the top ridge. Then continue
trouble free to the summit alongside Mount Carnarvon’s dying glacier on the
The close up views peering into the President Range are spectacular. The fires of
2003 precluded me from getting any far away views, but I did get good shots of
President, Vice President, and their intervening glacier (Emerald) as well as Mount
Burgess across Emerald Lake. Mount Marpole is also an interesting peak to the
north. I observed a golden eagle up on the ridge, two deer on the trail and an
interesting banded leg spider (photo-please identify if you can, I give up) towards the
Return the same.
Helmet, particularly for route finding through the summit headwall. Alpine Ax and/or
hiking poles. Bear Spray. Map. Compass.
I made it up 5600' in exactly 4 hours and down in less than 3. There is very little scree
on this climb which makes for a pleasant trip. Virtually no one on the trail and of
course no signs of humans on the scramble. Several small cruxes along the way but
the real crux is the final headwall. This area is loose, wear a helmet and be careful.
CLICK TO ENLARGE PHOTOS
1. Summit on approach from the south ridge
2. Mt. Carnarvon from Mt. Stephens
3. Glacier on the summit of Mt. Carnarvon
4.-6. Route Photos
7. Mt. Marpole to the North
8. South Ridge Route Photo
9. -10. President, V. President, Emerald Glacier
11. Unidentified Banded Spider from the Ridge
12. Unique Geology on Approach
13. Emerald Glacier