Ski Touring The Presidents

~ By JonnyPublished March 24, 2013


The Presidents in Yoho National Park are a popular alpine mountaineering objective in the summer months. They offer one of the most spectacular viewpoints in Yoho due to their prominence relatively to other surrounding peaks, and on a clear day you can see more 11,000′ Canadian Rockies Peaks than almost anywhere in the Rockies.

The Presidents group from McArthur Glacier

The significant number of Crevasses on the North Glacier route do present a challenge however, and as I found out, they are nicely filled in during the months of February/March on a good year.

Stanley Mitchel Hut

What I also found out on this trip is that the ski in to Stanley Mitchell Hut is one hell of a slog. It is around 22km or so from the car, passing Takakkaw falls at roughly the halfway mark. Ski touring 22km and 800m elevation gain with heavy packs isn’t a lot of fun when it’s -25C out!

With those complaints out of the way, we had some of the best weather imaginable on our ascent day of the President which not only allowed us to summit both peaks, but we also had one of the best ski descents in my memory down the North Glacier. A 1000m straight shot from the col to the hut on nearly perfect snow. Just watch the sleeping crevasses! This face is most certainly heavily crevassed as many summer photos will show.

Our destination, Vice on the left, President on the right.
The ski tour up the President’s Glacier
Ascending the final slope under the massive cornices on the President.

The climb up the glacier is relatively easy to the col. From there, conditions will determine how easy or complex the final climb to the President and Vice President will be.

Lunching on the President’s col
The final wind lip in the President
Emerald Lake from the Presidents’ Col
The summit ridge of the Vice President
Descending the Rime Snow on the President
Alaskan Spines on the President

On the day we climbed these peaks, we found the ridge to the President proper to be quite mushroomed with faceted flute-like snow making for some challenging ascending and descending. I personally wouldn’t have been comfortable skiing the face in these conditions, however i’m sure some wouldn’t have a problem with it. The South-East face of the President also was covered in amazing Alaska-style spines that could most certainly make for an incredible line for anyone wanting to give it a go.

The Vice President was significantly better, with a supportive snowpack topped with around 30cm of fresh powder. This made for reasonably good climbing and excellent skiing.

Overall, the Presidents are an incredible winter ski tour, tempered only by the long approach to the Hut. With that said, there is more than enough ski touring in the area to warrant spending as long as a week or two in the area. It holds a ton of good snow most years, and the terrain is most certainly second to none in the Rockies.

One of the best descents in recent memory. The North Glacier of the Presidents
Looking back at our descent of the Presidents
Sunset alpenglow on the Presidents
Hut life in the -30C

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