I wanted to hike Bow Peak for several years -- ever since I saw great TR on Spirko site. At the end, good things come to those who wait. It leads to views like this:
Unavoidable ford of Bow Lake outlet near the start is key reason why this trip is best done in late summer, when water level is low. Besides skies are clear and you want bluebird conditions for trip like this.
Parking is at west side of Icefields on a gravel pull-off, about 1 km south from Crowfoot Glacier tourist viewpoint. It was easy to identify; one other car was there already (Ontario fishermen as we learned later).
Correct way is to walk down the highway for few minutes from here, but I saw faint trail heading straight down from the parking spot. It led in few minutes to unexpectedly large meadow with Bow Lake some 300 meters in front.
1. Crowfoot Mountain from the entrance to Meadow
2. View back to Dolomite Peak under fresh dusting of snow
3. Crowfoot reflections in still water of Bow Lake.
Ontario fishermen we met here pointed us to faint trail on east side of lake; it led in 10 minutes of delightful hiking to lake outlet and usual ford point. Main trail joins at this point as well. Ford was unexpectedly easy - slightly above the ankle, with far (west) end maybe a bit deeper. Old sandals and hiking poles were helpful.
From here unofficial, but wide and well defined trail parallels Bow river for 15-20 minutes staying fairly level, before it swings right (west) and starts steady ascent towards saddle between Crowfoot and Bow Peaks. There were a couple of easy creek crossings and several fallen trees to walk around, to which my hiking companion referred as "bushwhack". After several years of BC Coast, nothing that doesn't leave your shins bloody and arms scratched as you had a fight with rooster doesn't really qualify as bushwhack!
Within an hour and about 300 vertical after the ford we emerged to treeline:
1. Views back from treeline: Cirque Peak upper right, Bow Lake left
2. Talus slope ahead leading to the Pass. Trail leads to the left, but you can go anywhere really.
Having reached effortlessly such expansive views I could not help drawing parallels with BC Coast where for each hour of alpine you have to spend on average 5-6 hours in the trees. Anyways, within 15 minutes more we arrived to the wide pass with a bonus -- two unexpected beautiful alpine tarns under imposing walls of Crowfoot Mountain.
Giant talus slope leading to Bow peak was on the other side.
You can head up pretty much anywhere from here; this is really one of these situations where "follow your nose" approach works the best. Going up we aimed for the low point of the ridge -- roughly straight line in the center of photo above. This had some easy scrambling hoping over boulders, but otherwise presented no challenge. Then we followed the ridge staying mostly on the crest over the sub-peak to true summit, marked by one of largest cairns I've ever seen. It takes about 1 1/2 hour from the pass to the summit.
1. Near the point where we topped out on the ridge with views to die for
2. False summit with couple of easy scrambling moves ahead
3. Final ridgewalk past the false summit -- mostly "hands in your pocket". True summit visible in upper left.
4. Bird eye view of Bow Lake behind us
Summit cairn had pickle jar tucked in instead of summit register. About 1/2 hour was spent mostly taking photos and identifying sea of peaks all around:
1. Hector Lake deep bellow, with Louise group behind
2. Zoom on Cirque Peak. Much of snow dusting visible in the morning has melted. "Crystal" Ridge (awesome winter snowshoe) lower left
3. White Fang of Mt. Daly. I've yet to do this one
4. Zoom on Hector Peak across the street. I am still intrigued by that ridge leading from Little Hector, although it is obvious it does not connect all the way up
5. Icefields curling under Dolomite and Cirque before turning right past Bow Lake
Going down was much faster. After retracing our steps for some 10 minutes, we plunged down large scree slope which effectively cut our return time in half. This is certainly most recommended way to descend. The pass was already in shadow; I snapped one more quick photo before heading down.
1. View south from the Pass. Mt Temple right, Mt. Ball behind. Recognizable cone-shaped tip of Mt. Assiniboine far left in the distance
2. Crossing of Bow Lake outlet on return
For most people hiking time will be 6-7 hours without breaks. At the end, how do I rate Bow Peak? It is a spectacular trip. But it is not just plain "Cirque Peak" walk-up I thought it might be. Had it been in Kane book, it would probably fall somewhere between easy / moderate category. It is quite similar in nature to Panorama Ridge above Consolation Lakes, or -- for BC Coast readers -- final portion of ascent to Castle Towers above Polemonium Ridge. It is well worth though -- highly recommended late summer trip.