Ymir Mountain is renown for its powder, but it’s also a perfectly hike-able summer excursion. Achieving the summit involves getting off trail to traverse the boulders and scree in the Ymir Bowl, but the reward is ridge-line hiking with spectacular views!
Trailhead: Whitewater Ski Hill Road
Distance, Round Trip: 6.7km
Driving up Whitewater Ski Hill Road is a breeze! It’s refreshing to take a well-maintained road with excessive amounts of parking at the top!
Looking up past the lodge, Ymir Mountain sits in the distance. There are two main hiking routes up Ymir and both are off-trail with some light scrambling:
- The west ridge, which we took – read on!
- The north ridge via Half Dome – check out the description at Whitewater Rocks.
Connecting these two approaches would make a nice loop, but we stuck to known terrain and took the west ridge both up and down.
Up the Lower Sluice Box
After leaving behind the car, walk past the Whitewater Ski Lodge to ascend the ‘Lower Sluice Box’ run, aiming straight for Ymir Mountain. There is an old rough road ascending the ski run which quickly narrows into a footpath.
The ‘Lower Sluice Box’ run winds pleasantly through meadows before intersecting with a road. The trail steps onto the road, walks up about 10m, then promptly steps off the road again at the end of a switchback.
The trail continues winding up through huckleberry bushes and riots of fireweed. Then it intersects a boulder field and disappears. Pretty much for good.
Hiking up the Bowl
Going left up the boulder field will take you to the north ridge via Half Dome, but we cut straight across the bowl to access the west ridge.
Here is the route we took:
There are a few cairns dotting the ascent to the ridge, but they are sparse and inconsistent. We assessed the boulder fields and plotted a route that tried to minimize bushwhacking and steep terrain.
As we approached the west ridge, we aimed for a long narrow chute to the left of some steep rocky bluffs. The footing was occasionally loose, but this served a nice ramp.
The west ridge
At last! After 1.5 hours of hiking, we clamoured up onto Ymir’s West Ridge to enjoy some huge views of the landscape below! Looking ahead, we could see Ymir’s summit far beyond the massive boulders and changing larches.
As we continued up the ridge, we caught faint scraps of trail among the rocks. It was a steady uphill climb with a few cliffy patches that called for a quick handhold.
As we neared the summit, the ridge-line suddenly dropped down into a deep notch with a chute far below. We had to bushwhack down Ymir’s southern slope to circumnavigate the notch, and then we were on the final approach to the summit.
The view at the summit was amazing – overlapping peaks and ridges, fading into distant blue, as far as the eye could see!
We dug out the summit register, marvelled at the number of times local legend Gene Van Dyke had already hiked Ymir this year, and added our own two cents to the log book. Andrew wanted to make it very clear that “Ymir” should be pronounced “Ee-meer” as per its Norse origin. I pointed out the locals say “Why-mur”, so might as well go with the consensus. This argument continued down the mountain and will probably go on for the rest of our lives…
We could see the Valhalla Mountains, as well as the spiky peaks in Kokanee Glacier Park. Far away was a smear of white on the north-eastern horizon – the Macbeth Glacier.
Heading back down
After assessing the northern ridge, we decided it would just be simplest to return the way we came. The descent was slow going, but we carefully retraced our steps along the boulders.