Revelstoke, British Columbia

Peak of the Week: Mount Begbie


, by Charlie Boscoe

Mount Begbie towering high above Revelstoke. Photo: Elena Elisseeva, Shutterstock

It's hard to miss Mount Begbie when you're in Revelstoke, BC - it looms over the town, dominates the view from the ski hill, and even the local brewery is named after it! If you're going to climb one Revelstoke mountain, make it Mount Begbie - there are few things in life more satisfying than having a cold drink outside a bar, looking up at the peak you just climbed!

Despite its somewhat intimidating appearance, Mount Begbie is actually more climbable than it initially appears. However, reaching its summit does require plenty of hiking (much of it carrying a heavy overnight pack), solid glacier travel skills, and the ability to scramble safely over moderate but exposed terrain. It's by no means "easy," but it should be within reach for competent beginner/intermediate mountaineers.

The trip starts with a strenuous 3 - 4 hour uphill hike to the fantastic Mount Begbie campground - a series of tent pads equipped with a compost toilet, a bear cache, and a beautifully clear river from which to get water. The hike up is tough due to the steep grade of the trail, but it does at least allow you to gain height relatively quickly and efficiently. You'll get some occasional views on the way up, but most of the trail is in dense forest, so get your head down and get it done! The vistas awaiting you from the campground are mind-blowing, and you should be able to pick out some of the better-known Selkirk peaks as you cook dinner. Arriving at the campground with a few hours of daylight to spare is highly recommended, simply because it gives you time to enjoy the forest's ambiance and the mountains' beauty.

I told you the campground had a good view! Looking towards the peaks of Rogers Pass at sunset. Photo Boscoe Collection

Having described just how great the campground is, it's only fair to mention its major downside: bugs. Much of the area around the campground is boggy, and bugs sure do love bogs! If the campground is too packed with either people or mosquitos, carry on up about vertical meters to the edge of the glacial moraine coming down from Mount Begbie. Once there, you'll find endless flat, rocky tent sites, plenty of water sources, and - hopefully - no bugs! After a wonderful evening of staring at mountains, get some rest ahead of a big day.

There's no need for a true alpine start when heading to Mount Begbie, but it's always better to have time in hand than to be rushing, so err on the side of starting early rather than pushing your luck. Taking around 8 - 10 hours from camp to camp is decent but unspectacular, so aim for that if you're a competent mountaineer who can deal efficiently with glacial travel and brief technical pitches. In the height of summer, getting away at 6 or 7 am is a decent compromise between having enough time to climb the mountain and actually getting some sleep the night before!

Once underway, you'll have a short stroll up the glacial moraine, and then it's time to don crampons and begin the short trip up the glacier to the famous Begbie ledge. Now, it's widely accepted that the word "obvious" should never be applied to mountain features because they're generally only obvious once you know about them, but the Begbie ledge really IS obvious. If you look up at the peak seeking a horizontal ledge system that leads out to the right and can't see the Begbie ledge, then mountaineering might not be for you! 

Established on the Begbie Ledge with Revelstoke visible far below. Photo Boscoe Collection

Once at the foot of the ledge, either a short rock climbing pitch or a climb over a snow bridge awaits you, and conditions will dictate which one you get. Having established yourself on the ledge, there are a couple of exposed but easy and bolt-protected pitches which lead to much more straightforward (but still exposed) ground and, not much further on, Mount Begbie's north ridge. The sheer length of the ridge means that you'll need to climb it unroped for most of the way if you're going to move quickly enough, but it's not difficult, and the route winds cleverly through some seemingly challenging terrain. 

Keep trucking up the ridge, but remember to look over your shoulder occasionally and enjoy the massive and ever-improving views. Mount Begbie is in a spectacular position, and whilst you need to keep concentrating all the way up, taking the occasional moment to enjoy the vistas is vital. 

Exposed but easy ground on Mount Begbie’s north ridge. Photo Boscoe Collection

The ridge eases off about halfway up, and then it's a leisurely stroll to the summit tower. This looks imposing from below but turns out to be simple enough. The final move onto the summit is also simple, but the wild peaks of the Monashees suddenly appearing ahead of you are spectacular enough to make you lose your balance! Try not to be distracted until you're sitting on the summit! 

On the summit of Mount Begbie with the Monashees behind. Photo Boscoe Collection

With no more mountain to climb, high-five your climbing partner and try to take in the sheer magnificence of your surroundings. When you're all done, there's nothing left to do but reverse the whole route all the way back to the parking lot! The walk down from the campground is - let's not pull any punches here - an absolute grind, but the thought of a cold drink and a hot pizza getting closer with every step should keep you moving!

Once in town, pick a restaurant with a good view of Mount Begbie and toast your success!

Related Tags

More Stories