Bourgeau Left-Hand

The Bourgeau Left-Hand and Bourgeau Right-Hand ice climbs and the avalanche terrain around them are highlighted in red on an image of the climbs.
Grant Statham

Bourgeau Left-Hand and Bourgeau Right-Hand are neighbouring climbs on Mount Bourgeau near Sunshine Village.

Bourgeau Left-Hand

150m WI 5

ATES 4 (Extreme)

Bourgeau Left-Hand is a prominent south-facing climb on Mt Bourgeau that is easily seen from the Sunshine Village gondola. With a moderate approach and a consistently steep four-pitch climb, this is a classic for those looking for a sustained grade 5 climb. The first pitch is often thin and can fall off a couple times in a season. This climb has a great deal of avalanche terrain directly above it and it DOES NOT get controlled by Parks Canada or the ski resort. Bourgeau Right-Hand and Left-Hand are both subject to legal closures by Parks Canada when they are doing avalanche control above the Sunshine road. Notifications are posted to the Banff-Yoho-Kootenacy avalanche bulletin and there are signs at the start of each approach trail that are flipped to say CLOSED.

Bourgeau Left-Hand sits underneath significant avalanche terrain that can produce large avalanches that sweep over the climb.

This image shows the Bourgeau Left ice climb. The bottom section is the approach from 1,740–1,900 m. The ice climb stretches through a cliff band from 1,900–2,100 m. Above that is the avalanche start zone, which is 550 m wide and rises to the summit ridge at 2,800 m.
Grant Statham


  • 22 people completed the survey
  • 76% climbed Bourgeau Left-Hand 1–5 times
  • 14% climbed it 6–10 times
  • 10% climbed it over 10 times

Avalanche frequency

  • 77% have seen debris on the climb or below it, or on the walk off
  • 23% have not seen any debris
  • 52% have witnessed avalanches on Bourgeau Left-Hand

Time of year and day

  • December–January saw the greatest amounts of avalanches, then February–April and lastly October–November
  • 67% of avalanches witnessed occurred from 12–6 p.m.
  • 67% occurred from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m.
  • 11% occurred from 1–6 a.m. and 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.
This image shows the starting zone and four avalanche tracks above the Bourgeau Left ice climb. From left, the tracks are 800 m, 1,200 m, 1,200 m, and 1,300 m long. The average start zone is 35 degrees steep.
Grant Statham
A 400 m wide cornice sits on the ridge above the Bourgeau Left climb.

Top: There are four start zones and avalanche tracks above the Bourgeau Left-Hand climb.. Bottom: A large cornice threatens the climb.

Runout debris

  • 69% of respondents saw debris at the base of the climb
  • 27% saw debris in between the pitches of climbing
  • 36% saw debris above the last pitch

Notes on avalanche debris

  • Many people noted seeing debris all the way down the avalanche path to Healy Creek.
  • Others described debris along the full runout, 200 m from the base, and half way down the path
  • One noted a pile of debris sitting just beyond the last pitch

Reported avalanches and incidents

  • We climbed to the cave below the final pitch. A big, man-size dagger was hanging over the cave lip so we sent it down. Upon impact on the slope below, the whole bowl above the first pitch avalanched over the pitch. The crown was 30 cm high. Later, on rappel, l landed on a ledge half way down and broke a big shell, 5–6 m across and 10 cm thick. The big piece landed in the bowl and triggered another deeper layer that also avalanched over the first pitches. There was no new snow in between the two events. Debris at base was size 2 and ran a few hundred meters.
  • I have seen natural avalanches run over the climb and am often notified when it happens because this is a high visibility area (great view from Sunshine gondola).
  • A huge class 4 originating from the upper slopes.
  • Many avalanche have been witnessed from the gondola.
  • I heard a story of an experienced guide who triggered a small wind slab on the ledge between pitches that could have been enough to carry them over the lower tier if they hadn't been on rope still.
  • An unknown climber went for a ride on the approach. Could have been worse.

Contributing factors

  • 80%: New snow amounts
  • 70%: Warming and solar radiation
  • 60%: Winds
  • 60%: Known reactive layer
  • 30%: Cornice or human/animal trigger


The Bourgeau Left-Hand avalanche path is formally known by Parks Canada as Bourgeau 9 and DOES NOT receive avalanche control with explosives (contrary to popular belief) because the path does not affect the road or parking lot. The climb gets closed when Parks is doing avalanche control due to concerns about remote triggering from adjacent paths that are controlled. The route faces south and thus conditions can change very quickly when the sun comes out.