Rockies :: Icefields :: South Dolomite Pass

 

Watermelon S2 (R) and unnamed south outlier (L) reflected in calm water of Dolomite Pass tarn. South Dolomite Pass is obvious notch extreme center right

Trip Summary

September 7, 2021

Dolomite Pass is one of highlights on well-known Dolomite Circuit backpack.  Beyond the Pass ~1km from Katherine Lake trail drops into Dolomite Creek valley (this is also approach for off-the-beaten-track hike to Alice Lake);  but on the north side is classic alpine saddle sandwiched between Watermelon S2 and east outlier of Dolomite Peak.  I noticed this saddle earlier this year on snowshoe ascent of "Dolomite Shoulder" - see photo.  It is also possible to reach this col by following drainage from Mosquito creek; with 2 cars or bicycle these 2 approaches can be combined for loop.  On my hike I opted for out-and-back via Helen Lake / Dolomite Pass, knowing how incredibly scenic this area is and this is how this report is presented.  Mosquito side is more rough and overall inferior. If I at some point revisit via this valley I will add to this report, but it is low priority at time of this writing.

 

Follow standard and popular Helen Lake trail from signed parking area opposite Crowfoot Glacier Tourist Pullout ~1km before Bow Lake.  From the Lake trail switchbacks to "Helen Lake Summit" and becomes faint.  Continue east and easily drop (vertical loss of ~100m) to beautiful alpine valley with Katherine Lake (It is also possible to get here more directly via Helen Creek;  parking couple of km south, initially using Kane access route for Dolomite Peak.  Although shorter, this approach is much more rough, partially off-trail necessitating several creek crossings and entirely not recommended).  After crossing outlet of Katherine Lake leave Dolomite Trail and wonder through amazing alpine meadow with scattered boulders;  incredibly regular geometric shape I haven't seen anywhere else.  After passing couple of tarns, aim for obvious saddle ~2km and ~250m vertical (estimate) above.  This is an easy grass / talus ascent and any direction will do.  On my trip I trashed up little ridge west of the Pass and made this turnaround point, but it is also possible to scramble further up to glacial shelf with several small tarns fed by Dolomite Glacier, and possibly loop back to Katherine Lake area that way.   I returned the same way;  if your timing and light conditions are right, you might be rewarded with some beautiful sunset photo ops at Katherine Lake.

 

Abstract Note:  I forgot GPS, so stats are approximate.  If you'd still like GPS track, you can download one from Alice Lake Trip - it is identical till Dolomite Pass ~1km from Katherine Lake, just before trail drops down Dolomite Creek)

Gallery

 
Helen Lake Classic view of Helen Lake and Cirque Peak ~6km from trailhead
 
Helen Lake Summit Wide Panorama at "Helen Lake Summit" looking east towards Dolomite Peak (R) and Watermelon S2 (just left of center)
 
Katherine Lake Late summer colors showing in alpine meadow leading to Katherine Lake
 
Katherine Beach Large Gravel Beach at Katherine Lake - did you bring beach towel?  Dolomite Peak behind, Bow Peak distance just right of center
 
Moonscape Large boulders of incredibly regular geometric shape tumbled off Dolomite Peak in not-so-distant past
 
Dolomite Tarn One of several alpine tarns at Dolomite Pass, with water level fairly low in late summer.  Main hiking trail is behind grassy rise at other side
 
Panoramic view of beautiful Katherine Lake South Dolomite Pass Off trail ascent of South Dolomite Pass.  You can go pretty much anywhere;  I stayed initially at grassy slopes to the left, then transferred to rubble on the other side aiming for ridge above the pass upper center right
 
Dolomite Glacier Not often seen pocket Glacier at east side of Dolomite Peak
 
Mosquito Drainage Looking down at other side of the pass towards Mosquito area and potential return - or approach - for loop hike
 
Hector Telephoto Mount Hector from South Dolomite Pass, one of main landmarks in this part of Icefields;  Noseeum, Andromache and Little Hector in foreground left to right. Snowy dome of Mt. Ball distance right
 
Watermelon S2 Watermelon S2, also called "OxO or Puzzle Peak" in some circles.  Loose, difficult and dangerous scramble route that ascends chimneys upper left is not recommended
 
Dolomite Valley View down Dolomite Creek Valley on descent from the Pass, hiked as part of standard Dolomite Circuit backpack.  Quill/Conical in the distance
 
Dolomite Pass Tarn Incredible early evening light conditions at Dolomite Pass - calm and just incredibly beautiful
 
Dolomite Panorama Looking back towards South Dolomite Pass from the Tarn;  Dolomite Peak extreme upper right, Watermelon S2 center left
 
Katherine Portrait Katherine Lake on return with sunlight reflected of rock cliffs
 
Katherine Lake Wide Panorama of Katherine Lake with Dolomite Peak reflected in calm and very transparent water surface
 
Helen Lake Helen Lake from "Helen Lake Summit" on return with "Crystal" ridge behind. Crowfoot glacier in the background center left

 

Abstract

Overall Difficulty D3/4 Moderate hiking to Dolomite Pass, easy talus ascent to South Dolomite Pass.  Harder for Mosquito Drainage loop
Snow Factor S3 Part of Dolomite Circuit frequently done in winter on skis. Snowshoes trip not feasible due to distance / winter hours
Scenery Fantastic Rockies scenery throughout, including lakes, meadows, alpine meadows and glaciers.  Almost entire trip is above treeline
Trail/Marking Very Good Well defined trail to Dolomite Pass, briefly disappears at Helen Lake Summit.  Off trail to South Dolomite Pass, but way is obvious
Suggested Time 7hr Out-and-back via Helen Lake; possibly shorter for Mosquito side access/return
Elevation Start: 1900m     Max: 2560m     Total: ~800m  (OnB via Helen Lake) Round Trip: 22km (OnB via Helen Lake)
Gear Day hikers of full hiking boots. Poles will help for creek crossings. 
Water Helen and Dolomite creek; Katherine Lake outlet and creeks draining Dolomite Glacier above the Pass. Carry max 1L
Dog Friendly Yes Prime griz-country;  maintain control at all times