Neil Colgan Hut

Neil Colgan Hut

Built 1983

Located in a col between Mts. Little and Bowlen, the Neil Colgan Hut serves as the base for excellent alpine mountaineering objectives in the Valley of the Ten Peaks. The Colgan Hut is equipped with propane stoves and lanterns and is well-stocked with cooking supplies. At 2,957m, the Neil Colgan Hut is the highest permanent habitable structure in Canada.

Hut Facilities

Neil Colgan Hut Features

Open Summer Only

Features

Mountaineering hut in the Valley of the 10 Peaks

The mountains in The Valley of the Ten Peaks are all over 3,000m, and the hut, at 2,900m is an ideal base for bagging these summits. It is standard to climb a number of peaks in a day, and it is not uncommon to stop back at the hut for lunch on the porch, or another cup of coffee between summits.

The routes accessible from the hut range from moderate scrambles up Mts. Little and Bowlen, just outside the hut, to the north face ice routes on Mts. Fay and Quadra. The many other peaks have difficulties somewhere in between.

Trail Access

The typical access to Neil Colgan Hut starts at Moraine Lake. In 2023, Parks Canada made the decision to close Moraine Lake Rd. to private vehicles due to high demand.

The Alpine Club of Canada was consulted by Parks Canada regarding this road closure and we did share our access concerns for the mountaineering community. In 2024, Parks Canada implemented an “alpine start” shuttle in response to the concerns we shared. Unfortunately, the general appetite for early access to Moraine Lake means that it is difficult for hut users and climbers to secure access to Moraine Lake with this shuttle. We appreciate the efforts Parks Canada is making to manage the demand and provide access to this popular area.

To help the mountaineering community, we can recommend the following ways to access the Moraine Lake Area:


  • Parks Canada – Alpine Start Shuttle:
  • Parking is at the Lake Louise Lakeshore parking. Paid parking is in effect during the shuttle season (May – October). Advanced reservations are required. Hut users may choose to be dropped off or find alternate transportation to the Lake Louise lakeshore to avoid paying the daily parking fee.

  • Parks Canada – Shuttle:
  • Parking is at the Park and Ride at the Lake Louise Ski Area. Parking is Free. Advanced reservations are not required. Guests with valid reservations at the Neil Colgan Hut can show their reservation (and their alpine backpacks) to receive a seat on the next available bus. (4 shuttles/hour)
    Return:
    On return to Moraine Lake – Guests can take any of the Parks Canada shuttles to return to the Lakeshore or the Park and Ride lot at Lake Louise Ski Area. The last return shuttle is at 7:30pm. If you expect to return to Moraine Lake after 7:30pm, we recommend planning to hike or bike from Moraine Lake to your vehicle.

  • Roam Transit:
  • Routes 8X and 10 offer service from Banff to Lake Louise. Reservations are recommended, and can be made for travel over multiple days. Route 8X provides service to Lake Louise Lakeshore. Users will need to use the Lake Connector to access Moraine Lake.
    Return: On return to Moraine Lake – guests can take the Parks Canada Lake Connector shuttle to the Lake Louise lakeshore. With a return ticket you will be provided a seat on the next available bus. Approximately 50% of seats on each bus are for reserved seats, leaving opportunity for unscheduled guests to get a seat on a return trip. Please be aware that there is only 1 bus operating route 8X in summer 2024, so service is limited.

  • Hike or Bike:
  • Guests are welcome to hike or bike from Lake Louise to Moraine Lake. Parking location is the responsibility of the guest. An e-bike can offer a reasonably quick access to the Moraine Lake Area.

  • Private Shuttle:
  • A number of private shuttles are available for the Moraine Lake area. Morainelakeshuttle.ca appears to have a consolidated list of service providers.

    Approach Information

    The Neil Colgan Hut is located in Banff National Park, right on the Continental Divide in a col between Mts Little and Bowlen (peaks 2 and 3 in the Valley of the Ten Peaks). The hut is the highest permanent structure in Canada, edging out the former Abbot Pass Hut by about 30m. The following information should be used in conjunction with the correct topographic map.

    There are two common routes up to the Colgan hut; one technical route from Moraine Lake, and the more circuitous route up Tokumm Creek via the Fay Hut area.

    Summer approach: In the past the 3-3 ½ couloir was used as an approach to the area. However, the rock in the Valley of the Ten Peaks area is generally quite rank (some people will tell you that this is where the Rockies got its reputation for lousy rock), and the decaying walls that tower above this couloir regularly send debris screaming through it with no warning. DO NOT GO HERE.

    1. Perren Route
    2. Begin the approach by hiking along the north shore of Moraine Lake to the creek which flows from the Wenkchemna Glacier and the end of the boardwalk. From here either plow straight through the cold water or head up the creek to the north for 50m to a log-and-cable crossing. If you opt for the water, it is advisable to wear an old pair of runners or sandals (maybe even wear them from the car) and carry a ski pole or other such implement, as the water is fast. The log crossing is a good option unless, of course, you fall in. The logs are slimy, the cables are loose, and depending on the time of day and season, the logs may be under water If you are packing crampons along for the trip anyway, it is recommended you throw them on for the crossing. From the south side of the creek head along a trail through the forest for five to ten minutes until it opens up into a boulder field. Work your way through the large boulders and up a talus slope, trending left, toward the base of a large quartzite buttress. A good trail runs along the base of quartzite ledges to the top of the talus slope, where it is possible to break left onto a well-defined trail and ledge system. The trail ascends over ledges and trails toward two obvious cliff bands.

      At the first cliff band, follow a line which scrambles through a gully; at the second cliff band, the technical climbing begins. Put on the rope and begin climbing a few metres from the extreme left side of the cliff where several pitons and a chain mark the route. Also marking the route is an orange triangle/arrow painted on the rock at the bottom stance – an interesting souvenir from the old days. The route is easy to follow, and involves three separate pitches; the first is the steepest and hardest, the second, a traverse to the right (following bolts) to a large ledge; and the third a less technical, but more run-out pitch to the base of the glacier. There are several ways to climb the final pitch, the easiest of which begins about 25m along the large ledge, and slightly past a fixed anchor which is used for descending the lower wall. Climb a slab just left of a small groove, and then step right into a large groove. Trend left on good ledges, which take you to the top of the cliff and a fixed anchor (25m) It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the descent anchors on your way up, particularly if you plan to return this way. One rope is sufficient to rappel this line, but just. Don’t try it with a rope less than 50 metres long. You will need a set of quickdraws to clip the bolts and links of the chain as you climb up through the 5.7 sections, a lead rope, and of course, helmets. A few wired stoppers and a couple of camming devices may add some peace of mind in a couple of places.

      The Perren route itself tops out at the glacier at grid reference 572838. It is a good idea to keep this reference number handy in the event you are descending this route in poor visibility. From the top of the rock climbing, proceed up the glacier in a southerly direction toward Mt Little, until it is possible to gain a ridge of snow on the glacier and contour across the north slopes of that mountain to the hut at the Little-Bowlen col. This approach gains 1,000m from Moraine Lake up to the hut Five to seven hours is standard, and keep in mind that there is a great deal of hiking uphill through scree and over ledges which could be harder to follow and more work if there is snow on the ground. There is also a formidable section of rock climbing involved, and climbing with heavy packs or setting up to haul them will also take time. Gage your own ability accordingly.

    3. Fay Hut Area Approach
    4. This is the longest, but certainly the least technical of the three approaches to the Colgan Hut. Beware, the Tokumm Creek trail is no longer maintained by Parks Canada from Marble Canyon to the former Fay Hut location. There are many downed trees and creek crossings. From the Fay Hut location, proceed in a northwesterly direction over faint trails to the mouth of an obvious canyon. Do not proceed up the canyon. On the north side of the canyon, and several hundred feet higher than its mouth, is a large open plateau which takes you to the moraine and the glacier. To gain this plateau, cross the creek at the mouth of the canyon and follow a faint trail which takes you left of the canyon, around an orange buttress of rock and onto a treed slope. Ascend the treed slope on a faint trail to the open plateau above it. Follow the moraine and glacier in a north-northeasterly direction toward the Little-Bowlen col. Approach the col from the Mt. Little side, contouring across its west slopes to the col and the hut. It takes a pretty big effort to reach the Neil Colgan Hut from the road in a single day via this approach; total traveling time is going to be in the seven to ten hour range. The elevation gain from the trailhead is a little over 1,500m.

Member Rates

  • Standard $50

Non Member Rates

  • Standard $60

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Hut History

Second to the scene of Lake Louise set against the backdrop of Mt. Victoria, Moraine Lake is perhaps the most photographed and best known mountain scene in the Canadian Rockies. The area behind the first row of peaks which can be seen from the lake provides excellent alpine climbing on snow and ice routes, and makes an ideal location for a high altitude climbing hut.

The area saw its first hut in 1964 when the Calgary Mountain Club erected a hut at the top of the couloir between peaks 3 and 3 ½ This original hut was named for Graham Cooper, who died while descending after the construction of the hut. The hut was in a poor position, however, because it encouraged use of the couloir as an access route to the hut. See “summer approach: do not go”. By the late 1980s the couloir had seen many rockfall accidents and several fatalities. The hut was dismantled and replaced by the Neil Colgan Hut in 1983. Neil Colgan was a warden in Banff National Park when he died from injuries sustained in a horse accident in the backcountry. The hut was largely funded by his family in his name.

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