Ice Climbing in Canmore and Banff National Park
Ok, so I’m a blogger not a writer. I’m also a procrastinator. Which means things in my life that I have to get done, get done late, and things I don’t -updating my blog- get done really late. So here we are, a month and a half after my trip, posting an entry…. (or four months before I finish it).
Jumping right in! Sometimes I think this is one of the best personality attributes I have, other times… maybe not. Regardless, a friend of mine (whom I hadn’t seen in years) and I met up at the climbing gym back in November to hang and chat. She mentioned she was going to Canmore to do some ice climbing and a little skiing in the next few weeks. Being the awesome person I am, I invited myself to go along with. (She was all about it though.)
Fast forward to early December and I’m hoping on a plane to Calgary, excited, nervous, and wondering why I decided I could afford this trip. In case you’re wondering, the border patrol dude at the Calgary airport was really nice. He asked me why I was tired and who I was visiting, smiled and sent me on my way with my one way ticket, no problem. I have a few discrepancies on my record that I’ve heard the Canadian government doesn’t take a liking to, and thankfully I had zero problems entering Alberta.
As it turned out, the friend I went to visit broke her tibia her first day skiing (ever) at Sunshine Village in Banff. I knew she had hurt her leg before my arrival, but we weren’t sure if she broke it until she went to the doctor after I got there. I was hoping to climb with her all week; now we were hoping she’d be able to walk normally in a month. My options became watching movies all week, or making new friends… you could guess that I chose the latter.
In any case, I highly recommend traveling to the Banff area if you like ice. There is an INSANE amount compared to the midwest…. and as far as I’ve heard, anywhere else in the world. I only ended up climbing 4 days (out of 6) and I’m already itching to go back.
On day one my two new friends and I headed to Bow Valley to meet up with some of their pals in Grotto Canyon. Shaira and I decided to hit up Grotto Falls first, a solid 55m WI2. Shaira lead it like a pro, and I’m pretty sure she only placed one screw…. but it was a super easy, super fun, cardio speed workout of a climb. It’s easily climbable in one pitch with a 70m rope, and a rappel descent to a super easy/safe midway point. Then we headed over to the main area, and I hopped on Hers (15m WI4) and His (15m WI4+) on top rope. Then I got to play on my first ever mixed route, Sketch and Sniff (15m M6+). Wrapping my mind around mixed climbing wasn’t too hard, but I will admit, it took some quick thinking. I was actually quite nervous, like the first time I ever tried leading or bouldering. In any case, I hang-dogged up the thing, but had a great time, and then did some laps on Hers to prove to myself that I wasn’t a horrible climber after all…
Day Two: The kids wanted to have a crag day so we headed to Hafner Creek.
Once we get there I soon find out, it’s gonna be another mixed climbing day…. We all warmed up on a WI3 route and then the mixed madness began.
I started on Half a Gonk (M6), followed it with Californication (M5) and finished on Swank (M8-)… all on top rope. After successfully climbing 3 mixed routes, I decided that I like mixed climbing… but I’m thinking I still prefer a good ice route.
On day three I decided that I’d had enough of this mixed nonsense, and implored my keepers to find a good long ice route to spend the day on. Unfortunately, it was super snowy, and avalanche conditions weren’t the best for doing routes. We headed to Cascade Mountain in Banff hoping to do Rogan’s Gully (III WI2/3). After a romp around in the snow trying to find the climb, we finally made it to the base. It ended up being a party day, with 6 climbers… 3 leaders, 3 followers. However, due to poor conditions, and someone getting an ice shard in the eye, we ended up bailing after the second pitch. I would love to head back and finish her someday. It was still a fun trip, but definitely not quite the epic-ness I’d hoped for.
I spent my last day climbing in Kananaskis County at Thomas Creek. We ended up heading to Snowline, a really beautiful 100m III WI4. Nathan lead the first pitch, Shaira lead the second, and I soon realized I hadn’t led a single climb this trip. I was planning on leading the second pitch, but ended up getting the worst case of the ‘screaming barfies’ I’ve ever gotten on the way up the first pitch. Apparently it’s hard to climb and pull screws while following when it’s really really cold out. This was probably my favorite day, mostly because the route was pretty, and with just three of us climbing, there was a very cohesive group.
It was worth getting the barfies to hang out (literally) and chat about ice while belaying, and taking in our surroundings.
So I only got four days of climbing in before we had to head to Colorado… but it was still a great first experience in the Canadian Rockies. I was sad to leave, but also getting super pumped about the chance to learn how to snowboard at Crested Butte.
(to be continued….)