in the Canadian Rockies
If Ice Climbing
is your thing then read on, Neil Allamby,
British climber and outdoor education
specialist gives some insights on Ice
climbing in the Rockies. Neil is also
a member of the Alaska Mountain Bike
expedition to cycle across the Alaskan
wilderness and the immense quality of
climbing on offer makes ice climbing
in the Canadian Rockies a real climbers
paradise. Couple the accesability, diversity
and the wide range of climbs to suit
all standards and you have a place that
is probably without equal.
The guarantee of
finding climable ice, no matter what
the conditions means that over the first
few days your fitness and confidence
are sure to increase. Match these gains
with a little bit of thought on developing
your technique and you will very quickly
find yourself ready to take on some
of the longer, classic routes, of which
there are an abundance.
I experienced the
thrill of climbing some of these routes
during a two week trip this Easter.
Only the week before I had been struggling
up a wet, thawing Aladdins Mirror Direct
in the Cairngorms, wondering where the
attraction of ice climbing lay!.
The first piece
of advice I would give is to suggest
you purchase a copy of the excellent
guidebook Waterfall Ice: Climbs in the
Canadian Rockies by Joe Josephson. In
addition to the relevant detail on routes
and grades the guide is packed with
lots of other useful information.
The grades by the
way are probably a grade harder than
their Scottish equivalent, especially
in the middle grades. In other words,
a Canadian technical grade 3 would more
likely equate to a Scottish grade 4,
though the ice will in most cases be
of better quality. Whether this holds
true in the higher grades is something
you will have to discover for yourselves.
In a normal year,
if there is such a thing, the climbing
season extends from early November through
until early April. March is probably
the most friendly month with longer
days, warmer temperatures and softer
ice. You will probably find the trails
to the routes to be well trodden by
this time of year. Having said this,
after a snowfall or for those routes
further into the wilderness Skis or
Snowshoes are definitely recommended.
On the subject of
equipment, you'd be well advised on
current exchange rates to buy your technical
equipment once you have arrived in Canada.
The Mountain Equipment Co-Op on 10th
Avenue in Calgary has a wide selection
of gear at very competitive prices.
The 1:200,000 Banff, Kootenay and Yoho
National Parks maps give good overviews
of most of the climbing areas and will
allow you to get a feel of distances
are a number of hostels along the main
highway between Canmore and Jasper which
are reasonably priced for those with
an IYHA membership. The Alpine Club
of Canada (ACC) Clubhouse, just outside
Canmore is recommended as a first stopover,
as you should be able to get up-to-date
information on the current conditions.
Bookings can be made by writing to the
main ACC office, Box 2040, Canmore,
Alberta, Canada, T0l 0M0. Tel 403-678-3200.
What about the down
side of climbing in Canada? Well firstly,
the danger of being avalanched is very
real, with a majority of the climbs
being at least partially threatened
by avalanches. Commonsense, experience
and references to the guidebooks will
go a long way to reducing risks. Secondly,
medical care in Canada is expensive,
so make sure you are properly insured
for all eventualities. It will save
on the second mortgage.
Start making plans
for next winter, you won't be disappointed.
The top picture
is Neil on the last pitch of Professor
Falls, 280 metres and graded III with
a tech grade of 4. The lower picture
is Melt Out 100 metres and graded III
with a tech grade of 3.