Canadian Rockies Ice Trip
November 19-28th, 2004
Mt. Rundle out side of Canmore, AB.
Climbing ice in the Canadian Rockies over Thanksgiving had been on my
mind for a couple years now. Avalanche danger would be low, there isn't
ice anywhere other than Hyalite, and many of the long gully climbs that
are covered in snow later seasons are in prime shape. It didn't take much
to get people excited, and before I knew it Ken, Kellie and Micah had
signed up for the week. Sweet!
We left Seattle early Friday morning and drove about 12 hours (655 miles)
to Canmore, Alberta. We went over I-90 to Spokane, and then up through
Northern Idaho into Canada. This route is a little longer milage wise
than taking HW 1 all the way East across Canada (639 miles), but having
driven both ways, it's nice to be able to chug around 4 of those hours
just cruising across I-90 to Spokane. Also, the only mountain pass on
this route is Snoqualmie pass, where as on HW 1 you need to cross the
high and often snowy Roger's Pass near Revelstoke.
A map of our drive from Yahoo maps.
Canmore was a good place to start our trip because we could stay in a
cheap motel, split between the four of us, and there are some climbs close
by. As it had been warm though, a lot of things were not in around Canmore
and Banff. Cascade was just forming, Professor Falls looked almost in,
but many climbs would require some driving. If you are a solid grade 5
climber, there is plenty to spend a week on here though.
We stayed initially at the Rocky
Mountain Ski Lodge. A cheap but nice place in Canmore that has a hot
tub and a sauna! They also have rooms with kitchenettes, and the prices
seem to range from $50-$80 CDN per night this time of year.
A rather rosy picture of the motel from their website.
Sorry, PT Cruisier not included.
Ken cookin up a spot of bacon outside our room.
Canmore has a full on small city feel with several pubs (The Drake is
good with pretty good food no less), a gear shop (Valhalla Pure) where
you can get condition reports, and most importantly, a liqueur store with
the dubious name "Mountain Dew Liquors".
Later on in our trip we headed north to stay up on the David Thompson
Highway with our friends Scott and Yvette. It was fantastic staying up
there, beautiful country and uncrowded ice. Our hosts were unfailingly
gracious, giving us real beds, beta, and even a fantastic home
cooked meal on what was, in the US, Thanksgiving.
The amazing Howse Peak. Near the turnoff for HW 11.
After that we moved back down to the main highway and spent a night at
the Alpine Club of Canada's Hostel in Lake Louise. The place was pretty
nice for a hostel, but overall pretty expensive ($34 CDN/night) for what
you get. As we were a group of 4, we got a whole room to ourselves. Otherwise
you'll probably share bunks with others. There was a good sauna downstairs,
but no hot tub. The massive kitchen in the basement would be great for
preparing large meals for big groups, but was pretty crazy at dinner time.
Lake Louise is pretty central though. There are two great climbs right
on Lake Louise: Louise Falls and Linda Ice 9. Both less than an hours
walk from the car. It's also a half hour down to Field where the Mt. Dennis
climbs like Guiness Gully and Pilsner Pillar are. Banff is about an hour
south, and the Bow Lake/Mt. Murchison climbs are about an hour North.
Living in Lake Louise is a bit more expensive like $4 for eggs vs. $2.50
in Canmore (not to mention that it would be really wet and cold).
Castle Mountain near Banff.
As far as guide books, we used primarily Waterfall Ice: Climbs in
the Canadian Rockies written by Joe Josephson, as well as Sean Issac's
book Mixed Climbs in the Canadian Rockies.
In all, Canada is an amazing place to ice climb. You do have to drive
around a bit, but the length and variety of climbs there make it well
worth the effort.