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.

Lake Louise

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.

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