If you're an ice climber, mecca would be Banff, Alberta Canada. The drips, and drools are made famous and infamous in the curses of the likes like Blanchard, Twight, Jo-Jo....It was for this reason my wife decided that was the place for a belated honeymoon. So she booked us tickets on Priceline ($200 USD each) I wasn't going to put up a fight.
Just before Christmas we waddled off to the airport with way too much baggage. The first two days was spent visiting her grandm..., uhmmm... acclimating- you know that 5000ft altitude can't be taken too lightly. After going bonkers at grandma...acclimating, we decided to do a warmup. We checked out Grotto Canyon between Exashaw and Canmore on Route 1a about 1 hour out of Calgary. The walk in was a beautiful canyon, walking up a slushy creek, it was 2C. The first climbs were His and Hers (WI4) and their companion mixed climbs Mental Jewelry and Scratch and Sniff (both M6+). Hers was a thunker short warm up (~35ft but ~85degrees). I tapped on His and a piece the size of me peeled off. That was best taken by Mental Jewelry, well away from the ice. Scratch and Sniff was found to be beautiful moved on tiny edges with tool matches on improbable rock crystals. It ended up being my wifes first mixed climb, god, she never works her way through the grades on anything. At the back of the canyon we found Grotto Falls which was a beautiful WI3, exactly 60m long. Walking out we were happy with our day and looking forward to the next.
The following day we met up with some climbers and went deep into the Ghost. The Ghost River being close in distance to Calgary is definately 4 wheel drive terratory. Crossing 2 streams and 20km off road we were glad to be a part of a group that had high clearence 4 wheel drive. A warmup? on the Good Bad and Ugly (WI4+/5) left me a bit drained, and my wife with a case of the scream'n barfies (a situation where your hands go numb due to the cold and climbing, when the feeling returns you need to scream and barf), we rested, we jumped on a small pillar, the Indifferent (WI3)- just good fun climbing. After this we took a rest day and my wife taught me to tele-ski; yes; I'm a proud 5.3 tele-skier now. We stayed that night at the Lake Louise Hostel ($30Can/$20USD) which also served good and wicked cheep food. The following day we went up to Lake Louise Falls (WI4+/5). Upon reaching the belay cave (beautiful: check the cover of the Black Diamond ice catalog for an idea), my wife nearly passed out due to the screamn barfies. Upon rapping, at the first belay we met another lady who had the screamn barfies: must be the cold going around, who was really happy with my belay gloves. The next two weeks passed with trips to Kicking Horse Canyon with things like Pretty Nuts (180metres, WI4 with a 2 second approach), Canmore, Banff,... The end of the trip concluded with a trip to Haffner creek. Knuckles and arms beat, face battered (seemed like everyday say icefall storm down on me; a block striking me as I placed a screw 20ft above my last piece, chunks from climbers on an adjacent climb....; we were glad to take refuge on the sport climbs of ice. Haffner creek (17km off of Hwy 1 just north of Banff)has maybe 18 mixed climbs from M5+ to M9+. To warm up we jumped on a short pillar, unnamed and unrated, maybe WI4/4+. It was an eye opener since it was so chandlered; nearly made a stain; in my shorts, not the ground. After the warmup we jumped on a M5+ but couldn't complete it since the ice had fractured just passed the last hold. I suppose I could have dynoed for it but me, I'm a wimp-s%$T on ice. After that my wife wanted to try Shagadelic (M7) we had watched a couple of Canmore climbers cruise it like it was a sidewalk. She jumped on it finding technical edges but couldn't finish the overhanging section due to the tool underclimb. Jumping on it, I was impressed but my wife and found the edging beautiful and delicate, and the undercling and overhang powerful but, off I was, swinging in air. Oh well, there is next year, and next year it will be.
We have plans of Professor Falls (8 pitches of WI4: it was too warm this year) and Johnston Falls aMt Dennis with the Beer Climbs, and definately the Icefield Pkway. It truely is a ice climbers mecca, and telleskiing ROCKS there too. PS. The canadian dollar bveing worth 0.66 of the US dollar makes it really affordable, but you didn't hear it from me.
Edited by chuck on 1/8/01 04:50 PM.