A trrip to mecca: or is it to Banff

Posted by: Anonymous

A trrip to mecca: or is it to Banff - 01/08/01 09:01 PM

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.

Posted by: andrew

Re: A trrip to mecca: or is it to Banff - 01/08/01 09:18 PM

Wow-awesome trip chuck.

Is there much good climbing there that is WI4 or under, and mixed climbing easier then M5(my idea of a perfect route is a long WI3/4 gully with some 5.6ish rock thrown in for fun)? How is the avy danger? I've been wanting to go up there for awhile, but most of what I've heard about is really hard. Is the ice really chopped(like ugh Vail), or is it fairly pristine?


Its all A1 until you fall.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: A trrip to mecca: or is it to Banff - 01/08/01 10:02 PM

Its a Mecca for all, Check out the book by Jo-Jo Jopherson, Ice Climbs of the Canadian Rockies, and Sean Isaacs, Mixed Climbs of the Canadian Rockies. There are ALOT (ok, poor grammar) of WI3's.Rumored, in Canmore is the Junkyard Wall, all WI2's and WI3- but didn't visit it. Just outside of Banff, you can't miss it if you tried, is Southern Wind (a 200m long WI3). Grotto Falls, in Haffner Creek there are a few WI3's. Coire Integrale in Canmore (wasn't on it so I can't say) is a WI3 5.8 mixed, looong route. In the Ghost is a really long route The House of Skye, which is WI3 and +400m (ran into a couple guys who rave about it). The ice is sooo much better then the chopped stuff at Vail, but chandeliered stuff isn't uncommon. Definately worth checking out. Shell and I are already planning for next year. Ys there are a lot of hard climbs (many WI6+ horror fest and enough awesome climbers around to make anyone feel like a gumby- I know, since I feel like I suck after seeing some of these guys and women climb.) but there are a lot of moderate stuff, hence- it being a mecca.

Posted by: Dizzy

Re: A trrip to mecca: or is it to Banff - 01/08/01 10:05 PM

A friend of mine just returned from Banff telling tales of 300m of WI3 and cheap air fares, hotels, etc. The exchange rate is still waaaaaaaaaaaaaay in our advantage. I'm planning to go in March.


Only the good die young. Immortality through immorality!
Posted by: andrew

Re: A trrip to mecca: or is it to Banff - 01/08/01 10:15 PM

Thanks Dizz and Chuck.

This place sounds even better than I had thought. Probably won't make it up this year, but next year for sure. 400 meters of WI3-I may not leave until the summertime!

The ice climbing here in Colorado was awesome until early December, and now it is so chopped it isn't even fun to climb. The ice with 4+ mile approaches is still good, but for me the season is over in Vail, Mt Lincoln, wild basin in rmnp, etc.


Its all A1 until you fall.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: A trrip to mecca: or is it to Banff - 01/12/01 07:27 PM

Andrew: Check out the current issue of Rock & Ice. There is an article devoted to moderate ice in the Canadian Rockies.

Chuck: I was up there last January for the first time, and did 4 routes: Louise Falls, Bow Falls, Murcheson Falls and the Weeping Wall. Next time you are up there, I highly recommend Murcheson -- just a beautiful scene surrounding you on a big falls. The rest were excellent, too, but Murcheson stuck out in my mind. Also, making the move out of the cave on Louise Falls and onto the WI5 pillar got one's attention. ;-)