Canadian Ice Climbing

Rob, Pete, Laetitia, Alister, and Terry on This House of Sky

At Smiler’s request, on his and Peri’s 2016 Rjukan Norwegian ice climbing meet, I gave a short presentation to the assembled gang about ice climbing in the Canadian Rockies. My credentials being that I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy seven winter trips to the area. After the presentation one extremely enthused Peter Frost asked me if I thought another meet there might be a goer… So to cut a long story short, below is a quick report on the excellent trip that Peter went on to organise. The aim of which is to try to get you enthused about this world-class ice climbing venue. Why would I want to do that? Well, to get you to come along and join us in 2018 of course! 😉

The Canadian Rockies around Banff are less than a hour’s easy drive from Calgary and may well offer the best ice climbing on the planet! Backed up with an unbeatable accommodation offer. So before global warming gets really going thanks to certain ginger haired, small handed, climate change denying, tweeting idiots pulling out of the Paris climate change agreement book yourself on ASAP…

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Here are a few images to get you thinking along the right lines – that is, world class ice! (Please click on any of these thumbnails to see them big!)

Dream On


Carlsberg Column

Terry and Peter on a fairly typical sunny walk-in in the Rockies

Wicked Wanda in fairly wicked condition!

Laetitia abseiling after climbing the rarely formed Circus Circus

Peter’s luxury 4×4 Ford Explorer SUV, aka “Exploder”

Rob, Pete, and Peter after a fun final ascent of Lake Louise Falls

Rob climbing in to the ice cave near the top of Lake Louise Falls

2018 Meet Details

Dates: Saturday 3rd to Saturday 17th February 2018
(Note, these dates have been specifically picked to avoid the CC AGM)
Venue: Canmore, Canada
Accommodation: Superb accommodation for nine is arranged in Canmore, staying with Terry Kenny. It doesn’t get better than this – book early to ensure you take advantage of this unprecedented luxury!

Believe it or not Canada is actually a relatively cheap climbing destination. Food, gear, beer, etc. are all really good value. Thanks in part due to the exchange rates. So lets hope that neither Trump nor May mess that up too! However, obviously the most expensive thing is getting there. And this in part is at the root of this early posting to get people interested in coming along… Perhaps oddly at this time of year, summer, some of the cheapest flights to Canada are released by the airlines. So get looking now for flights to Calgary! After the flight the only remaining significant expense is transport, a 4×4 vehicle is recommended.

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Summary 2017 Trip Report

Alister looking at the moves out of the cave at Johnston Canyon

Running it out at Johnston Canyon

There were six climbers on the 2017 meet – Peter Frost (meet co-ordinator), Terry Kenny (host), Rob Gray, Alister Bignell, Laetitia Sterling, and Peter Sterling. It was a good gang! And we managed to visit a surprisingly large number of venues – Canmore Junkyards, Grotto Canyon, Wedge Smear, Lake Louise, Haffner, Evan Thomas Creek, Bear Spirit, Banff, the Ghost River Wilderness, the Icefields Parkway, Field, Kicking Horse, and Johnston Canyon.

Not a bad tally of venues considering the epically cold first week (down to -29°C), terrible avalanche conditions (heavy, cold, and un-consolidating snowfall), and a warm second week (up to +8°C). Who would believe a 37°C temperate variation over just three days! Well not Trump obviously. 🙄

With a temperature of -24°C, made worse with a brutal wind chill, on the middle Saturday of the trip we decided to keep moving to stay warm and so a mass solo ascent of This House of Sky was agreed upon. Thanks in no large part to Terry’s mates (John and Alvin) from Calgary for getting us in to the Ghost River Wilderness in their 4x4s with studded tyres etc. The route in to the North Ghost is much trickier than the last time we visited in 2007 due to the awful floods of 2013.

Inspecting the first major river crossing in the North Ghost

There was also a great big North American sized helping of hospitality too. The Canadian Alpine Club said “Hi” with a dinner thanks to Joanna Croston (who also coincidentally is a director of the Banff Mountain Festival), we helped Will Gadd celebrate his birthday (these days they say life begins at his age, so who knows what he’ll do next!), and Laetitia and I watched some NHL ice hockey at the Saddledome.

Pete, Terry, Laetitia, Peter, and Rob at Will Gadd’s birthday party

The warm up session before the Calgary Flames beat the Montreal Canadiens

Terry, Laetitia, Pete, Peter, and Rob enjoying a last super sized breakfast at Craig’s

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Posted in Meets
5 comments on “Canadian Ice Climbing
  1. avatar Dave Wynne-Jones says:

    Would be there like a shot except the dates exactly clash with a tour I’m leading in the Pyrenees. Hope this isn’t a one-off and perhaps January could be considered another time?

  2. For the record and to keep people’s expectations realistic…
    Although I haven’t done any serious flight searching yet it may be worth noting that 1) in previous years direct flights from the UK have been super expensive so we have most often been on a short flight via Schipol or Frankfurt hubs before getting a direct flight from there to Calgary and 2) I fear that £350 will not be a realistic (or real) price. The flight is expensive. But it’s the only part of the trip that is, so stay faithful even when you start to see prices more like we paid last year; £650.

  3. FYI, this meet is fully booked. Plus I also have a growing “reserve” list of those who would like to come should anyone drop out. Do let me know if you wanna get on that reserve list. Everyone/Anyone is welcome to come along. But to be sure of joining the adventure you’ll be best to arrange your own accommodation in Canmore… There are loads of options and price points from budget bunkhouse, to the Canadian Alpine Club clubhouse, to motels, to hotels, to renting a house. Good luck booking!

    If you do come out during the meet’s dates let me know and (if I like you 😉 ) I will let you pop round to our awesome digs for a brew and some climbing beta! 🙂