Canmore, Banff & Jasper, Alberta, Canada
The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.
The remarkable beauty of the Candian Rockies at Lake Louise
I’ve always heard incredible things about climbing in Canada, so in November 2016, Haley and I decided to travel to Banff and Canmore, Alberta in the Canadian Rockies. The best way to get there from San Diego is a three-hour flight to Calgary then a one hour drive. We rented a cabin on the outskirts of Canmore.It was a cozy little place with views of Mt Rundle and Banff National Park only a mile away. When we arrived, the weather was pretty cold with night temperatures below freezing. Unfortunately, the last two weeks before our arrival had been unseasonably warm which had made many of the frozen waterfalls unsafe to climb. We saw a sign that said Danger Thin Ice, which accurately described our situation. We were unphased by the ice conditions and encouraged by over-enthusiastic local ice climbers who talked about virgin ice lines on the mountains in Icefield Parkway, so we decided to drive north in search of ice!
The Candian Rockies from the plane
Driving North on Highway 93 aka Icefield Parkway to find ice!
A cute eskimo!
Unfortunately, the Weeping Wall ice was too thin, so we decided to go further north!
After about 3 hours of driving on the unplagued, snow-covered Highway 93, we made it to the Columbia Icefield and Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre (closed for the season). We reached it at about 8 am when the temperature outside was 20F (-6 C) with a wind chill of -2F (-16C) and it had just started to snow. There was no cell phone service, and with no other car or humans in sight, it really felt like we had reached the end of the world! In the distance under the gathering clouds, I could faintly see Mt Athabasca, Mt Andromeda, Snow Dome and Mt Kitchener. I had always wanted to climb out here, and now that I was here, I was excited to explore, but Haley did not seem to share the same excitement. In her defense, it was cold and windy (about 25 mile/hour winds) and not many people I know find these sort of conditions pleasant enough to climb or even to hike. While she took a nap in her warm sleeping bag in the car, I decided to venture out and explore the Columbia Icefield, Athabasca glacier and possibly get some soloing on easy ice!
The Candian Maple leaf flying proudly over the Columbia Icefield
Jasper National Park
Going out on a Reconnaissance mission in less than ideal conditions on Athabasca Glacier
Some weather over the Athabasca Glacier
Watch out for those Crevasses
Exploring the Athabasca Glacier
During the next day, we decided to stay close to civilization and explore the town of Banff. It’s one of my favorite mountain towns and has a lot to see. The coffee shops are amazing, and the bars have some great porters and stouts on tap. The world-famous Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity is located here, and you can actually find a REAL climbing store in this town. While Haley got a massage, I spent time in the climbing store reading the local climbing guidebook and planning what we would climb next.
Back to civilization at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity
The beautiful town of Banff surrounded by so many mountains!
A little more of Banff, Alberta
In the morning, Haley and I decided to go climb Kidd falls on Mt Kidd, located just southeast of Canmore. It is a south facing route which seemed to have a fairly large snow bowl right above it. In my climbing career, I have always been warned against such routes. The warming sun can lead to the melting of ice, which can cause shifting of rock thus leading to rockfall. Similarly, the snow in the bowl has nowhere else to go but down in the ice couloir, causing an avalanche. Not heading to my intuition, we racked up and started the approach. On the approach, which passed next to a wash, we saw fresh bear tracks and a few minutes later saw many small avalanches coming down the ice falls. We immediately called the climb off and decided to return to our car. That night through one of the online climbing forums, I found out that my friend Nolan had been climbing the same route and barely escaped a large avalanche.
Kidd Falls on Mt Kidd from a distance
Fresh bear tracks on our way to Kidd Falls
The incredible beauty of the Canadian Rockies
After that, I met up with a local climber, Mark, who was kind enough to take me to the Playground. The Playground is an amazing dry tooling area located south side of the second grotto on Grotto Mountain and was originally discovered by Canmore alpine guide, Patrick Delaney. He was looking for a crag that he could develop into a training crag for mixed climbing. There are many routes of varying grades and climbers come here to train year-round. Mark and I decided to get on some ice as well and later went climbing in Ranger Creek, which has several ice cragging routes as well as a few multi-pitch routes.
A super stout local climber and friend Mark Bramble hanging out as famous climbing photographer and your friendly Calgary real estate agent, Tim Banfield belays.
Dry Tooling in the Playground
Pro climber and guide Sarah Hueniken dry tooling at the Playground
Chalice and the Blade, WI5
First pitch of, Chalice and the Blade, WI5
Following Mark on Chalice and the Blade, WI5
The tools of the trade
Mark on the descent with a view of the Kananaskis Country
Ha Ling Peak
Incredibly beautiful Kananaskis Country
Haley at Elevation Place, the local climbing gym in Canmore
Trying out some Poutine!
Chilling out by Peyto Lake with Mt Patterson in the distance
The beauty of the Canadian Rockies which I witnessed on this trip was just absolutely mesmerizing
Some good old Canadian Beer by the fireplace
I love Canada!
This was one of the most amazing climbing trips I have ever been on, and I have to say, I truly fell in love with the beauty of Canada. There is a lot of climbing in these parts, both on rock and ice.The people I met here were incredibly friendly, humble and strong climbers ready to go out in any weather condition. I am happy to have made so many friends in Canada and can’t wait to go back.