His, WI 4, Hers, WI 4 and Grotto Falls, WI 3, make up the easy approach ice in Grotto Canyon. It took me over five years to get around to these climbs due to their popularity. In fact I have yet to climb the “Junkyards” directly behind my home for the same reason. But with a friend in town looking for her first WI experience, we headed back into Grotto Canyon.
Grotto Canyon is at the east end of Grotto Mountain, just east of Grotto Corner. Grotto Mountain makes up the eastern end of the Fairholme Range (along with Lady Mac Donald and Squaws Tit) before it runs into the Bow River and Kananaskis Country.
The TransCanada Highway runs from Calgary through the Rocky Mountain Canadian National Parks on its way to Vancouver. Right before you enter Banff National Park is the town of Canmore. The Benchlands Trail is what I would call the main Canmore exit off of the TransCanada. Head north on the Benchlands Trial as it curves right and turn right onto Elk Run Blvd. Elk Run dead ends into 1A. Take a left hand turn onto 1A. Drive 5 to 10 minutes and take a left into the entrance for the Baymag #2 plant. Instead of following the road up to the plant, take an immediate right dirt road fork. Turn left onto a rough dirt trail road that follows the power line easement. There will be a small pullout on your right that has a marked trail, but you can also continue a little further to an open parking area up on a hill. Hike north up the hill towards the mouth of Grotto Canyon. We still used this access as of 2007 with no worries or warning signs, but future access is always being discussed.
As you continue north through the canyon, you will eventually come to a solid wall. His, 15m, WI 4 is to the left, Hers, 15m, WI 3-4 is directly ahead and Grotto Falls, 55m, WI 2-3 is to the right at the dead end of this right hand fork.
Route DescriptionJoe Josephson’s “Waterfall Ice, Climbs in the Canadian Rockies” references that as many as 20 climbers have been witnessed on Grotto Falls at the same time! Luckily four of us chose a pretty cold day and thus had it to ourselves. Grotto Falls is set up to climb in two pitches utilizing bolt/chain belays on a ledge half way up and at the top over to the left. However, I found no reason not to do Grotto Falls in one pitch with double ropes. I also rate Grotto Falls a WI 2, not a WI 3. I have not been on enough WI 2 to know what it really is, but I have been on enough WI 3 to know that Grotto does not fit that bill. The only steep portion I observed was the very first curtain, but even that is normally stepped and picked out by all the traffic and it is only a few meters at that before it gives way to easier angled ground. Then up another short curtain, past the first chains on your left and up the final thin curtain that dumps you up at a creek bed with the top chains over on the wall to your left. I placed one screw on the whole route.
Grotto Falls is what it is, a good place to teach beginners. The walk back through the canyon is always pleasant no matter how cold and the Paintings Wall is always a show off attraction to those who have never seen it or don’t know where it is.
Essential GearTwo Ice Tools, double ropes is you want to do it in one pitch, 2-4 Ice Screws and draws, Crampons, Helmet, Warm Clothes (no sun), Full Shank Boots
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