Kananaskis Country encompasses 4200 sq kilometers of mountains and foothills that border the big four Canadian Rockies National Parks, Banff, Kootenay, Yoho and Jasper, to the east. To say this is an extensive mountaineering playground would itself still be an understatement. Besides containing coveted 11,000’+ summer alpine objectives like Mts. Assiniboine, Joffre and Sir Douglas, Kananaskis also contains some of the finer, albeit dangerous (avalanche danger), waterfall ice in the world.
Kananaskis Highway is closed in the winter (from December 1 through June 15) at Kings Creek Canyon making some of Kananaskis objectives bigger alpine grades via ski in approaches. Avalanche danger is high in Kananaskis Country. The front range area can sometimes get a foot or more of fresh snow from the same storm in comparison to the colder intermountain areas like the Icefield Parkway. Be forewarned, Kananaskis Provincial park is not part of the National Park system and thus any rescue/recovery will be costly.
Listing routes with no first hand experience available is not what this page is about. Rather the listing involves first hand accounts only of waterfall ice routes within Kananaskis Provincial Park. The routes will be listed and maintained in ascending order of South to North. I can assure you that this listing only scratches the surface of what is available come January through April up and down the central Canadian Rockies. I personally attempt to climb 30 WI routes per winter and still have plenty more to experience.
Route Description(s)Opal Creek
Whiteman Falls, IV, WI 6 Joe Josephson’s “Waterfall Ice, Climbs in the Canadian Rockies” references the second pitch of Whiteman Falls as “one of the hardest pure ice pitches anywhere sporting over thirty meters of rotten, overhanging ice.” However in January of 2007 this second pitch was in fantastic shape and was actually easier than the second pitch of Rainbow Serpent which we had just completed a week earlier.
A Bridge Too Far, IV, WI 4+ A Bridge Too Far is a very pleasant climb with a relatively short and fast approach, when there is a broken in trail. It is south facing, and in the sun for the majority of the day, which makes it a pleasant climb. It has some avalanche danger from above, so be aware of the snow conditions.
Kid Falls, IV, WI 4 Kidd Falls is a climb in a spectacular location below the Mt Kidd bowl in Kananaskis. It is threatened by a big avalanche bowl and there have been numerous avalanche incidents on it, so check the conditions and use common sense.
Getting ThereTake the Kananaskis Trail (Highway 40) exit off of the Trans-Canada Highway between Calgary and Canmore. Drive from 10 to 54kms to the end of Kananaskis Highway (Hwy 40) depending on which ice you are after. After 54kms, the road is closed in the winter and you will have to strap on the skies. This section of Kananaskis Highway is closed from December 1 through June 15, and I do mean with a gate. The closure is at Kings Creek (Canyon).
Red TapeThere are no permit requirements to enter, climb and/or park in Kananaskis Provincial Park. This can be avalanche terrain during the winter. Therefore it would be prudent to check recent notices posted on the Canadian Avalanche Association’s website regarding that issue. Kananaskis waterfall ice routes are more susceptible to avalanche risk than most any other. Tony Devonshire was killed in an avalanche on a Kananaskis ice route at the start of the 2006-2007 season.
Camping/LodgingThe closest winter overnight accommodation I am aware of is the Delta Lodge back north off of Highway 40, but I am sure there are other options despite most campgrounds being closed. You cannot camp outside of the marked specific camping areas in Kananaskis. Refer to the Kananaskis Provincial Park website for more information regarding camping and/or lodging.
Climbing ConditionsThe Kananaskis Provincial Park website is a very thorough park website, including trail conditions or closures, wildlife notices, weather conditions, avalanche conditions, camping permits, whitewater conditions, etc. It is an excellent source if you are going to spend any time in Kananaskis. Outside of the parks web sites, Canadian Avalanche Association is also useful, particularly for winter travel. Canadian Alpine Accident Reports are also extremely useful.