The most convenient Golden, British Columbia waterfall ice, and perhaps some of the most convenient ice anywhere in the Canadian Rockies is Kicking Horse Canyon.
The TransCanada crosses the deep and spectacular Kicking Horse Canyon just 10 miles east of Golden via two new bridges (2008). Of course the canyon is molded by its namesake, the Kicking Horse River. The river begins near the Waputik Icefield in Yoho National Park and moves in a southwesterly direction past the towns of Field and Golden before reaching its confluence with the Columbia River. With the typical Canadian sense of humor, the river and thus canyon were named after a pack horse who kicked James Hector as he explored the area in the 1850’s.
The waterfall ice forms on both sides of the TransCanada and much of it can be seen from the road. The southern exposure offered via the north side routes and the relatively low elevation compared to other locations in the Canadian Rockies, make these routes some of the warmest to climb. Avalanche danger is also less when compared to many other areas.
Route Description(s)The rated waterfall climbs in Kicking Horse Canyon, meaning those specifically mentioned in Joe Josephson’s “Waterfall Ice, Climbs in the Canadian Rockies” are listed in order as you approach them from the east.
- Coughlins, III, WI 3/ 100m
- Riverview, II, WI 3-4+/ 100m
- Essondale, Left, III, WI 3/ 140m
- Essondale, Right, III, WI 4+/ 120m
- Lobotomy, II, WI 4/ 12m
- Pretty Nuts, II, WI 4/ 180m- 1st Pitch- 200’- WI 3-4/ Consisting of a huge, somewhat dirty, ice wall, this pitch gives up several lines. 2nd Pitch- 200’- WI 4/ If the sustained portion of this pillar were any longer, it would be more deserving of a 5 grade. 3rd Pitch- 200’- WI 4/ A classic 60m WI 4 waterfall climb.
- Waterworks, III, WI 3/ 90m
- Lady Killer, III, WI 3/ 80m
- I Scream, III, WI 4+/ 70m
- Beastiality, II, WI 3 Mixed/ 100m
Getting ThereThe TransCanada splits Yoho National Park as it travels through Field, BC and leaves the park before arriving at Golden, BC. This area consists of a series of Provincial parks and is the start of the Beaverfoot Range to the south. The road and bridges are new in this section of the TransCanada Highway and therefore Joe’s approach beta is somewhat out of date. You still cross two bridges, approximately 10 and 5 miles east of Golden which mark the chasms that make up Kicking Horse Canyon. The 2nd bridge you come to, heading west bound, is the smaller of the two. Just as you past the bridge you have a large retaining/avalanche wall on your right. Continue west up the hill beyond the bridge and you will see a small parking opportunity on the south side of the road. Turn around and park here and hike back down to the bridge. Cross the road to the north right before the bridge and you will be staring up at the first pitch of Pretty Nuts. Pretty Nuts is the longest of the Kicking Horse Canyon routes and serves as the center point for all the routes above. Various parking options exist depending on which route you are scouting for a climb.
Red Tape/CampingThere are no permit requirements to enter, climb and/or park in British Columbia Provincial Parks. Any ice slope 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. However, the ice climbs in Kicking Horse Canyon are considered less avalanche prone than most routes throughout the National Parks and Kananaskis.
The Kicking Horse Canyon waterfall ice climbs are all day trips. Your best spot for lodging is at the Kicking Horse Hostel in Golden, BC. They have 12 beds (2008) and are open in the winter for skiers.