OverviewIt has been said that, owing to the mild climate and relatively warm winter temperatures, there is no ice climbing on Vancouver Island. This is not entirely true. There are actually many areas on the Island that have the magic three ingredients 1) Elevation, 2) Water source, and 3) Access. Within these areas are located some stellar ice climbs more in the style of the Scottish Gullies than say...Professor Falls.
Places of note for Island Ice are Mt Arrowsmith, Mt Becher (Boston Falls), Tennent lake and the approach from the Westwin Mine site. As well, Island mountains with significant North faces really come into their own in the winter with relatively few first acsents to date. Mt Colonel Foster has 2 climbs on the East face (Grand Central Coulouir AI5, and Directissima AI5), and Big Den has The Great Escape AI3. Rugged Mountain is home to The Chuck AI3, and Elkhorn has the Winter Needle
Island Gems that have yet to be plucked are any winter route on Victoria Peak(escpecially the Sceptre and the NE face), as well as the 3, 1,000 ft high waterfalls in the North cirque of Mt Cobb.
Getting ThereLook for low elevation ice only in the coldest of years. Higher elevation Alpine style routes form up annually and are generally "in" from December to March. Mid elevation cragging style climbs need prolonged low freezing levels and don't form consistently. However, they will form up eventually.
Besides the need for cold (read elevation) access issues are generally all that bar attepts. Aside from some moderates and the occasional hard climb, there is no roadside ice. Actually there is very little ice within 1 hr from the road. If you are willing to put in the effort and suffer the dreaded Island bush, you will be rewarded with uparralled views and stellar climbing. It is worth it.
Eccentricities of Island IceEspecially if coming form the Rockies, or other areas with significant ice buildup each year, remember to take along a healthy selection of small rock gear, pins, your "north wall hammer" and a couple of pickets. The conditions here tend to be rather thin compared to other locations. Keeping this in mind, Vancouver Island ice climbing is an excellent experience. Timing is critical and when the conditions are "in" take the day off work or whatever is required and get in the alpine. Climbing steep delicate ice above an island-wide cloud deck in the sunlight with good company is a cerebral yet sublime experience to be missed by none willing to make the effort. Trust me...there won't be any line-ups!
External Linksislandclimbing.com A great section on Boston falls with a downloadable guide.
westcoastice.com Includes a section on Vancouver Island Ice conditions as updated by users.
NavCanada Freezing Levels information A bit tricky to decipher but an asset for weekend planning.
Red TapeNot much in the way of regulatory trouble with Island Ice. Most backcountry access is through logging roads. These will, from time to time, be closed to the public . During weekdays, and sometimes on weekends, there will be logging activity. Keep your headlights on while driving and yield the right of way to the really big truck that is driving very quickly directly at you.
Bolting climbs on most parts of the Island is allowed HOWEVER, the ice climbs mentioned in this section have all been done without permanent gear, and should remain that way. Retrobolting is very bad form.