The “Beer” routes on the northwest flank of Mount Dennis just outside of Field, BC, are a collection of local favorites, the most common of which is no doubt Guinness Gully. Easy access is granted to these routes via a back service road leading west out of Field. Starting in 2007, this road is going to be closed during certain periods
which prompted three of us to head for Guinness Gully in -20c conditions before year end, 2006. Mount Stephen
and Mount Burgess
are a couple of local objectives near Field. But for the most part, this neck of the woods is known for its ice climbing. Keep in mind that means you might not want to winter in Field if you know what I mean. The sun neglects this area for several months in the winter, thus the good ice.
Field is a town of approximately 300 people located in the Kicking Horse River valley of southeastern British Columbia in the confines of Yoho National Park. Field was established during the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway as a locomotive depot for pusher engines required to help trains over the nearby Field Hill and Big Hill. Field is 27 km west of Lake Louise along the Trans-Canada Highway, the only access to Field. The visitor center for Yoho National Park is located in Field.
RoutesLeft to Right as You Face Mt Dennis from the TransCanada
- Pilsner Pillar, III, WI 6, 215m
- Juste Pour Rire, II, WI 4R, 20m
- Carlsberg Column, III, WI 5, 60m
- Cascade Kronenbourg, III, WI 6, 90m
- Heineken Hall, III, WI 3+, 100m
- Labatt’s Lane, III, WI 3, 185m
- Wild Cougar, II, WI 4X, 215m
- Guinness Gully, II, WI 4- 245m/ Three pitches of true grade 4. The first pitch is approximately 30 meters of climbing, the second is the shortest and steepest curtain at about 20 meters and the third is a full 60 meters (right side) with a few short rest stops and about three distinct steep sections before the angle gives way towards the top. Take some shorter screws for this last pitch. You can tree rap for the descent or find a snow gulley to the west.
- Guinness Stout, III, WI 4+, 80m
- High Test, III, WI 4+, 60m
Field is a quaint town with one hangout, the Truffle Pigs Café and General Store
. Most of us from the area (Canmore-Banff) would consider the trip over to Field not complete without a stop for beers and buffalo burgers at Truffles. Cross the bridge from the TransCanada into Field and follow the main road as it crosses the railroad tracks (no lights or traffic arm as of 2006). Follow the one way signs into Field which take you to the Truffle Pigs Café. Continue to head west from the café onto the back service road for Field which leads back out to the TransCanada, one way. There is one pullout on the right and an official trailhead parking area on the left right before you get to the TransCanada. Use one of these two parking options for any of the Beer routes. I would avoid parking on the side of the road due to the snowplow activity.
Avalanche conditions can close the service road out of Field which would make it a bad idea to climb anyway, so consider checking with the Yoho National Park Informational Center if you think that is a possibility. You will be required to purchase a national park pass as you enter Banff National Park coming from the east on the Trans-Canada. This pass is good for all four national parks. If you plan many visits to Canadian National Parks within one year, you should purchase an annual pass. There are no permit requirements to climb in Banff or Yoho National Parks, but all camping is regulated. There is also a backcountry permit required if you plan on spending a night in the backcountry versus the conventional campsites. This can be obtained via the parks website which is included in the camping section below. The huts are managed by the Alpine Club of Canada
versus the Parks. The Alpine Club of Canada headquarters is located in Canmore, AB, the Banff National Park headquarters is located in Banff, AB and Yoho National Park headquarters is located in Field, BC. You will drive through the manned national park kiosks as you enter Banff National Park on the Trans-Canada. It is a good suggestion, on a cold day, to suit up at the Yoho National Park information center in Field. They are not very busy in the winter and don’t seem to mind if you want to bring your duffle in and add your boots, gaiters, etc. They will also have the more recent forecast posted.
As mentioned above, I highly recommend eating at Truffle Pigs
in Field. It is quite the experience in dining and you will not be disappointed. We always make the effort to dine there when we are in the area. They also sell produce and groceries if you are camping.
When to Climb
The Beer routes and particularly Guinness Gully can be popular outings on the weekend. They will only get more crowded on the weekend as mid-week access will become an issue in 2007. We climbed Guinness Gully mid-week in cold temperatures and had the entire place to ourselves. If you are willing to climb in -20c temps, you usually don’t have to worry about being scooped on an ice route.
The closest camp site would be the Kicking Horse and/or Monarch campground(s)
back east at the turnoff for Yoho Valley Road. You can go on line at Yoho National Park
to pick a camp site and obtain your camping permit. You will also be required to obtain your backcountry permit which is separate, but can be obtained simultaneously if you plan on camping at a backcountry site like Yoho Pass. You cannot camp outside of the marked specific camping areas. Field has one inn and several B&B’s.
Mountain ConditionsYoho National Park
has weather, wildlife reports, trail closures, etc. Outside of the parks web site, Canadian Avalanche Association
is also useful, particularly for winter climbing. There is avalanche exposure on most of the Beer routes. Canadian Alpine Accident Reports
are also extremely helpful.