This is a brief description of ice climbing in Canmore and Banff, specifically a climb of Cascade Falls. Big thanks to Shaun King of Mountain Sense for guiding and setting the routes and making the climbs possible.
Canmore, AB – 27 Oct 12 (0900)
I just arrived at the ACC Lodge in Canmore. Small Rooms but cheap for members and very nice staff that let me in early. I am exhausted from driving all night from Kamloops. The roads weren’t too bad through the mountains, although one transport truck had rolled over in Rogers Pass. My guide was good enough to let me push the ice climbing back a day so I could sleep.
Made an ‘attempt’ on Ha Ling Peak, but was unwilling to climb in the dark and it was already 1500 when I started up the trail. The trail was well broken and all the roads were good.
I spent the night reading Accidents in North American Mountaineering to prepare for my big days ahead.
Banff, AB – 28 Dec 12 (2244)
Big day ice climbing at the Junk Yards (WI 2 and 3) in Canmore. Destroyed my big toe on my left foot. All the climbing there was excellent. The last climb of the day was closest to the falls and I was punching through the ice to the water underneath. Always a pleasant experience. Overall, the low angle approach was probably the most hazardous. Low probability, high consequence terrain as Shaun would say.
In Banff now. Unfortunately, it is a town for the rich but nevertheless it is very comfortable. Getting ready for my first multipitch, ice climb tomorrow at Cascade Falls. Hopefully, my toe pulls together.
Kamloops, BC – 29 Dec 12 (1018)
0700 woke up at Bumpers Inn in Banff. 0800 waiting at the parking lot at the bottom of Cascade for Shaun. Worrying about my foot and contemplating bailing. 0900 the bottom of Cascade Falls and began a 6 pitch, WI3, “best in the world,” 1000ft, ice climb. The climb begins with a couple WI2 pitches, which some parties chose to walk around, after the third pitch the ice gets more difficult.
Cascade Falls is in a high risk avalanche area, with large bowls channeled through the falls to the valley below. The devastation to the forest below the falls is a testament to the power of nature. On this particular day, the risk was low but when the sun came out after 1000 it definitely makes you think. Even as I was driving there at 0800 there was a party topping out on the 5th pitch and a gentleman soloing the route in front of us, obviously trying to complete the falls as quickly and as early as possible.
The climb itself is spectacular. As we were climbing we could watch the caribou grazing in the fields below us. Amazing views of Banff and the Trans-Canada. I should have brought my camera; it was one of the most beautiful scenes of my life. We topped out the climb at 1230; I was juiced and need to get in better shape, the down climb was brutal. Lucky for my toe, the route was pretty picked out and it was easy to find foot and tool placements on the way up.
I must return to climb Cascade Mountain itself, but that waterfall is one really good go.
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