His, WI 4, Hers, WI 4 and Grotto Falls, WI 3, make up the easy approach ice in Grotto Canyon
. It took me over five years to get around to these climbs due to their popularity. In fact I have yet to climb the “Junkyards” directly behind my home for the same reason. But with a friend in town looking for her first WI experience, we headed back into Grotto Canyon.
Grotto Canyon is at the east end of Grotto Mountain
, just east of Grotto Corner
. Grotto Mountain makes up the eastern end of the Fairholme Range (along with Lady Mac Donald
and Squaws Tit
) before it runs into the Bow River and Kananaskis Country.
The TransCanada Highway runs from Calgary through the Rocky Mountain Canadian National Parks
on its way to Vancouver. Right before you enter Banff National Park is the town of Canmore. The Benchlands Trail is what I would call the main Canmore exit off of the TransCanada. Head north on the Benchlands Trial as it curves right and turn right onto Elk Run Blvd. Elk Run dead ends into 1A. Take a left hand turn onto 1A. Drive 5 to 10 minutes and take a left into the entrance for the Baymag #2 plant. Instead of following the road up to the plant, take an immediate right dirt road fork. Turn left onto a rough dirt trail road that follows the power line easement. There will be a small pullout on your right that has a marked trail, but you can also continue a little further to an open parking area up on a hill. Hike north up the hill towards the mouth of Grotto Canyon. We still used this access as of 2007 with no worries or warning signs, but future access is always being discussed.
As you continue north through the canyon, you will eventually come to a solid wall. His, 15m, WI 4 is to the left, Hers, 15m, WI 3-4 is directly ahead and Grotto Falls, 55m, WI 2-3 is to the right at the dead end of this right hand fork.
Joe Josephson’s “Waterfall Ice, Climbs in the Canadian Rockies” references Hers as being a “little easier” than His. When we were there in January of 2007, His was in the WI 5 range, missing a significant section in the middle creating an ice roof as well as being wet and chossy above that with an active leak. There was an exposed bolt line that gave you a start up the left side, but it disappears after three bolts at the crux.
We passed on it and another competent team, who showed up later to give it a go, bailed on the last bolt below the roof section.
Hers on the other hand was well “picked” out. Pvalchev led the right side and traversed over to the rock station at the top left corner. I preferred the left side direct, but it was a little steeper. In any regard, Hers gives you several different starts, but you need to finish in the upper left corner. I have supplied quite a few photos of this short route. The left side supposedly has three bolts for leading a mixed version, but they were under ice during our visit.
One year, Cousin It, WI 4, formed as a free standing pillar in the corner to the right of Hers, but “It” has not been seen since. Grotto Falls further to the right offers two pitches of beginner ice, that is much closer to WI 2 than WI 3 as rated in the before mentioned guide book.
Two Ice Tools, 50 meter Rope, 4-6 Ice Screws and draws (screamers), Crampons, Helmet, Warm Clothes (no sun), Full Shank Boots
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