If this climb were closer to a bigger centre than Grande Prairie or Hinton it would deservedly become a trade route. The first pitch of climbing begins in a very cool canyon after a short 20-25 minute approach.
This grade pitch is followed by a bit of a slog up rambling ice to the upper pitches. If formed, some impressive 20-25 m pitches of ice can be climbed to the climber's right. If 20 metres of classic grade 4 or 5 ice is too much, there is typically a lower grade 30 m pitch straight ahead.
As this route and Evergreen Gully
across the valley see less frequent traffic, you will find the beta in Joe Josephson's guide Ice Climbs in the Canadian Rockies is not all that accurate.
The Classic Grade 5 and 4 Upper Pitches of Knuckle Gnasher
Driving through Grande Cache heading towards Grande Prairie continue for 13 km to the Gun Firing Range which is on the east (right) side of the highway. The ice on the bottom pitch is usually visible across the river to your right. Turn into the Gun Firing Range and park.
From the Gun Firing Range make your way up onto the railway tracks and follow these across the Smoky River. Please be smart and watch for trains.
Approach to Knuckle Gnasher
Once across the river continue on the tracks until an old 4WD road becomes obvious. Turn right onto this road. Continue on the road for 5-10 minutes until a small creek bed becomes obvious to your left. Follow this creek to the base of the climb. Total approach is about 20 minutes.
Google Map Grande Cache to the Parking Area
Topping Out the First Pitch
Follow the typically beautiful grade 3 ice for 20 metres. Belay off a tree.
Continue up rambling ice steps and scree to the base of the upper pitches. About 15-20 minutes.
Grade 5 Pillar
There is usually a selection of pitches awaiting you up top. Grade 2-3 ice is visible straight ahead. An impressive free standing grade 5 pillar sits beside a grade 4 wall of ice to the climber's left.
You can walk off to the climber's right. The descent is steep and often involves frozen turf. You may not enjoy this, but you will quickly forget all about reminiscing about the climb itself.
The Grade 4 Upper Pitch
Typical Ice Rack.
There are two great websites for ice conditions in the Canadian Rockies:
Live The Vision - Ice Conditions