Louise Falls is 110 meters at its shortest distance (left).
I have seen it done anywhere from two pitches to four pitches depending on what route you chose. The grade also varies on which side you ascend. It is a fairly wide water fall giving up several variations. Probably the most significant factor to consider at Louise Falls is falling ice from other climbers.
This is one of the most accessible and popular ice climbs in Banff National Park
From the Lake Louise Trailhead parking area, approach the Lake from the east and circle around the north side via a trail all the way to the west end of the lake. As you approach the end of the lake and some steep rock walls in front of you (forcing an abrupt left turn in the trail), look up to your right and you will see the falls. Ascend a steep snow bank to the base of the falls. Position yourself well to the right and away from any falling debris from any climbers on route.
If you have to wait someone out on route, there is an ice cave of sorts on the lower right corner that offers a little protection from the cold and/or snow. While you are waiting or to get warmed up, you can also go up a short practice pitch on the far left side that leads to a tree that is normally already set up as an anchor for summer rock climbing.
The start of the first pitch is straight forward and normally knocked free of snow, just straight up the middle section of the lower fall. This is more of a grade 3. Once on top of the first bench, you can ascend left and put in a station or ascend far right and put in a station close to the rocks. I have done both and consider the left line cleaner and more vertical.
If you went left, you will make a short pitch to the bottom of the crux on this climb, the left pillar. There normally is a bomber abalakov (V-thread) station in place here. I have seen a party make it to this station from the ground from that practice pitch to the left but believed I heard them say they had an extra long rope, one they had cut themselves. If you went to the right, then you have a long traverse back left to reach the pillar climb. I don’t advise going right unless you want to ascend right all the way to the top bench. I led this pitch once and had nasty rope drag when I reached a short steep section I had to ascend to reach the bottom of the pillar.
The final pitch is divided by an ice bench and some may choose to divide it into two pitches particularly if you are into switching leads. Doing it as one pitch in most conditions puts it in at grade 5. Starting the left pillar is the most exciting part of the whole climb. You have to work your way out onto the face of the fall and eventually end up with one crampon on the pillar and one on the fall doing vertical ice. It kind of makes for the equivalent of stemming up rock. You will want to place several screws to reach the top of the pillar. Then you get a short reprieve on a bench. From there to maintain grade 4 or 5, you want to stay centered on the fall where there is normally a pillar effect as well.
There is an easier route going up the left side. The rappel station is configured around a tree that is top center.
The descent is the joy regarding Louise Falls. You almost never rap off the route because there is normally somebody coming up after you. Once off the station at the top, there is a little rock cave where you can remove your crampons and have lunch. Then proceed east through normally deep snow and find your way down the east side of the falls. There is hidden ice here and there.
Eventually you come to a small open slope. If you are brave (or stupid like me), you can whip out an axe and take a slide in the deep snow. Be prepared to self arrest before you reach more trees below. Traverse right to reach the bottom of the falls again and then take another quick butt slide down to the lake. There is ice under the snow, so beware. Where is my old saucer sled!
Two Ice Tools, Double 60 meter Ropes, 10-12 Ice Screws, Crampons, Helmet, Warm Clothes (particularly if you have to wait in line for the start), Full Shank Boots
External LinksParks Canada
Canadian Avalanche Association
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