Maligne Canyons offers a number of half pitch ice climbs along the limestone walls of a deeply incised river canyon. Winter is the only time one can see the views from the bottom of the narrow canyon (caused by the Maligne River ) because unless the river is frozen, access is impossible. The scenery from the canyon floor is amazing - unfortunately, it is also a very popular guided hike on the weekends. So be prepared for the occasional group of tourists passing by - trust me, you will be in lots of photo albums. On the positive side, the tourists are often more than happy to take a picture with your camera.
There is no avalance hazard in Maligne Canyon, so it's a good place to go when the hazard is high.
The Queen Curtain - entering the steep terrain
These directions will assume you are starting from downtown Jasper. From downtown Jasper, drive east until the intersection with Highway 16. From this intersection, turn left (east) onto Highway 16. Follow Highway 16 for a short distance and then turn right (south) onto the Maligne Lake Road (also the road to Jasper Park Lodge). You will immediately cross the Athabasca River on a fairly narrow bridge. Keep on the main road (i.e. don't turn right onto the access road to the Jasper Park Lodge). Follow this road for another 3.2 kilometres until you cross over the Maligne River - immediately after this bridge there is a turn off to the left. Pull into this big parking lot and park at the far end.
The ice climbs are accessed from the trail which leaves at the far left end of the parking lot - it is a huge obvious trail. Follow this trail across a bridge - stopping to admire the amazing views down into the canyon. Once across the bridge, you will now be on the left side of the drainage (when looking downhill). Follow this trail downhill until about 100 metres before it crosses another bridge. Hop over the railing, following what usually is a well used climbers trail for another 200 metres or so. You will then start to see on the trail the tops of the ice climbs that flow into the drainage. You can either rappel into the canyon from one of the many trees (one 60 metre rope), or continue along the trail a little further until a side drainage is reached. It's possible to scramble down into the canyon from there.
Be warned - the climbers trail follows along the very edge of the canyon and can be very slippery, especially around the ice flows. A number of people have been killed here - they have slipped and fallen the 25 metres into the canyon.
Once in the Canyon, there are 4 separate lines that can be climbed. All climbs can be easily top-roped, so this is a great place to take beginners.
The Queen - This is the most obvious of the ice climbs in the Canyon. The bottom half of the climb is a free standing column - one can walk around the entire base of the climb. This is a classic grade 4 pitch of ice - steep and very sustained. The ice is often very well used, as it gets top-roped constantly on weekends.
The Queen Curtain - This is the large steep curtain of ice immediately to the right of the Queen that forms fairly regularly. There is usually a tricky start on some thin steep ice, followed by a rest. Then comes the business - a dead vertical 10 metre section of ice. One more rest is possible before another 5 metres of vertical ice to the top out. This climb is normally not as climbed out (i.e. beat up) as the Queen.
The Last Wall
This is the large ice sheet about 50 metres downstream from the Queen. It is the first ice you come to if you walk into the Canyon from the side drainage. It is grade 2 and 3 ice - depending on your line. There is easily room for two parties to climb on this wall.