Rocky River Blues

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 53.14759°N / 117.90527°W
Additional Information Route Type: Ice Climbing
Additional Information Time Required: Most of a day
Additional Information Difficulty: Grade 4
Additional Information Number of Pitches: 2
Additional Information Grade: III
Sign the Climber's Log


Rocky River Blues - 1st PitchThe first pitch
Rocky River Blues is a stunning 3 pitch climb located in a steep narrow canyon, that flows into the Rocky River. It is one of the best climbs in the Jasper area, but does have a long approach. The climb is visible from Highway 16 about 1/2 hour east of Jasper (near Talbot Lake). It is the obvious ribbon of ice flowing out of the side of Syncline Ridge.

Avalanche hazard on this climb is very low - the climb flows out of a large hanging valley.

Getting There

Drive east from Jasper along Highway 16 for about a half hour. Make sure you spot "Rocky River Blues" from the Highway(it becomes visible at the south end of Talbot Lake)and identify a feature that will help you locate the proper side drainage to hike into. There is a large unburned (there was a large fire here in 2004) island of trees high up on Syncline Ridge immediately to the right of the icefall - this makes a very useful landmark. Park at the pullout next to the bridge where Highway 16 crosses over the Rocky River.
Rocky River Blues - 2nd PitchThe awesome 2nd pitch

Hike up the Rocky River for about an hour - if you choose to walk on the river (which is usually easier) be careful about thin ice. In snow free conditions, some people have skated up the river, shortening the approach time considerably.

After walking up the river for an hour, you then need to head left into the correct drainage. This is where spotting a landmark from the highway pays off (the large island of unburned timber is quite noticeable). Hike up this drainage, staying on it's left hand side. Do not walk up the drainage itself - it is impassable in several spots. You do not walk into the drainage until you are almost at the ice fall. The last 1/2 hour of the hike is very steep - crampons are usually required.

Route Description

Rocky River Blues - Going DownA view rappelling from the top of the second pitch - note my partner at the bottom of the falls (gives the picture some perspective
The first pitch is the crux, and is sometimes not in. The condition of the first pitch is hard to determine from the highway, as the entire pitch is not all visible (but some of it is) - so folks have been known to make the long approach, and walk out again without climbing a pitch.

If your karma is good, and the first pitch is in - it's usually very steep with chandeliered technical ice. You have to make the decision to put lots of gear in and possibly tire yourself out; or put in less gear thereby hopefully remaining fresher, but with a bigger risk if things go south. There has been at least one known accident on this first pitch.

The second pitch is the payoff for the hike. It's a beautiful ribbon of perfect blue ice. It's also not nearly as steep as it looks from the approach or from the highway. Classic grade 3.

The third pitch is mainly just rolling ice with the odd steeper section requiring a screw or two.

You top out into a huge hanging valley, invisible from below. Enjoy the views, they're spectacular

Getting Down

To get down, one must rappel the route. The third pitch can be rappelled from trees; the second from ice; and the third has an anchor on climbers right.

The walk out takes almost as long as the walk in - it you're planning an early season attempt - bring a headlamp.



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