Takakkaw Falls is noted for being the 2nd highest waterfall in Western Canada at 1260’. It is located in Yoho National Park
which is one of four connecting national parks that make up the heart of the Canadian Rockies. “Takakkaw” is derived from a Cree word meaning “it is wonderful” and/or “magnificent”. The falls are the result of the constant melt from the Mount Daly glacier
above. Due to ease of access via Yoho Valley Road off of the TransCanada, the falls themselves have become one of the major Canadian Rockies tourist attractions. What draws climbers is obviously the position
of the Takakkaw Falls rock route and the obvious reasons for climbing the falls when they ice up even though access during the winter involves a long ski approach. The Yoho Valley Road is closed during the winter months due to objective avalanche danger.
There are four rock routes to the left of the falls as well as several WI lines on the falls itself during the winter. The Takakkaw Falls Route is the classic line next to the falls that ascends to the top and involves a 100m tunnel crawl that dumps you out at the very top of the falls.
There are three distinct layers of rock to the left of the falls, the lower section is Dolomite which provides decent climbing. Above that is a 30 m band of shale which the falls have eroded quite badly, and not so thrilling to climb on. The upper layer is actually Limestone.
Route Description(s)Routes are Listed Left to Right, North to South
The first two climbs are located on an area of good rock immediately left of the start of the Takakkaw Falls Route and end about half way up the wall. They are predominantly trad routes with some fixed protection and have chained stations for rappel. Two 50 m ropes are required along with a good assortment of gear. There is at least one project going on to the right of the Takakkaw Falls Route (2007).
Suspended in Gaffa- 5.9+, 3 Pitches/Suspended in Gaffa shares its first pitch with the other Krause route, Sunburst and Snowblind. You run up a chossy left facing corner and traverse past some bolts out right to a decent looking left facing corner/roof pitch. After pulling the bulge/roof on this second pitch, the final pitch follows a mixed (bolts and gear) line up face and discontinuous corners to a fixed rap and ledge. A double rope rap along with a single rope rap puts you back at the top of the first pitch where you can move right to climb Sunburst and Snowblind.
Sunburst and Snowblind- 5.9+, 4 Pitches/
High and Dry- 5.7, 10 Pitches/
Shares first two pitches with Takakkaw Falls Route.
Takakkaw Falls Route- 5.6, 12 Pitches/The route starts well left of Takakkaw Falls and eventually, via pitch 8, abuts the falls on the way to the north end of the tunnel. Once you navigate through the tunnel, you will be right at the top of the falls (mist and all) and will have one short pitch left to top out at the Mount Daly glacier melt flow forming the creek that feeds Takakkaw from above. The belay and rappel stations are all bolted and the route goes easy for the grade with some fixed protection. Minimal gear is required. As almost always, double ropes are highly recommended for the rappel, however you can rap the route with one 60m rope. Make sure to bring your headlamp for the 100m tunnel passage.
Winter WI Routes
Field of Dreams/
To reach the falls from the East, follow the Trans-Canada Highway for 23 km west of Lake Louise until Yoho Valley Road. The Trans-Canada Highway splits the park in half. Heading west on the Trans-Canada, as you approach the only town in the park, Field, BC, you will see a sign for the Yoho Valley Road on your right. Follow this road for 13 km to the Takakkaw Falls parking lot. When accessing from the West, drive 3.7 km west of Field on the Trans-Canada Highway and turn left on Yoho Valley Road. A short hiking trail leads to the base of the falls. Yoho Valley Road is narrow with two steep switchbacks. Trailers must be left at a designated drop-off point near the start of the road across from Monarch Campground. I failed to notice the sign years back and tried to drive our horse in there on one trip where Stacy was going to drop me off for the Wapta Mountain
scramble and then meet me on a horse trail that originated at Emerald Lake. Plan worked fine, I just had to hitch hike up the road. There is no way you want to tackle that steep switchback with a trailer. The road opens in late June and closes for the year usually in October during the first heavy snowfall. The road is a ski trail for the rest of the year. The ski trail is maintained as far as the switchbacks but is not maintained above them.
You will be required to purchase a national park pass as you enter Banff National Park coming from the east on the Trans-Canada. This pass is good for all four national parks. If you plan many visits to Canadian National Parks within one year, you should purchase an annual pass. There are no permit requirements to climb in Yoho National Park, but all camping is regulated. There is also a backcountry permit required if you plan on spending a night in the backcountry versus the town campsites. This can be obtained via the parks website which is included in the camping section below. Yoho National Park headquarters are located in Field, BC and you will drive through the manned national park kiosks as you enter Banff National Park on the Trans-Canada.
When to Climb
As with most rock climbs in the Canadian Rockies, the driest time is from June through September. I climbed Takakkaw Falls in August. The ice will not form well enough to climb on until January.
The closest conventional camp sites would be the Kicking Horse and/or Monarch campground(s)
back at the turnoff for Yoho Valley Road. The closest backcountry site is Yoho Pass #3.
It is on the shores of the small Yoho Lake at a pretty sweet spot. You can go on line at Yoho National Park
to pick a camp site and obtain your camping permit. You will also be required to obtain your backcountry permit which is separate, but can be obtained simultaneously if you plan on camping at a backcountry site like Yoho Pass. You cannot camp outside of the marked specific camping areas.
Field has one inn and several B&B’s. There is the Whiskey Jack Hostel as well down Yoho Road across from Takakkaw Falls.
The Yoho National Park website
has weather, wildlife reports, trail closures, etc. Outside of the parks web site, Canadian Avalanche Association is also useful, particularly for winter travel. Canadian Alpine Accident Reports
is also extremely useful and has at least one accident report related to Takakkaw Falls (2007).