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Eye-Opening Canadian Ice

Throughout March Nick Bullock (nickbullock-climber.co.uk) and I flew out to Canada for a three week extravaganza of ice and mixed climbing.

We based ourselves in Canmore, just outside the Banff National Park, home to literally 100’s of ice/mixed climbs than span across the grades from easy to hard, big to small, and roadside to alpine. The amount of ice was overwhelming, as was the amount of snow, and for the first week this proved an issue as avalanche conditions were high. However, all was not lost and through the recommendations of several locals we visited some safe ‘warm-up’ ice venues – Louise Falls and Johnston Canyon – that left my forearms sore.


 Louse Falls Right Hand I WI5


 Nick Avoiding the obvious lines at Johnston Canyon

Once the snow started calming down we shifted our focus away from the single-pitch venues and on to the big stuff, and it doesn't get bigger or much more impressive than The Trophy Wall on Mount Rundle. There are three awe-inspiring lines on the wall: The Terminator, Replicant, and Sea of Vapours. Nick had climbed there previously and only had one of the ‘holy trinity’ left to climb – The Replicant. It would suffice to say that it didn't disappoint and the aforementioned ‘forearms’ were definitely showing signs of wear and tear.


 Nick Bullock treating himself to a Danish below The Trophy Wall

 After this there was one obvious omission from our places yet to visit. The Stanley Headwall, or THE Headwall as it is known locally, is home to such classics as Nemesis, Suffer Machine, and French Reality. If you want long, hard, and exposed mixed climbs then this is the place to be. Just as soon as I thought I’d got the hang of climbing steep/hard ice (and by this I don’t mean Point Five Gully) I had it taken away from me and replaced with steep overhanging rock followed by steep, hard, overhanging, and thin ice – a winning combination.


 The Stanley Headwall


 Nick seconding the crux pitch of Nemesis – WI6

 It would suffice to say that Canada changed my personal view on hard ice/mixed climbing and in three weeks felt like I had radically improved on steep ground and poor placements (which I am now using to great effect whilst rock climbing at Gogarth) but that is only one part of the picture. Irrespective of the grade you climb there is something out there for you (as long as you’re prepared to drive) and if you’re looking for something a little quieter/less showbiz than the Alps.  Blending climbing and skiing would also be a good option with the many world-class resorts nearby.

On a final note, I would like to add in a blatant plug for my humble employers DMM. Throughout the trip we used and abused a pair of the forthcoming ‘Switch’ Axes which are being released later this year. Obviously they were great and even more obviously I would say that. For more information about the range of axes visit the DMM website - http://dmmclimbing.com/news/2012/01/new-products-unveiled-at-ispo/ then give the guys at High Sports a call to order a pair…

-Rob Greenwood


Useful Info:

When to Go:

  • Season lasts from November to April
  • March seemed like a nice balance as it was cold (but not too cold) and there was a enough daylight not to get benighted all the time


  • Nearest Airport Calgary
  • We opted for British Airways as they flew direct

Car Hire

  • We used Budget who tried to do us over with 1000 additional sales – be warned!
  • Check you’re getting a minimum of mud + snow tires (you’ll need them)



  • Waterfall Ice in the Canadian Rockies – Joe Josephson – Currently out of print and hard to get hold of
  • Mixed Climbs in the Canadian Rockies – Sean Isaac


Avalanche Safe Areas

  • Lake Louise Falls, Johnston Canyon, Haffner Creek, Bear Spirit,


  • If you’re looking for any other information feel free to send me a message on rob@dmmwales.com

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