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Ice Climbing in Canada

The Canadian Rockies offer some of the best ice climbing in Canada and in some instances is considered the best in the world. Whatever your stance is on this ongoing discussion, you would be remiss if you didn’t challenge some of ice climbs the Rockies present. The creation of National Parks in this mountain region has provided easy access to those participating in Canadian ice climbing.

Canadian ice climbing came into being a sport as an offshoot of mountaineering in Canada. Mountain climbers would have to navigate through icefalls or frozen waterfalls during their ascent. As they became more proficient and proper ice climbing equipment was invented, mountaineers soon began seeking out icefalls to build on their skills.

Canadian Ice Climbing Equipment

An experienced climber will choose the appropriate ice climbing equipment depending on the degree of slope and the texture of the ice. For those with less experience, ice climbing guides can be hired to assist in the ascent.
  • Double-Plastic Mountaineering Boots with sufficient ankle support. They must be compatible for the use of crampons.
  • Crampons
  • Ice Axe
  • Appropriate rope systems
  • Ice screws
  • Belay devices
  • Climbing harness
Ice Climbing Practices

A number of techniques are used in Canadian ice climbing that are very similar to those used when rock climbing in Canada.

  • Leading the climb – the “leader” starts off the climb and puts in protection (ice screws) as they ascend. Upon reaching a pitch, they fabricate the belay anchor to assist the next ice climber. As the second climber ascends, they remove the protection to be used on the second pitch and so on.
  • Abseiling – is a rappelling technique used for descending. It can also be used for attempting a difficult route or when experiencing a difficult start to the climb. Check your equipment judiciously when using this ice climbing technique as ropes can become jammed or frayed rather quickly.
  • Belaying – the ice climbing leader installs ice screws on the way up and runs the rope through them. As the second ice climber ascends, they remove the ice screws leaving at least two points of ice screws between them and the leader.
Canadian Ice Climbing Grades
  • WI2 – 60 degree angle ice climb or less.
  • WI3 – a 60 to 70 degree ascent with near vertical sections less than 4 m (13 ft).
  • WI4 – requires the implementation of ice screws and near vertical sections up to 10 m (32.5 ft)
  • WI4+ - requires highly technical ice climbing maneuvers.
  • WI5 – vertical sections up to 20 m (65 ft).
  • WI5+ - we’re venturing into expert ice climbing territory.
  • WI6 – vertical ice climbing with no rest areas.
  • WI6+ - highly technical vertical climbs with overhangs.
Canadian Ice Climbing Associations

The Association of Canadian Mountain Guides is internationally recognized as the premier certification program in Canada. Mountain guides are trained as ice climbing guides, mountain climbing, cross country skiing, and ski touring in Canada. Safety programs include avalanche training, first aid, and wilderness camping in Canada.

The Alpine Club of Canada is the preeminent mountaineering association in Canada. There are 19 regional associations across the country that offers various services to their members. The ACC offers courses for beginners to experts in (but not limited to):

Popular Locations for Ice Climbing in Canada
  • Bon Echo Rock in Napanee, Ontario is a 100 m (325 ft) rock face rising out of the Mazinaw Lake. Established rock and ice climbing routes include Sweet Dreams, The Joke, and Veriginous which can only be reached by water.
  • The "Weeping Wall" along the Icefields Parkway in the Canadian Rockies offers a smorgasbord of ice climbing routes. It has grades ranging from MI3 to MI6 with upper and lower tiers.
  • Dufresne Regional Park in Quebec has 650 climbing routes ranging from 10 m (32.5 ft) to 130 m (422 ft).
  • Terminator Wall in Alberta is just past the town of Canmore. There are vertical routes such as Terminator, Replicant, and Sea of Vapours in the MI6 to MI7 range.
  • The Hamilton Conservation Authority and the Alpine Club of Canada have reached an agreement for ice climbing the Niagara Escarpment at Tews Falls and Tiffany Falls. A waiver must be signed.
  • Cascade Falls is a 300 m (975 ft) ice climb in MI4 range. If you're looking for warm weather ice climbing in Canada, this is the spot as the sun shines bright here.
  • Louise Falls at Lake Louise, Alberta is 110 m (357 ft) climb at WI4 to WI5. As you reach the summit you can relax with a pint at Chateau Lake Louise.
Canadian ice climbing is becoming one of the more popular winter activities in Canada among mountaineers and rock climbers. The most challenging and most popular areas for ice climbing in Canada are the Rocky Mountains.
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