Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Canadian Rockies Ice & Snow February/March 2021

Canadian Rockies Ice Climbing & Mountaineering Trip 

 The climbing, mountains, people and spirit of the Canadian Rockies are fantastic! This part of the world is renowned for it’s ice and alpine climbs and has become one of the foremost destinations for alpine ice climbing, backcountry skiing and mountaineering. In mid-February of 2020, I explored the Canadian Rockies while taking part in an American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Ice Instructor Course and do some of my own climbing. The course was based out of the village of Canmore Alberta, about 20km southeast of the town of Banff and maybe 30km from Lake Louise. The town of Canmore was a hip and vibrant mountain community and perfectly situated for ice climbers: affordable, a great infrastructure to support ice climbing and other winter sports activities and a friendly, accommodating population of locals and transplants all stoked on the magic of the mountains.  In my mind, I was already planning my next trip in while I was in Canmore. In late February/early March 2021, I will be offering a trip to Canadian Rockies  to do ice & mixed climbing and ski mountaineering with a small group of enthusiastic alpine climbers.

To focus directly on the ice and mixed climbing, my experience was one of cold winter conditions, thick well-formed ice, and an unbelievable assortment of climbs to suit all skill levels. Most fortunately, while I was there the avalanche danger was moderate to low. Temperatures, which can be extremely cold, were ideal. There was occasional snow fall with accumulations of up to 15cm or so. From the huge choice of ice routes available, there was always the possibility of finding the appropriate climb in regards to difficulty and location as to fit with the weather conditions and avalanche danger. 

Logistically, I flew from Salzburg through Frankfurt and then directly to Calgary. At the Calgary airport, I rented a car and drove for about one hour to Canmore. I stayed at an affordable hotel (with a small kitchen) in Canmore from which I could walk to all the shops, grocery, indoor climbing & fitness gym, and restaurants. The flight cost around €850,—, car rental €330,—, and the hotel was about €40,— a night. I mostly made my own meals at the hotel room. There were a number of coffee shops, inexpensive local restaurants, bars, bakeries, etc. Additionally, two climbing shops in Canmore and others in Banff. My total stay was for 16 days.

Perhaps, the only drawback to climbing in the Canadian Rockies is the driving. For most climbs you have to drive out of Canmore and into the national park. This usually involved around a 45 minute to one hour drive. The longest drive for me was one hour and 45 minutes. This meant getting up rather early to start the day at 05:00 or 06:00. You could mitigate this somewhat by staying in Banff or Lake Louise, but there would be other negative factors: Banff is more expensive and tourist oriented than Canmore, while Lake Louise is pretty isolated.

Because of the exceptional experience I had, I will be going back to the Canadian Rockies in 2021 and hopefully regularly in the future. This is one of the places that I have found that has that magical combination of mountain spirit, climbing, people and infrastructure that make it a unique destination. I just felt great being there — similar to my feelings for Cogne in Aosta valley Italy, Kalymnos in Greece, and the Chamonix/Mont Blanc region.

For 2021, I want to return to the Canadian Rockies and share the experience with a small group of enthusiastic alpine climbers. I will bring my ski-touring equipment along with my ice gear to Canada. I plan on setting aside the second half of February into the first half of March for a trip that combines ice and mixed climbing with some back country skiing and ski mountaineering. My concept is to set aside a two week or so time period in which I will be available to guide ice climbs and ski mountaineering objectives for individuals and small groups.

My service would include pre-trip information and advice in either personal meetings or video calls. I envision coordinating travel, rental car(s), accommodations and other logistical assistance. Of course, once in the Canadian Rockies, daily activities would depend on individual and group bookings, interest and skill levels, conditions, etc. Further, I could organise a colleague from the Canadian Mountain Guides Association or AMGA to assist me. Guiding ration would be 1:1 or 1:2 for multi-pitch ice climbs and then a maximum of 1:4 for single pitch ice climbing and technique coaching as well as with all ski-related activities.

Of course now with the current COVID-19 restrictions and upheavals, this sounds pretty far off and perhaps even unrealistic. I believe, however, that we all need something motivating, inspiring and exciting to focus on as a meaningful goal. Sometimes, just even allowing a thought or possibility to materialise is the most important hurdle in beginning an adventure.  

So, I would like to plant this little thought meme out there with all of you. As we go through the next difficult weeks and months, I want to keep some of my attention focused on what I love doing in the mountains with the people I loving doing it with. I would love to hear from you. I am already looking forward to our next trip in the mountains together. Just drop me a quick message or email and I will put together a program that meets your aspirations and budget.

Joe (Facebook & Instagram)

+43 660 633 2076 (WhatsApp)