Alberta, Alberta!

Canadian Rockies from the air

Hey from sleepy Lake Louise in the heart of the Canadian Rockies! My partner Brad from Stanford and I used some extra airline miles to get a fixing of alpine and early season ice in what is surely one of the world’s greatest winter climbing destinations. The access, beauty and variety of things to do here is unmatched. A little overview of where we are:


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Lay of the Land

We flew up to Calgary on Friday morning and got some great views of the range on the flight from Vancouver.

We had to do a little re-packing in Vancouver to skirt weight limits…here I am employing the age old “they’ll never notice I’m wearing double boots” trick.

Calgary is out on the plains just east of the Front Range, and Brad and I remarked at the similarities to Boulder. We drove west up into the mountains, reaching the nice mountain town of Canmore.

The road to Canmore

We based ourselves out of the Alpine Club of Canada hostel, which along with most things here in Canada, is tidy. The next day, we got a pre-dawn start on what we were hoping would be the Coire Dubh Integrale on Loder Peak…a classic mini-alpine and ice climb. We ended up climbing left of the route proper, on what may be a new-ish route on Door Jamb Mountain. The approach started in a dump. In such a spectacular place, weaving our way through a landfill was a funny way to start. We climbed through several short mixed ice and rock sections, and scraped our way over powder covered rocks to bypass a few tricky places.

Brad on a tricky mixed bit that we ended up bypassing

The crux of the route was a short rock overhang, which Brad led. I thrashed my way up behind him with both packs. From there, we traversed into another drainage, climbed some fun short snow and ice sections, before taking a traversing snow ramp system to the ridge in sweltering temperatures.

Me breaking trail up to the ridge

As far as “ice” was concerned, we weren’t sure if we’d be seeing much at least at these lower elevations. The summit ridge was beautiful, and we got great views of the nearby peaks, although in descending the ridge, we were blasted by high winds. The next day we scouted up the Icefields Parkway to the Columbia Icefield. We spotted some ice climbs, but things are still early and a bit warm here. We broke the day up by taking a nice short hike along the Saskatchewan River.

We met a friend along the Icefields Parkway

The Saskatchewan River

Yesterday, we got an early start on Cascade Falls, a 1000 ft ribbon of frozen ice near Banff. I led some of the easy early pitches, and for the most part, Brad and I made quick work of the fun terrain despite some moves that would make us look like the Californians we are. Thankfully, none of the hardcore locals could see us working out a few kinks in amateur hour.

Sunrise over Banff and Mount Rundle from Cascade Falls

Brad leading the crux of Cascade Falls

Brad led the steep last pitch before we called it a day and rappelled the route. The final pitch to the top was far too thin to be in condition, but we were excited nonetheless. The rest of the day, we poked around Banff and then drove back to our hostel in Lake Louise. By the afternoon, a fair amount of snow was falling, so we took a short hike around Lake Louise, dried some gear and rested. Today, we’ll take as a rest and travel day since the conditions don’t seem too great. We’re headed up for two nights at the Rampart Creek Hostel near the Columbia Icefields to chase some cooler temperatures and bigger peaks. Who knows how much climbing we’ll be able to do as things still seem a bit early for the ice and too snowy on the big peaks, but we’re having a fun time nonetheless.