Canada Ice Climbing 2017

Tuesday 27 December 2016, 8:15pm -- alastair.mcdowell

Nemesis WI6 on the Stanley Headwall

Creator: 
Dan Joll

The New Zealand Alpine Team is spending three weeks ice climbing in the Canadian Rockies around Canmore, Alberta this January. Follow this blog for all the latest updates.

Canadian Rockies Ice Climbing - New Zealand Alpine Team 2017

 

Day 21

Farewells for most of the team, but Sarwan had one more day remaining to reach the golden "Six Sixes" - so with Lionel and Alastair, they made another visit to "Twisted", one of the team's favourite routes, and a consensus solid WI6 grade attached. Sarwan found the climbing suitably challenging, and could finally return to New Zealand satisfied with his efforts. Well done Sarwan!

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Sarwan leading one of his final WI6 routes

Creator: 
Alastair McDowell

 

Day 20

Having climbed on the previous seven consecutive days, and stoked with the finale that was the Nemesis, most of the team enjoyed a relaxed rest day in Canmore. Conor and Steve, still energized, headed to Tokkum Pole canyon, but Steve, forced to make a thin traverse to the first bolt, blew a tool and landed calf-deep in the icy water, which signalled the end of the day - not every day goes to plan!

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Conor on Tokkum Pole WI5+

Creator: 
Dan Joll

That night the team all headed out to dinner in Canmore to celebrate a thoroughly successful trip, everyone's expectations well and truly exceeded. The pysch was high for future alpine trips to come, with all of our skills on ice taken to the next level, and our friendships and climbing partnerships even more bonded - all essential for successful trips in the hills. While the rest of the team headed back to New Zealand the following day, looking forward to the rest of the summer's warm rock, Gemma and Alastair stayed on in Canmore, eager to continue hunting out ice & alpine challenges in the Rockies around work they would find there.

 

Day 19

We had driven past the Stanley Headwall many times during the trip, looking at the major venue for hard ice & mixed testpieces with awe. Finally on one of our final days, we felt our skill levels and the avalanche conditions were ready for Nemesis WI6. Conor, Gema, Alastair and Sarwan approached the base at first light, amazed at this absolutely stonking piece of ice. Usually done in three or four pitches, Alastair and Sarwan's goal was to bang out the route in two, armed with seventy metre ropes and a dozen ice screws, clippers bursting at the gates. Alastair racked up for the first 70m pitch on the central line and began the long haul to the belay ledge, with a comfortable two-bolt anchor my reward if he could make it; an awkward hanging belay if not. This required running out the easier sections lower down, which were on relatively thin ice but many natural hooks.

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Alastair leading the first pitch of Nemesis WI6

Creator: 
Sarwan Chand

Meanwhile, Gemma was leading an alternative start to the left, on rolling steps of clean ice. She enjoyed climbing the fresh ice, climbing solidly to a belay ledge 40m up. Further up on Alastair's line, the climbing was sustained and pumpy, and a wedged tool on a traverse caused some desperation, but a careful downclimb allowed him to bump the tool out from below, catch it and slam it back into the ice - bomber. After spinning in his last screw, Alastair pulled up sinker neve, the rope tugging at his harness and a distant call of "That's me!!" from Sarwan. So close to the ledge, we simul-climbed the final few metres and clipped the bolts with huge satisfaction. Sarwan emerged over the lip soon after and mentally prepared himself for the crux pitches that he would link into a 70m WI6 mega pitch. Gemma's emerged later onto the ledge with a cut face, and coated in ice, her line was wet and consisted of horrible dinner plating ice. She was happy to be finished on her block and let Conor take over for the headwall with Sarwan. Climbing side by side, they slowly chipped out the pitch, but aerated ice on the left-hand side forced Conor rightwards into Sarwan's line, creating more challenges than simply the sheer steepness. Eventually the ropes came tight, Gema and Alastair carefully climbed close to avoid dropping chunks on the other. A route not without its challenges, we all walked down-valley that afternoon with high spirits over what we had achieved over the past three weeks.

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Nemesis WI6 on the Stanley Headwall. One of the team's top highlights from the trip.

Creator: 
Dan Joll

 

Day 18

Only several days on the trip remaining, Sarwan and Conor were both pushing themselves to hit six WI6 routes by the end of the trip, as part of the NZAT requirements for becoming a mentor, so we all headed back to Field to go tick some remaining projects. Conor and Gema started out by both ticking the first WI6 pitch of Pilsner Pillar, while Alastair stormed up Carlsberg Column (WI5) with Sarwan, who took out the top WI5+ pillar, warming up for his goal - the left hand column of Pilsner Pillar. Previous attempts by the team had been thwarted by cold, brittle conditions, not ideal for a hanging pillar route. The temperatures had since risen with the Chinook wind, so the time was right. Conor and Gema climbed the route first while the others spectated a strong local on a difficult mixed climb, hooking and bashing his way out through the centre of Pilsner's two pillars. Finally the time came for Sarwan's lead, and despite cold hands from waiting, Sarwan launched up the pillar, at the risk of the screaming barfies, to pull off his fourth WI6 ascent.

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Conor about to launch up Pilsner Pillar WI6

Creator: 
Sarwan Chand

 

Day 17

Whiteman Falls in Kananaskis is located in a beautiful steep canyon and is celebrated as one of the best routes in K-country. An hour and a half approach involved 5km walking along a snowy road, and a hike up through the curving canyon with several ice steps to be soloed before the main show arrived into view - it was surely worth the trip to see this spectacular ice formation. A tall pillar up high guarded by weird ice mushrooms flutings. A french couple snaked us to to the base, just, so we waited for them to tackle the first pitch - which looked truly desperate. The leader needed to aid through several overlaps by pulling on screw placements - on a pitch that is supposedly WI4, but undoubtedly harder. The top WI6 pitch was surprisingly easy given the conditions, Gemma cruising to the top on stable bridges and plentiful hooks. Alastair enjoyed a sensational line on second that would be a daring lead - climbing an 'ice pipe' - crystal clear sculpted ice, with water visibly rushing down through the tube.

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Conor on the first pitch of Whiteman Falls, preparing to negotiate the wild ice mushrooms

Creator: 
Alastair McDowell

While waiting in line for Whiteman, Alastair and Sarwan took on the classic mixed corner to the right - "Red Man Soars" (M5+, WI4++). The route was something of a breakthrough in its time, and is still a sweet & sustained climb, with 50m of dry-tooling up a corner with thin cracks for torquing the picks, and a thin veneer of ice to delicately support the tip of the front-points. Alastair belayed Sarwan up to the hanging belay below an ice flow, after a totally engaging pitch. Alastair continued up and over the ice flow, with some exposed moves pulling over the lip. Reminiscent of 'Fastest Indian' M5+ at the Remarkables, the training there paid its dues here in Canada. Two highly recommended routes!

 

Day 16

With the trip nearing an end, most of the team decided to forgo the planned rest day and pack in another day of climbing in at Haffner Creek. Steve found a thin M7+ that broke through an ice curtain, necessitating hundreds of kilos of ice to be smashed out into the canyon basement. An M7 route that Steve had worked on the day before was the main project of the day, and went down onsight by Conor, followed by Alastair and finally by Steve. It was a fantastic line up a steep wall, mostly on great hooks and torques into thin cracks, all protected by bolts. A perfect route to pump the fore-arms to their limits without the danger of falling.

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David Chen cranking on Mojo M8+ at Haffner Creek

Creator: 
Dan Joll

 

Day 15

With our options dwindling at Rampart Creek, the Weeping Wall having been “climbed out”, we decided to pack up and head towards Canmore for a bit of a change – a day of mixed cragging at Haffner Creek. Sharp ice picks and crampons were swapped over for an older sturdier set, to save them from being scratched up on the steep bolted limestone mixed routes. There was much more ice than usual, Sarwan starting with a 15m ice curtain before indulging in the well protected mixed climbs that start with small hooks up the rock and finish by swinging onto the top sheet of ice. The climbing was much more gymnastic and technical, and being so well protected this meant we could safely push the difficulty level past the point of falling off. Conor had a burn on one difficult route involving some thin hooks and precise footwork, and fell while attempting an awkward third clip, a flurry of spikes sailing into space and landing a healthy metre above his down jacket-clad belayers – no harm done!

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Conor Smith cutting loose on a mixed route at Haffner Creek

Creator: 
L. Clay

Day 14

Despite the persistent snow-fall, we were all up in the dark, psyched for another route up the Weeping Wall. After the bitter realisation that Polar Circus was a fading dream, the Weeping Wall was all that mattered. Steve was keen to finally launch onto the Upper Weeping Wall, and managed to recruit Conor and Gemma for an early start, heading out into the blizzard.

As Alastair, Sarwan and David arrived an hour later for their ascent of the Central Pillar (WI5+), Steve was leading the second pitch of the right-hand route, shouting down to us through the flurries that he was absolutely drenched by ice-melt; even his boots were squelching.

On the Central Pillar Route, Sarwan and David carried the team upwards into the comfy cave belay spot in the middle of the Weeping Wall. Dan and Lionel were racing alongside us, showing their experience by gradually pulling away ahead of us. Alastair took the sharp end for the crux WI5+ pitch, edging out of the cave through weeping icicles, and out onto the face to tackle a long chandeliered pitch with the windless snow continuing to fall. The team topped out on the wall after 2.5 hours of climbing, wet & warm. Despite best efforts, Steve’s team decided to abort the upper Weeping Wall mission in such wet conditions, some of the top pitches renowned for sun-baked slush at the best of times. A satisfying day out climbing hard in relatively miserable conditions. It’s good to test yourself, your gear and your clothing in a whole range of conditions, so when those conditions arise on an expedition on a high and remote peak, you know exactly how to react, and where your limits lie.

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Sarwan leading the top pitch of Weeping Wall Central Pillar WI5+

Creator: 
Steve Fortune

Day 13



A big day! Sarwan, Conor and David were up for an alpine start to drive into the far north to climb Curtain Call (WI6, 110m), a route with a fearful reputation. Sarwan won the right to lead the first pitch, a full 55m of sustained vertical ice, earning the grade of WI6. With everyone on the trip so keen to lead the hard pitches, tense battles of paper-scissors-rock has been the only way to decide who claims the virgin leads of the hardest pitches.

With ice climbing, there is often no distinct crux like with rock climbing, it’s usually the same set of moves over and over – swing, kick-kick, stand up, swing, kick-kick, stand up. The trick is just to keep calm, keep moving, and keep shaking out to manage the pump. When you reach a stance, clear away the ice and place an ice screw, count how many you have left, and ration them out to the top. From the belay ledge halfway up, the team spotted a gaping 20cm crack at the top of the second tier of the pillar – not healthy. The trio rapped back to the ground, giving Conor and David the chance to also lead the first long pitch of WI6, another in the bag.

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Sarwan on Curtain Call WI6

Creator: 
David Chen

After retreating from Twisted earlier in the trip due to wind-slab avalanche risk, Dan, Alastair and Gemma returned to the impressive three-pitch line, after Lionel and Alan returned with rave reviews. Alastair lead first, delicately chipping away up thin ice smears and steps,  positioning Dan for the money pitch – a 50m pillar, which began with steep moves out of a cave, followed by a good 30m of pure pump fest. With all the screws consumed by the pillar, Dan was forced to run out the last 15m of easy ground to an anchor below Gemma’s pitch. Rock hard ice was the medium at play, but Gemma mined her way upwards with grace and calm, honourably choosing not to follow Alan’s line of pick holes to the left, nor the stemming groove to the right. Instead, she blazed a direct line straight up the centre of the flow to cash in the full WI5. Well done Gemma!

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Gemma mining out the top WI5 pitch of Twisted

Creator: 
Dan Joll

The team re-united that night at the favourite hostel up in the Icefields Parkway, Rampart Creek. With ambitious plans to blaze the big lines such as Polar Circus, Shooting Curtain, Oh Le Tabernac Upper Bowl… the weather had other ideas. Soft snow began to fall as we drove north, and temperatures continued to rise towards 0C, increasing avalanche risk considerably. Many of the ice routes have large snow bowls above them, which can release by any number of different triggers. Fortunately the Weeping Wall is safe in almost all conditions…

 

Day 12

A rest day in Canmore.

 

Day 11

Sarwan barely slept all night, self-tormenting over the prospect of Kronenberg. His mental preparation paid off, and an hour later he had claimed his second WI6 lead. Shortly after, it was not the sound of an avalanche sweeping through, but in fact the sound of the send train making another stop, with David steaming through on his swift lead of the “peg-boarded” Kronenberg.

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David Chen on a send of Kronenberg WI6

Creator: 
S. Chand

Several hundred metres to the left, Dan and Alastair were on Pilsner Pillar (WI6). Dan found the first pitch to be scarily hollow, resisting the urge to swing or kick into the booming pillar, hooking natural features and stepping carefully until he had cleared a large fracture line and into the well bonded ice. Alastair then lead up the second half of the pillar to claim another good pitch of grade 5 ice.

For the third day of the photoshoot, Steve rope-gunned John Price up Bourgeau Left (WI5), getting into position to catch Gemma leading the glory crux fourth pitch in the blazing sun. It was so hot in fact, that water gushed out one of Gemma’s failed screw placements, which was just as well since Ben’s drink bottle had frozen shut, and the cool drink was welcome refreshment. Gemma managed to traverse beneath the waterfall and fire up the route, John capturing all the action from above.

Day 10

Having ticked both Carlsberg Column and Pilsner Pillar, Sarwan, Conor and David returned once again to attempt the final of their Field trifecta: Cascade Kronenberg (WI6). With both Conor and Sarwan frothing for the first lead, a heated round of paper-scissors-rock secured Conor onto the sharp end for the sustained 35m pillar. Conor battled the intricate and run-out ice with over two hours before finally surmounting the route, a satisfying achievement of a bold line. Unfortunately his two belayers were practically frozen following his marathon two hour lead, and Sarwan would have to wait another day to take the lead, not willing to blow his onsight on top-rope.

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Kronenberg WI6

Creator: 
Dan Joll



Following the early morning ski traffic to Sunshine Valley, Dan and Alastair picked the sunny line of Bourgeau Left (WI5) – a stonking four-pitch waterfall line. With the day’s objective of climbing fast, without compromising any safety, Dan set off for the first 60m WI4 pitch, knocking it over in the goal time of 25 minutes, with Alastair seconding up a sweat in 15 minutes. Dan still had to keep his guard, the ice still on the brittle side, and the angle consistently just off-vertical. Alastair finished off the lower curtain into the halfway bowl, from where Dan lead 45m of plastic WI3 in 9 minutes with Alastair coming in at 8 minutes. Now baking in the 11am rays, it was amazing the difference the sun made to the temperatures – at the same time Sarwan and David were suffering at the belay in -25C, Dan was belaying Alastair on the crux WI5 pitch in bare hands. The ice was spraying water through the centre, but the Macpac Fitzroy Softshells withstood the wet gauntlet reaching drier ice for a welcome de-pump. Alastair finished off the final section of vertical ice on good hooks, Dan not far behind for a total time of 2 hours 12 minutes on the 185m route. Climbing fast has many lead-on benefits such as staying warmer, minimising time in objective hazards, and on big alpine routes, allows larger routes to be completed with single-push tactics, and back in time for dinner.

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Alastair on the final pitch of Bourgeau Left WI5

Creator: 
D. Joll




Day 9



It’s a long way to the Ghost Valley from Canmore, and even further from Castle Mountain. Many hours of driving brought us to the much-hyped windswept valley, home of such mythical routes as The Real Big Drip (M7+, WI6, 200m) and Fearful Symmetry (WI6+). Dan and Lionel had their eyes set on the monstrous hanging ice flow of The Real Big Drip, but strong arctic winds and a long approach put an end to that. Along with Alastair and Alan, they quested towards the sunny Malignant Mushroom (WI5) instead, but only to see another party already on the route. In the freezing gale, they pulled the pin and headed back to Castle Mountain empty handed.

Steve and David Chen, along with Sarwan and Conor, braved the wind and headed to the shady side of the valley to siege Wicked Wanda (WI4+) named after the crazy wind sculpted features on the second pitch. David had just arrived in Canada after competing in the Ice Climbing World Cup in Beijing and was gagging to get back onto some real ice. David and Conor climbed up independent lines on the first curtain while their belayers huddled deeper into their Equinox jackets in desperately cold conditions, possibly the coldest day of the trip. After swinging leads, the top pitch required plenty of ice trickery and even some off-width technique, with swirling spindrift adding to the challenge.



Over in the picturesque Johnston Canyon, Gemma and Ben spent the day gear testing the new seasons Macpac Alpine Series range that the team has helped develop. Professional photographer John Price hung around on the ice capturing the action to use in the upcoming catalogue.

 

Day 8

The team returned to Canmore for more rest & recovery, ploughing bagels at the Canmore Rocky Mountain Bagel Co., and psyching up for trips into the Ghost Valley wilderness area.



Day 7

Sun! With avalanche danger still high in the backcountry, the Weeping Wall is one of the safest crags in such conditions, with almost no avalanche risk. Sarwan and Dan drafted the previous day's pick holes on the Right-hand side route, but continued on to the top ledge, and added another pitch of WI4+.

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Gemma Wilson on the Weeping Wall Central Pillar route, basking in the sunshine

Creator: 
Dan Joll

Ben, Alastair and Conor climbed far left up the Sniveling Gulley (named after two reluncant seconders), two fast pitches of plastic, verging on wet ice up the gulley. Alastair took the led for the third pitch, but determined the WI5 curtain too thin for his liking - 50cm thick at the base, hollow sounding and unprotected for at least 5m. To the left presented a good alternative, easy climbing to a v-thread at the base of a 20m pillar to the top-out. The ice conditions made the final section a challenging lead, shattering dinnerplates, spindrift and difficult screw placements.

Day 6

Our first day on the Weeping Wall turned out to be a day of suffering. Snow had fallen most of the night, and continued to drop as we approached the 160m high slab of ice. A thin layer of wet snow covered the rock hard ice, making for challenging climbing, and long cold belays. Most teams made it to two-thirds height on the wall before deciding to call it a day and head back to the warmth of Rampart, hoping for better conditions the following day.



Day 5

A bluebird day in the Rockies! Ben, Alastair and Gemma drove north to the amazing line of Kitty Hawk - a 250m high ice gulley recessed into a huge limestone cleft. Alastair led a long 65m pitch of WI4 to the base of the crux WI5 pillar, taken by Ben for his birthday ascent. His seconders serenaded him with 'Happy Birthday' at the belay in multiple languages, followed by the gift of an orange flavoured energy gel. Gemma led the final pitch to top out - a perfect day of ice.

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Gemma Wilson on KittyHawk WI5

Creator: 
B. Dare

Over in Field, Conor and Sarwan were drawn to the aestheticaly pleasing Pilsner Pillar - a classic Rockies 6, each leading a tough pitch. Dan and Steve teamed up for Kronenburg WI6, another delicate pillar of welded chandelier ice.

Later that night the team congregated in the Rampart Creek wilderness hostel, part of the Hosteling International (HI) network of backcountry huts, a comfortable hideaway amongst the mountains, only 15 minutes from the world famous Weeping Wall. Light snowfall settled through the night and through the following day, making for cold, challenging conditions on the Weeping Wall. The group spread out in three teams across the fifty metre width of the huge ice wall. Conor & Steve going central and direct, sheltering in a cave before climbing a delicate pillar pitch to the top-out. Sarwan & Dan climbed fast & efficiently to the cave via a different line and called it a day. Ben, Gemma and Alastair climbed two long pitches on the keynote Right-hand side route, going at WI5. They retreated from a cave just below the top-out on v-threads, enduring the cold conditions with our Macpac Equinox Jackets. Returning the warmth of Rampart Creek Hostel was a welcome treat for the night.



Day 4

A well deserved rest day in Canmore to restock gear & supplies and prepare for the move north to Rampart Creek.



Day 3

Another day another dawn - Steve, Sarwan and Alastair decided to take on Twisted WI5, a glaring series of ice pillars pouring off a huge rock prow visible from the highway. However, signs of stiff wind slab on the approach made the risks of the 300m 40 degree slope not worth taking, so instead they headed back to the more accessible Marble Canyon to repeat the classic Tokkum Pole. All three seized the 35m route on lead, enduring the sustained verticality and inevitable screaming barfies through the steep mid-section. Top efforts by Sarwan and Al, this being Sarwan's second grade 5 ice route and Alastair's first. But without doubt there is still plenty of room to improve.

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Sarwan on Tokkum Pole WI5+

Creator: 
Alastair McDowell

Ben, Rose and Gemma made the 1.5 hour approach to Superbok only to find the access ice out of condition. So they retreated, choosing Extra Lite to salvage the day. Ben on lead managed to dislodge a sizeable icicle onto his head. A last ditch effort, they ticked Cool Spring before heading back to Lake Louise late to cook dinner.

After hearing the rave reviews of Carlsberg Column WI5, Dan and Conor hiked up there today to attack the 60m two-tiered column. Conor found the lower section tough, encountering variable ice quality through many ice mushrooms, struggling to maintain his stable triangle position through the complex vertical terrain. He perservered and topped out a few hours later, after Dan had been through all three Lord of the Rings trilogies.



Day 2

Today we headed out to Field Country, spreading out to tackle three different ice pillars: Carlsberg Column (WI5), Guiness Gulley (WI4), and Tokkum Pole (WI5+).

Ben, Rose and Alastair took on four pitches of wide ice curtain up the broad Guiness Gulley, with a full rope-length pitch taking the money high up the gulley. Alastair led all the pitches, enjoying racking up some good mileage on WI3-4 terrain.

Nearby, Al Uren and Gemma climbed the Carlsberg Column along with Steve and Sarwan. Several easy approach pitches led to a solid WI5 pillar, broken down into two sustained 30m pitches. Gemma and Sarwan put in two strong efforts for their toughest leads to date.

Conor and Dan clawed their way in the mystical Marble Canyon to climb the sensational Tokkum Pole which goes at a stiff WI5+. Connor threw himself at the steep pitch, learning along the way the value of racking screws strategically in order of sizes, and clearing away chandeliers for screw placements from above, rather than at waist level. Nevertheless, Conor's sport climbing prowess enabled him to hang around long enough to protect the pitch safely and swing out to the top.



Day 1

The team has arrived in Canada! It is cold. After more than twenty hours flying time we united in Calgary and drove the 1.5 hours west into the Rockies, arriving after dark at our comfortable hostel in Lake Louise. It is a breath-taking place with a very Canadian feel: snow-capped wood cabins, powdered cedar trees, and at the head of Lake Louise a plush frozen waterfall - our first ice climb of the trip.

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Gemma starting up the crux pitch of Louise Falls

Creator: 
D. Joll

An easy half hour approach across the frozen lake led us to the base of the impressive 80-metre flow. Two moderate pitches led into a roomy cave, from where a steeper pillar rose up out of the cave and over the lip. A good "warm-up" into Canada ice climbing in the coldest part of winter with temperatures dropping to below -30C, making for some brittle, squeaky ice conditions.

Tomorrow we will split into three teams to tackle more of the area's classics, such as Carlsberg Column and Superbok. We are super psyched!

 

Photo Album

Handy Tips

Transport - An all-wheel drive car with no snow tires, which has no trouble getting around. Enterprise rental at Calgary Airport is good value at only $1330CAD for three weeks with full insurance. Their level of service and flexibility is very impressive.

Accommodation - The wilderness hostels are really good value for money with a $250CAD seasons pass giving you unlimited nights accommodation. This includes Rampart Creek hostel at the base of the weeping wall. The Alpine Log House home-stay in Jasper provides welcome respite from the cold at a reasonable price (Phone: 780-8552-3930, Addr: 920 Bonhomme St). The HI Hostels provide excellent value for money. If you're on a tight budget, buy their annual pass for around $200 which lets you stay unlimited nights at their wilderness hostels during the off season. This is perfect for ice climbing with hostels located near Castle Junction and Rampart Creek (Ice Fields Parkway). You also have the options of hostels at Lake Louise and Canmore. Note that most of the wilderness hostels don’t have showers but you can always sneak into the shower and sauna at Hi- Lake Louise if you're passing through or having a meal there.

All hostels have their own linen and cookware. No sleeping bags or jet boil required.

If you are staying and climbing in any of the national parks, you will need a national parks pass for your car. These cost around $130 CAD. An annual pass offers the best value for money if staying more than a couple of weeks.

Insurance – we all use the Austrian Alpine Club (AAC) membership. This provides cheap and effective rescue insurance. Most of us also purchase our flight tickets using a credit card that included travel insurance. Otherwise you could purchase your travel insurance separately. This works out significantly cheaper than purchasing insurance though the New Zealand Alpine Club. Worth noting the AAC insurance is not a full comprehensive cover so it is best to read the terms and conditions to make sure your happy with it before travel. Global rescue via the American Alpine Club is another option also worth checking out when comparing prices and cover options.

The Canada national parks service runs a good website and facebook page with regular conditions and avalanche information updates. Grav Sports also has a great website where route conditions are updated regularly www.gravsports-ice.com.

For gear it is hard to go past MEC however there are also reasonable gear shops in both Banff and Canmore which will have most things you need for your trip.

Canadian Ice Climbing Gear List

Base Layers

Macpac Warp LS

Macpac Pro-thermal hoody

Macpac Pro-thermal leggings

One piece thermal suit. Most of us use an OR Hybrid Thermal one piece available from Bivouac in NZ. However Earth Sea Sky and Patagonia all make a similar version.

When layering we used either thermals, one piece and rain pants or just the one piece and soft shell pants.

A thermal balaclava and fleece beanie

Mid Layers

Macpac Sonic wind shirt

Macpac Mountain Hoody fleece

Macpac Pulsar synthetic jacket hooded. Another option could be a light down jacket i.e Macpac Supanova. This was only necessary for days when the temperature was sub -20C. This extra layer is most useful if your visiting during the colder months of December and January. Mostly we did not need it.

Outer layers

Macpac Prophet hard shell jacket

Macpac Fitzroy soft shell jacket

Macpac Resolution hard shell pants

Macpac Fitzroy soft shell pants

We would recommend taking both hard shell pants and a hard shell jacket as many of the waterfalls will have wet pitches on them. Especially if you are visiting early or late in the season. If space is tight we suggest leaving your soft shells at home. Many of us climbed in hard shell pants and jackets for most of the trip and found these the most versatile.

Belay Jacket

Macpac Equinox Alpine Series down jacket

Gloves

Its never an easy thing to have the perfect glove combination. We recommend one pair of warm synthetic belay mitts, at least one cold weather leading glove i.e a Macpac Powder Glove or BD Punisher or OR Alpine Alibi 2 in addition to both the belay and cold weather leading gloves one or two pairs that are slightly lighter leading gloves will be handy especially for long climbs where your hands might get wet on one of the pitches. Stuff extra pairs of thin gloves in chest pockets to prevent them from freezing solid.

A light pair of soft shell or fleece gloves like the Macpac Dash or Macpac Tech fleece gloves are perfect for approaches and wearing around town on cold days.

Wax for gloves – regular waxing of your leather gloves will help them last longer and keep you dry during the trip.

Wax for boot zippers if you are using a boot with an integrated zip gaiter.

Hardware

12 ice screws: we prefer a rack of 1 long (22cm) screw for V threads, 4x 16cm blue BD express screws, 5x 13cm yellow and 2x 10cm red stubby screws.

Travel cases to protect your screws while travelling

V thread tool

2 ice tools

Crampons: if possible having the options of mono and dual is ideal. This allows you to change out your crampon style depending on whether you are mixed or ice climbing.

Helmet

12 quick draws usually including 4 x 60cm slings and 3-6 screamers in the mix

2x 120cm slings for either anchors or slinging icicles are handy

A set of short quick draws if you plan on doing bolted mixed routes.

Fruit boots if you plan on doing a lot of mixed cragging, however we focused mostly on pure ice climbs.

File for sharpening crampons and axes

Ice screw sharpener - Petzl make an excellent one.

Ice screw clippers for harnesses

Tethers for ice tools, e.g. BD spinner leash

Personal anchor system: We prefer the types that have full strength loops.

4x locking carabiners per person. This allows you to have one for your ATC, one for your daisy chain, and four for anchors, per two person rope team.

10m of 6-7mm cord for V threads

2x 7.8 – 8.5mm half ropes suitable for ice climbing. We use the Tendon Master half ropes and have found their dry treatment excellent. 60m ropes are essential really as many of the rappel lines are rigged for 60m ropes.

Perhaps a single set of cams, single set of nuts plus a couple of pitons per rope team. If you're mostly climbing ice then a trad rack is not essential but it is handy for some of the climbs, especially if they are in thin condition.

40L ice climbing pack. We prefer the Macpac Alpine Series Pursuit 40L.

2x 1L thermos

Boots

We found something around the weight of a Scarpa Phantom Guide, La Sporta Nepal Extreme is a suitable weight boot for winter cragging in Canada. If you're planning on longer alpine routes you might like to take a warmer double boot like a Phantom Guide 6000 or La Sportiva G2 SM or Spantik.

Miscellaneous

Camera

Power adapters for Canada

First aid kit

Food

Canmore has two supermarkets: Safeway and Save-on. We shopped at the Safeway, but apparently the Save-on has better sales. We also found the Rocky Mountain Bagel Company to be an excellent source of bagels. $5CAD will buy a dozen day old bagels, which still tasted acceptable after almost a week.