Multi-Pitch Ice Climbing

Welcome to our multi-pitch ice climbing page where we list a bunch of great multi-pitch ice climbs for you to look at and consider on your next privately guided trip with us. Please note that the climbs we have highlighted below are not an exclusive list but rather a sample of the types of multi-pitch ice climbs that we typically guide. Take your time & explore the ice routes that we’ve highlighted below or click here to scroll down to read up on some related topics (ie. Waterfall Ice Grades, our Rockies ice season, etc). If anything interests you or you have questions, please feel free to reach out. Our contact info is available at the bottom of this page.

Some Things to Know

Below are some great topics to read up on that hopefully will help you get familiar with our region and answer some questions you may have. If you have any remaining questions, please feel free to reach out using our contact info is available at the bottom of this page.

Waterfall Ice (WI) Grading System

This is a fun system to learn because it is unlike the rock climbing systems that stay close to the original grade given by the first ascent (FA) team. The reason for this is because waterfall ice changes so much throughout the season. If the route is climbable then it’s in but it could be in thin condition, fat condition, or somewhere in between and this will drastically affects its grade. Additionally, ice climbs typically get easier with more traffic and harder when the temps drop. Simply put, waterfall ice grades are a generalization that should not be taken too literally.

Climb conservatively and choose climbs that you are confident climbing, back off if it doesn’t feel right, and remember the first 3 rules when leading ice climbs: 1. DON’T FALL 2. DON’T FALL 3.DON’T FALL. *The same does not apply for our guests who follow (or second) ice climbs. Below is are some brief explanation of the climbing grades from WI2 (easy ice) to
WI6 (hard ice).

  • WI1– Benign ice that no one gets excited about or dares to claim FAs of.
  • WI2– This is the intro ice grade that may include short steps up to 80 degrees.
  • WI3– Mostly sustained ice pitches up to 80 degrees. May have short, steep sections that are slightly beyond 80 degrees.
  • WI4– Long sustained pitches of ice that are just less than vertical or short pitches of vertical ice. Generally, the ice quality is good.
  • WI5– You are now entering the hard ice climbing realm. Expect full pitches of vertical, or just off vertical, climbing (88-90 degrees). Minimal resting spots available and short, challenging sections of poor ice.
  • WI6– Full rope lengths of challenging ice that is vertical with possible sections of short overhanging ice (i.e. overhanging bulges). Expect to be very physically & mentally challenged. Poor ice quality should be expected. WI6 is the hardest most people will climb but there are still other harder grades (WI7, WI8?) for the elite and ‘gnarliest’ ice climbers.
Our Canadian Rockies Ice Season

The ice season in the Canadian Rockies is one of the best, most consistent, and longest seasons in the world. Hence, why we are a go-to ice climbing destination. The extended season starts around mid Oct. and lasts all the way into early May, with the main season being from mid Dec. to mid Apr., and the peak season being Jan-Feb-Mar. Additionally, there are options for summer ice climbing on glacial ice for those who are keen
(check out our Mountaineering/Alpine climbing programs).

Weather

December and January are usually the colder months, while February and March are warmer with longer days. For temps, climbers can expect the extended range to be between 0C (32F) and -30C (-22F), with typical temps. between -5C (23F) and -15C (5F). The Rockies are a drier range comparatively to the Interior and Coast ranges but, still get their fair share of snow; roughly 3-4m annually. Winds are predominantly out of the West and can add to the cold factor with wind chill. The sun is a beautiful thing and our winters can still get a lot of it.

Clothing

This is a very interesting topic because you’d be surprised how many people don’t know how to dress efficiently & effectively for the winter. Basically, you want to have many insulating layers to adjust for the temps. and block the wind/rain/snow. It typically does not rain while ice climbing but, the ice climbs can be wet in places so having waterproof gear is important (i.e. waterproof jacket, pants, gloves, & boots). Below is a clothing list to consider for
your next ice climbing trip.

  • Toque or beanie
  • Buff or neck warmer (optional)
  • Base layers (long underwear: top & bottoms)
  • Mid layers (fleece or soft-shell sweater)
  • Puffy belay jacket (down or synthetic)
  • Ice climbing pants
  • Extra insulated pants for really cold days (below -20 Celsius)
  • Outer shell jacket and pants (Gore-Tex or waterproof equivalent)
  • Gloves (2 to 3 pairs that are ideally waterproof with varying thicknesses)
  • Socks (Wool or a synthetic/wool blend. No cotton socks)
  • Gaitors for deep snow approaches and to help protect your pants.
Climbing Equipment

The equipment being used needs to be modern and in good shape. Guests are welcome to use their own gear or request to use our gear. Rental fees may apply.

  • Helmet
  • Harness with 2 ice screw clippers (ie. Petzl- Caritool)
  • Tubular belay device (ie. Black Diamond- ATC Guide)
  • 2-3 locking carabiners
  • 2 non-locking carabiners
  • 120cm sewn anchor sling
  • Pair of waterfall ice axes
  • Waterfall ice crampons
  • Ice climbing boots (ie. La Sportiva- Nepal Cube GTX)
    • Ensure your boots fit your feet and your crampons well. They need to be sturdy,
      supportive, warm, and designed for steep ice climbing). Your boots are your
      most important item. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.
  • And last but not least, your climbing backpack (roughly 40-45 litres)
Personal Items

Your personal items are a mix of essential and non-essential things.

  • Lunch and a warm drink in a thermos
  • Sunglasses
  • Headlamp
  • Sunscreen (optional)
  • Hiking pole(s) (optional, unless otherwise noted)
  • Camera (optional)
  • Toilet paper and a lighter in a Ziploc. (Small personal amount)
Driving

Most climbs that we frequent are within a 1hr. drive from Canmore, while some are up to 2hrs. away. Guests can expect to have the guide car pool with them or have a guide transportation charge added to their invoice. If renting a vehicle, opt for the winter tire option. Also, certain locations like the Ghost require a higher clearance 4×4 vehicle. Guests with transportation questions or concerns are advised to email us.

Commitment Level

Regular business work days are 8hrs. Our regular guiding work day with our guests ranges between 6-9hrs, plus pre and post work. Longer days because of larger routes, travel, pre-positions, or trips that require extensive preparation may come with addition
costs.

Avalanche Hazard

Many ice climbs form in avalanche terrain, which poses is a very serious and potentially life threatening hazard. Each route’s avy hazard is unique and sometimes hard to predict. Many factors play into the decision enter avalanche terrain. One of these factors that play into avalanche terrain decisions is how the terrain is categorized using the ATES rating system (Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale) as provided by Parks Canada here, which categorizes terrain as either Simple (1), Challenging (2), or Complex (3).

Cost

Costs are based on many variables like: how many people are booking, how many guides are needed, what’s the transportation situation, how committing is the objective, how hard is the route, will accommodation be required, will rental gear be needed, etc. Our costs are based on a regular multi-pitch guiding work day (6-9hrs) and start at $500/day + the cost for additional persons/expenses/surcharges/and tax (5% GST). Please contact us if you’d like to plan a trip and get a quote.

If you have any question please to not hesitate to Contact UsPrior to booking, please review our Booking InfoAll guests must read, understand, & sign our ACMG Waiver. We will provide a copy for you to sign before each trip or course