Louise Falls is one of the most often-climbed routes in the Rockies. With its short approach and moderate grade, it is safe to say it’s climbed nearly every day of the winter.
Anyone who has been to Lake Louise knows of the casual foot-path which hugs the western edge of the lake. It continues passed the summer rock climbs at Back of the Lake and into the mountains, eventually reaching a tea house. All walks of life use the trail. Near the Louise Falls, WI4, 120 m, ice climb is the steepest section of the path, known as Cardiac Hill, the small rise in elevation peaks at the base of the snow-slope below the falls. Dozens of hikers, walkers and tourists stop at the base of the snow-slope ti watch climbers above. The climb is over 100 metres from the trail, it is uncommon for falling ice to reach Cardiac Hill, but that is not to say it can’t happen.
Louise Falls is one of the finest looking flows in the Rockies, two WI3 pitches on rolling ice leads to a cave behind the upper left pillar, sometimes steeper pillar”s” form to the right. The last pitch is short and leads to the forest on top. The size of the upper pillar varies every season, the almost-formed pillars on the right did not touch down in 2014, instead they grew into 20-metre daggers. Daggers scare ice climbers, they can be blamed for countless injuries, even deaths. So when Kyle Brittian and his partner Nathan went to climb Louise Falls on Feb. 24, they were fully aware of the overhead hazard. Daggers often snap off during cold spells, and the Rockies experienced arctic conditions late February.
As Brittian reports, “Today Nathan and I went to climb Louise Falls, leaving the car at a balmy minus 27 degrees Celsiux at about 10:45. We stopped for a tea while waiting for the climb to come into the sun and boost the temps a bit. Arrived at the climb at about noon, after it had received full intense sunshine for about a half an hour. On the approach we noted a loud crack from the large hanging daggers above the right side. As we were gearing up in the now very warm sunshine, we heard a terrifying crack and ensuing ground shaking thumps as a Buick-sized section of the rightmost dagger snapped off and roared over the overhang. Not sure who the other party was ahead of us climbing the second pitch, but I am guessing the second was shaking out his drawers after having just climbed through the section exposed to said overhead hazard. We yelled up to make sure they were OK, and thankfully, they were.”
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With spring around the corner, more ice will be coming down, keep your head on a swivel and if you hear “ICE!” seek cover.